I don’t understand the tendency among some partisans to defend someone only because they claim to be fighting the same enemy.

The religious right’s defense of an enemy of gays — who also happens to be an enemy of compassionate Christian conservatism — is a case in point.

Pat Ware is the African American head of the presidential advisory commission on AIDS. She was placed on the commission by President Bush in recognition of her ties to a conservative AIDS policy think tank, the Family Research Council, and other conservative family-policy groups.

An oddity among the colorblind Bush administration, Ware reportedly believes that white gay men are responsible for the spread of AIDS among African Americans, and she has used her position to promote that racial viewpoint among her colleagues. Ware’s viewpoint not only misrepresents the origins of HIV in heterosexual Africa; it reduces mature African American males into helpless sexual pawns of whites. It’s a mindset that says, “Don’t blame black men; they can’t help themselves.” I find this perspective insulting to black men as well as whites.

In selecting potential nominees to the commission, Ware sought to balance out the doctors, Democrats and gays on the commission with conservatives and heterosexuals. A sensible goal for a Republican. The administration eventually nominated seven conservatives besides Ware to serve on the commission. The Democrats were not pleased.

One of the preliminary nominees, Jerry Thacker, was a graduate and former faculty member of the segregationist Bob Jones University, a religious-right activist with no professional credentials in HIV/AIDS and no political experience. Thacker is a marketing consultant. But for a marketing consultant, he showed little ability to defend himself in the rough-and-tumble of Washington.

Thacker first sought to cover up his past use of offensive language, then like Trent Lott, he ineptly defended himself. Instead of apologizing for grudges of the past, he explained that “gay plague” was once in vogue. Unfortunately, that phrase was never in vogue among anyone who tried to approach the subject professionally, accurately, or compassionately. Thacker also failed to defend the utility, compassion, and marketability of words such as “deathstyle” in AIDS education and prevention programs.

When the White House press corps, doctors and gay advocates pointed out Thacker’s medical ignorance, segregationist ties, unmarketable language, and poor management of this political situation, senior Bush administration officials blasted Ware’s unsavvy nominee.

Exodus, the network of ex-gay organizations, does not appear to understand Washington conservatives. Its press release depicts a Bush administration so liberal that it caves in to “gay pressure groups.” It defends Thacker’s nomination, but offers no documentation of Thacker’s compassion or professional qualifications.

In fact, Bush administration conservatives saw Thacker’s paper trail of rhetoric for what it was: weak on medicine, lacking in compassion, inappropriate among Christians, and no more tenable among conservatives than Trent Lott’s remarks about Strom Thurmond or Pat Ware’s white-bashing.

Pat Ware and Jerry Thacker have embarrassed conservatives on both sexual and racial grounds. Exodus need not defend them. The Bush administration has nominated seven other conservatives to serve on the commission, in addition to Ware. Two of them have close ties to the ex-gay movement.

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