The Gay Truth Squad Polices Giuliani
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Then: New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani signed a sweeping domestic partnership bill into law in 1998, explaining that he hoped it would "help to move society more in the direction of equal treatment for everyone."
Now: Republican presidential candidate Giuliani appeared on Oct. 17 on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" and said any rights for gay couples "should just be contractual," parroting the buzzword of those social conservatives who absurdly claim that gay couples can essentially get the rights of marriage by signing a contract at a lawyer's office.
Flabbergasted by this kind of "then and now" change in tone and substance by Giuliani on a host of gay issues -- hate crimes, civil unions and domestic partnership, a federal anti-gay marriage amendment -- a New York gay-rights group recently launched "The Giuliani Files," which documents Giuliani's history (go to: prideagenda.org).
"I had seen this man change his positions in the amount of time it takes to fly from (New York's) La Guardia Airport to Des Moines," says Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.
"With today's technology, we don't have to call Rudy Giuliani a 'flip-flopper.' We can literally put up letters and videos from his eight years as mayor and let people draw that conclusion for themselves."
Back in 1992, Bill Clinton's campaign shook up presidential politics with his rapid-response "war room," which shot down potentially damaging charges.
This presidential cycle will be remembered for how groups and everyday Americans figured out how to revolutionize "truth-squading" by harnessing the power of the Internet, YouTube and 24-7 political blogging.
Advocacy groups like Van Capelle's no longer have to beg a local TV station to put up a video snippet exposing a politician's U-turn and hope other mainstream news outlets will pick up on it. Now they simply post a video online and alert the most influential -- and always starving for new news -- political blogs, and presto, an Internet chain reaction rapidly links interested folks to video, letters, news program clips, news articles and other documentation.
"This is a totally new era for us," says Van Capelle. "Four years ago, we could have taken the (Giuliani) videos, tried to get a TV station interested in doing a story, and maybe get 10 seconds of the clip shown and hope the story would get picked up elsewhere. Now it stays up on our home page and on YouTube. In 12 hours (after bloggers picked up on "The Giuliani Files"), we'd reached thousands and thousands of people."
And the existence of YouTube means it's also much easier now to keep track of what candidates are saying in the current campaign season. Anyone can still see, for example, responses to questions posed in the CNN-YouTube presidential debates by lesbian couple Mary and Jen, who want to marry, and Keith Kerr, a gay retired Army brigadier general who wants gays to be able to serve openly.
And Van Capelle predicts advocacy groups like his will start virtual "spin rooms" on their Websites that almost instantly expose inconsistencies between a candidate's record and what he or she says at a debate or on a news show.
Truth-squading in the YouTube Age means that a candidate's past is never more than a few clicks away. Score one for democracy.
Deb Price of The Detroit News writes the first nationally syndicated column on gay issues.