I am shaken to my bones by the e-mails, texts, postings and phone calls of the past few days. I made a terrible mistake. I was ignorant, naive and much too quick in accepting a request to co-host a dinner with [Ted] Cruz at my home without taking the time to completely understand all of his positions on gay rights. I’ve spent the past 24 hours reviewing videos of Cruz’ statements on gay marriage and I am shocked and angry. I sincerely apologize for hurting the gay community and so many of our friends, family, allies, customers and employees. I will try my best to make up for my poor judgement. Again, I am deeply sorry.
I share in Ian’s remorse. I, too, lay humbled with what has happened in the last week. I made a terrible mistake. Unfortunately, I cannot undo this. You taught me a painful but important lesson. The people that know me know the work that I have done over the last 20 years for the advancement of gay rights. Today, I came to realize that I might have nullified my past efforts and accomplishments in just one week. On the eve of this momentous legal occasion at the Supreme Court, I dedicate myself to work even harder to advance our cause that I share with the LGBT community; our community. Again, to all that I have hurt, please accept my sincerest apologies.
The incident serves as a reminder of two things: First, that a lot of political giving, even at the top tier, is motivated at least as much by relationships than political interests. Someone asked Reisner and Weiderpass to host an event; they said yes. And, second, that the response the two have faced is why untraceable political giving holds so much allure. That’s perhaps the most likely possible explanation: Reisner and Weiderpass never expected anyone to hear about it. All of the access to power; none of the repercussions.
If that was the plan, it was unsuccessful.
Intentional, or not, this will send a message — will serve as a sort of brushback pitch to anyone in the future who might provide comfort to the enemy — who might prioritize other shared commonality over this particular brand of identity politics. (In this case, the common bond was apparently their shared support for Israel).
The sad thing is that this disincentivizes forging the kinds of relationships that might ultimately lead to greater understanding and mutual respect — and instead, encourages more tribalism, isolation, and polarization.
It’s possible that Cruz and these guys might have bonded over Israel, and that this might have developed into a greater friendship and dialogue. All parties might have ultimately become enlightened. Is this not something we should encourage?
How did we get to a point that attempting to even engage ideological opponents in discussion is now beyond the pale? Here’s a thing to think about: Cruz is probably the worst of the front-runner Republican candidates on gay issues. He is campaigning on his religious conservative opposition to recognizing gay marriages.
And yet, the legislation that he’s proposing—the massive representation of his opposition—is not a ban at all. He is trying to keep power over marriage recognition in the hands of the states. Even if Cruz got his way—and he’s not going to—we could still end up with legal gay marriage recognition in much of the country. Compare Cruz’s position today with the kinds of things people were saying (in both parties) about gay marriage back in 1999.
Reisner and Weiderpass were absolutely right to meet with Cruz and attempt to push him on gay issues. Furthermore, every single rich gay person or gay ally should strive to do the same. Anybody who has enough power to get access to any presidential candidate should use the opportunity to try to get these conservatives to understand where culture is on gay marriage and make it very clear that opposition is not a winning issue. Boycotting these two guys in a fit of pique expresses a lack of maturity.
You don’t have to oppose gay marriage to be disgusted by this incident.
Gays have every right to express their views about Cruz or anyone else. But their point is not just to pursue their campaign for gay marriage but to silence opponents. The bullying of Reisner is an attempt to send a message to gays and others than no other issue, not the future of the country’s economy or the security of Israel, can be allowed to interfere with efforts to not just defeat religious conservative efforts to oppose gay marriage but also to make it impossible for anyone to try to defend their own views about the issue…
The irony of so-called liberals, who routinely denounce conservatives for being both intolerant and debasing the political culture with incivility, orchestrating such an intolerant and undemocratic response to an individual’s behavior is lost on the left. Free speech for me but not for thee is now liberal orthodoxy. So, too, is their effort to shame anyone who doesn’t agree with them on gay marriage or even associates with anyone who dissents. As we saw with Mozilla and Indiana, mob rule is ugly but often effective, especially in the corporate world. That may comfort some gays, but it should cause all of us, whether we are gay or straight, religious or irreligious, who support democracy to tremble.
I have a dream. It’s a small one, but it’s mine. I dream that, after reasserting his own pro-gay-marriage position, and describing his support for gays in his business and his personal life, Reisner had stood up for liberty and said something like this:
“But do you understand what you are doing when, instead of just disagreeing with people like Cruz, you demonize them and also demonize and persecute anyone who would give them a forum in which to speak? You are marching down a road that others before you have trod, and it ends in the killing fields where you murder those with whom you disagree.
“You think I exaggerate? Perhaps. But if you study history you will see that most of the movements that end in gulags began in idealism. There are not as many steps along the way from one to the other as you might think. Beware of taking them.”
How predictable. How craven. How unspeakably ugly is this apology…
Had Ian Reisner felt like being brave he would have explained that most people have a range of friends, and that it is unrealistic to expect people to socialize and work only with one’s political clones. Instead, he bought heavily into the deeply silly conceit that private events can be “hurtful” to third parties, and thereby loaned some credibility to the mob. ”I sincerely apologize for hurting the gay community and so many of our friends, family, allies, customers and employees,” he said. “I will try my best to make up for my poor judgment.” Again: If this is what Reisner felt that he had to say, so be it. But the rest of us should be clear: Nobody at all was “hurt” by Ted Cruz talking to a couple of gay guys in Manhattan. Not Ted Cruz. Not the couple of gay guys. Not those who read about it in the New York Times. Not anybody…
America is a divided country — sometimes distressingly so. That Ted Cruz could sit down with two people with whom he often disagrees and have a meaningful discussion about a mutual interest should be celebrated, not condemned. That — right there — is the “common ground” that we all say that we so desperately want to find. That his attempt to do so provoked a national backlash should scare us, for there will be no future for America if we all retreat into our cliques. Ten years ago it would have been downright absurd for a charity to refuse to raise money for a deadly disease because one of its benefactors had unpopular friends. Now? It is par for the course. Ian Reisner should meditate upon his role, and he should ask himself a blunt question: Is this really the country he wants to live in?