The more things change…

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Please give a warm welcome to TripLBee,  Skeptical Brotha’s newest contributor.

By TripLBee, Contributor

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Remember 1993? A charismatic young President rode into the White House in shining armor, liberating our tired and weary masses from 12 years of right-wing tyranny. We were giddy. We were hopeful. We were naive.

Within days of taking office, Bill Clinton gave us a clue as to the kind of President we could expect. Having campaigned on a promise to integrate the military, he promptly compromised his GLBT constituency with the ludicrous and triangulating “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. For GLBTs the abrupt about face may have been more aptly described as the “Don’t Trust This Mutha@#$%^& As Far As You Can Throw Him” policy.

Fast-forward 16 years. Another charismatic young President extricates Americans from the grip of a crazed GOP. He is handsome. He is “articulate and clean.” He sports a brilliant and beautiful wife, and two of the cutest kids on the planet. He quotes Jay Z and Jesus in the same speech. He is perfect. He seems too good to be true. Perhaps because he is.

Among the many promises he makes is one to overturn a Jim Crow redux, euphemistically titled the “Defense of Marriage Act.” This act essentially demotes GLBT couples to legally sanctioned second-class citizenship. Cut it and slice it any way you will, this is the essence of the legislation. Those of us concerned about basic civil and human rights are heartened that our new President is set to undo such palpable wrongs. Only he isn’t.

It took our perfect Prez only a few weeks to cause us some concern.

He’s extending the pull out date in Iraq by a year? Ummmm….okay, I guess.

What? He’s tripling the number of troops in Afghanistan, the graveyard of Empires? Oh dear.

He’s pumping money into the biggest banks in the country, but he’s not requiring them to fire their bosses, cap their pay or change the way they conduct their business? Now I am really confused!

Of course we’ve made excuses for our new Prez. Who did we think we were getting after all? Che Guevarra? Look, he’s gotta compromise a little bit. I mean, he has to govern 300 million people, many of them former Republicans. He’s gotta throw em a bone every once in a while. Right?

At some point however, compromise becomes a stale rationalization for “politics as usual.” By filing a friend of the court brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, President Barack Obama has officially become a typical Democrat.

This is a sad day indeed for those of us contributed to his campaign, knocked on doors until our knuckles bled and worked the phone banks until we were hoarse. Many of us, myself included, expected this brother to be different. So far he has proven himself to be smarter, more charming, and slightly more daring than the average bear. But in some fundamental ways, he’s no different.

Born to a white mother and black father in 1961, Obama was literally illegal in 17 states. His parents’ marriage would not have been recognized in many parts of the country. I wonder what they would think if they could see their baby defending state sanctioned bigotry?

And here’s the rub. He didn’t have to do it. He could have told his lawyers to take the day off and play golf. He could have told them to call in sick. Whatever pathetic excuse he has concocted, he didn’t have to go out of his way to spit in the faces of his GLBT supporters. He claims that he had to file the brief because the Defense of Marriage Act is federal law. Well, abortion is a constitutionally protected right. Did you see Bush filing friend of the court briefs when protections for abortion were being challenged in the courts? Nope. Bush knew where his bread was buttered. Apparently Obama does not.

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Richardson withdraws, historic opportunity at hand

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News broke this afternoon that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his nomination over questions regarding a federal investigation of the state’s $1.5 million dollar financial services contract with a Beverly Hills, California firm, CDR, who’s CEO, David Rubin, donated $110,000 to political committee’s affiliated with Governor Richardson.

 

I am heartsick because I’ve always felt that Richardson’s presence in the cabinet essential to Obama’s success. Nevertheless, as my grandma is fond of saying, “one monkey don’t stop no show.” The vacancy represents an opportunity to do something no president has done and after the Warren fiasco a few weeks back, I’ve come to feel pretty strongly that Barack Obama needs to appoint a “gay American,” as former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy put it, to the cabinet of the United States.

 

When you stop and think about it this is a barrier that Bill Clinton should have shattered years ago, and one Al Gore probably would have if the ignorant tumbleweed that is George W. Bush hadn’t tripped him up. Clinton, after the broken promise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” attempted to buy off the LGBT community with the appointments of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxemburg and Roberta Achtenberg as Deputy Secretary of HUD. The public break with activist David Mixner, a leading LGBT fundraiser and convention delegate for Clinton, damaged Clinton’s relationship with the LGBT community in a big way.

 

Nothing of that magnitude has occurred in this new Administration, but the hue and cry over Rick Warren’s inaugural invocation channels the white-hot righteous indignation of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Debate, and Bubba’s craven signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, which were straightforward betrayals. Obama hasn’t gone back on his word to the LGBT community on any significant issue, at least not yet. But he’s black, so I suppose there are some activists who feel the need to put Obama, and the rest of his dark skinned brethren, “in our place,” and psychologically project their legitimate anger for the failure of prop 8 on the most convenient scapegoats in America—black people, who don’t even make up 7% of California’s population.

 

Anyway, y’all, after little investigation, I’ve come up with two outstanding people that I think can send an inclusive message to the country and tamp down some of the fires of faux outrage burning in the blogosphere.

 

JARRETT BARRIOS

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The first person to come to mind is former Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios, the CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts. As CEO, he oversees a $55 million dollar endowment that focuses on expanding health care access and improved delivery to the uninsured and underinsured. Barrios, a Cuban American originally from Tampa, Florida, served for 8 years in both Houses of the Massachusetts legislature. An honors graduate of Harvard University, Barrios also possess a law degree from Georgetown University.

 

In the legislature he made Health Care access and delivery his signature issue and authored legislation requiring Massachusetts hospitals to provide interpreters to non-English speakers. In addition, he authored legislation protecting consumers from unscrupulous predatory lenders and required that lenders abide by Massachusetts laws requiring community reinvestment and he pushed for tax credits to subsidize the construction of more affordable housing.

 

A practicing attorney, Barrios has worked for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and for the law firms DLA Piper and Hill & Barlow.

 

Lastly, as you may have already surmised, Jarrett Barrios is a gay man who led the fight in the Massachusetts Senate to preserve marriage rights for same-sex couples. He is married to Doug Hattaway, a democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton spokesman.

 

The Obama Administration has focused on excellence in its cabinet appointments. I believe that Jarrett Barrios’ academic and professional credentials will stand the test and that he would be an outstanding Secretary of Commerce.

 

SUSAN LEAL

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Because I believe in balance, it is necessary to consider people of both genders and the accomplished Susan Leal, a former businesswoman, health-care executive, Public Utilities Regulator, San Francisco Treasurer and Supervisor, is an even more qualified choice than the first I put forward.

 

Ms. Leal, 59, is a native of San Francisco and a veteran civic leader. She is a first generation daughter of Mexican immigrants and the first Latina to serve on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. While on the board, Ms. Leal co-authored San Francisco’s landmark domestic partners ordinance.

 

An honors graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Leal has degrees in Economics and Law and has an extensive background as a staffer in both the California General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. While in Washington Ms. Leal served as a staff attorney for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Investigations. Back in California, she served as general counsel to the Assembly Committee on Ways & Means.

 

Elected San Francisco’s Treasurer in 1998, she oversaw a $3 billion dollar portfolio of investments and she was the first treasurer to screen the city’s investments to ensure the city invested with socially responsible companies that respected workers, consumers and the environment.

 

A shrewd and successful businesswoman, Ms. Leal and a few friends created a health care startup that they subsequently took public and later sold at a profit.

 

Finally, Ms. Leal last served the public as a utilities regulator and she tangled with PG&E, the powerful utility made infamous in the movie Erin Brockovich.

 

Ms. Leal would make an excellent Secretary of Commerce, Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or as a Deputy Secretary of Energy or Interior. Both of these individuals are qualified, well-educated, Latino and Gay.  It’s past time that all God’s children are represented in the halls of power.