Pence drama illustrates core GOP problem


Blame the liberal media and dig in. That’s the basic strategy for many conservative politicians when the public spotlight gets too bright: stand firm and let Fox News and talk radio mop up and smooth things over.

But that approach hasn’t worked for Indiana Governor Mike Pence after signing the controversial religious freedom law. Pence did his best to portray the law as a much-needed protection for people – private business owners – from legal recourse for practicing their faith.

His supporters tried to equate the law to a federal law signed by former president Bill Clinton. But the two laws are not similar, says CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. The federal law was intended to protect religious minority groups from government repression, he says. The Indiana law, on the other hand, has an entirely different purpose and is aimed squarely at members of the LGBT community, Toobin says. 

Pence tried to deny that the law was discriminatory, saying instead that it was just "misunderstood." But some of his allies in the State Legislature have been quite public about the law’s true purpose.

It’s not surprising that the other GOP presidential hopefuls rushed in to support Pence. But an endorsement from Senator Ted Cruz may do more harm than good. And some people may have expected a little more from moderate Jeb Bush, since he was the governor of Florida for a period of time — a purple state with a huge LGBT community.

But then look at the insanity that Bush stirred up in the case of Terri Schiavo. He turned a painful private family matter into a shameful, politically-motivated circus.

What this all comes down to is how the far-right sees gay people: as individuals who make a personal choice. To them, being gay is nothing more than gratification that grew out of the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s.

Fortunately, much of the country has moved beyond this kind of divisive thinking. What’s unfortunate is how in 2015 it takes the threat of economic sanctions to make Pence come to his senses.