What, exactly, does George W. Bush think about homosexuals? Sifting through his campaign detritus, curious voters will find neither a stock denunciation (à la Gary Bauer) nor a pro forma statement of support (à la Bill Bradley). Though he refuses to meet with the Log Cabin Republicans, Bush can point to a number of openly gay staffers working for his various state campaign operations. And yet as far as the Christian Coalition is concerned, Bush is opposed to gay adoption, gay marriage, and hate-crime laws--he is "for equal rights" but "against special rights."
By most conventional standards, Robert L. Burch III is an unlikely supporter of Bill Bradley. A 65-year-old executive at a New York hedge fund, Burch detests teachers' unions, trial lawyers, and liberal special interests. He believes in school vouchers, Social Security privatization, welfare reform, and, unhesitatingly, the Laffer Curve. "The press would call me conservative," says Burch, "but those labels are misleading."
Early in December, as the Florida Supreme Court mulled over Al Gore's fate, a few dozen reporters crowded into a Senate press gallery for a conference with the newly elected Democratic leadership. After several minutes of introductions, a reporter called out a question to Thomas Daschle, the Democratic minority leader since 1994. If the Senate turned out to be 50-50, the reporter asked Daschle, "what would be your title?"
It wasn't surprising that during the fight over John Ashcroft's nomination for attorney general, one side seemed especially eager to discuss his putative racism while the other side eschewed the matter. But it was surprising that his defenders were the eager ones. "I have never known John Ashcroft to be a racist," proclaimed Oklahoma Representative J.C. Watts, who testified on Ashcroft's behalf. "It is not pleasant for me to hear terms such as racism applied to you," sniffed Bob Smith, sometime-Republican senator of New Hampshire, with a nod to his old colleague. "Branding a good man with the ugly slur of 'racist' without justification or cause is intolerable," Missouri Republican Kenny Hulshof told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It was, on the whole, an unusual display of Democratic solidarity. On April 27, all nine Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee -- backed, according to ranking member Patrick Leahy, by the entire Democratic caucus -- signed a letter to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales about George W. Bush's proposed nominations to the federal bench. "We are not going to be rolled over," promised New York's Charles Schumer, who called the letter a "shot across the bow." The confirmation process, warned Leahy, "may grind to a screeching halt."