Next up: Congressman Dennis Kucinich from Ohio. He works the front row as he enters the studio, but he’s not quite as rock star-like as the other candidates. He seems kinda small and contained. I want to offer him some hot chocolate or something.
Margaret tells him that they really like him here on the left coast, and he says jokingly, "Actually I represent mainstream America," to some applause and cheers. I guess he is from Ohio, huh?
Jonathan of the impeccable suit starts off: "You seem to support everything the LGBT community wants — is there anything the LGBT community wants that you’re against?" Everybody laughs.
Kucinich says, "All I can say is keep those contributions coming." More laughter. They’re all so happy about Dennis! When asked why he supports same-sex marriage, he says that it’s about whether you really believe in equality. He asks us to imagine the equal sign (the logo of HRC) in the middle of a heart. Aw, it’s like a Hallmark card!
Jane Lynch, I’ve noticed, rarely applauds when everybody else does. Why is that? Is she saving her applause for her favorite candidate? Does she not enjoy clapping? And what does the Asian-American woman whose face is halfway on-screen the entire time really think about what’s going on? Does she believe these guys? Does she know she’s on TV looking over the shoulder of all these candidates like a guardian angel?
OK, zoned out again. Dennis is still going on about how important equality is and how it’s all about love. All you need is love! Love, love, love. It’s a lovefest.
"Congressman, you’re so evolved for a member of Congress," Margaret quips. She turns it over to Melissa and says, "Melissa is very courageous." Uh, what?
"They told me not to fawn over you," says Melissa. I just noticed she’s wearing a satin blouse with the cuffs unbuttoned under a grey velvet jacket. Is this the boardroom version of rock star? She’s asking about medical marijuana — should it be legalized?
Kucinich says that compassion requires that the government support doctors who want to prescribe medical marijuana to patients. He then goes onto talk about his not-for-profit healthcare plan, which covers all long-term care. He’s totally the feel-good, completely unelectable candidate!
He’s given 30 seconds to wrap up and he pauses for awhile before he says, "I send you great love." Love … equality … we need a president who’s ready to testify … how devastating to meet the love of your life and not be allowed to be married … lifts up this nation! … reconnects us with the deeper truths of who we are. I love all of you!
Wow, I’m a little sugared out. They’re all hugging onstage. Kucicnich gives everybody in the studio a big virtual hug.
Apparently all the Republican candidates were invited to participate in a similar forum, but they all declined. A collective (and sarcastic) "Aww" and some scattered booing and hissing erupts from the audience before they they break for a message from their sponsor: commercials for Logo (lots of shots from Loving Annabelle I see) and HRC (less kissing, more speechifying).
Back to the forum, and Margaret’s stumbling over the teleprompter again. Next up: Mike Gravel, who freaked me out during the CNN/YouTube debates with his crazy outbursts.
Melissa starts off with the first question and begins, "You are unusual for your generation of straight white men." Ha! Go Melissa. But actually she means that he’s unusual because he supports same-sex marriage.
Gravel thanks his friends in the Harvey Milk Club etc. who put pressure on Joe Solmonese to allow him to be on the forum, because he was almost cut out of it. Then he answers Melissa’s question: He says that in terms of his generation, they’re wrong. In five years, he believes, the marriage issue will be a nonissue.
Melissa wishes him the best of luck and says she’s glad he’s running for president because he keeps everyone honest. She seems to feel that she has to say something positive to everyone. You know Melissa, that’s because you’re not a journalist. Journalists never feel they have to support anybody! So I guess that makes you a nicer person?
Did I mention that Kucinich was wearing a gold tie? I thought that was snazzy. Gravel is wearing a pinstripe suit with a very light minimal stripe, a light blue shirt and a red patterned tie that screams early ’80s.
Meanwhile, Gravel is going off into a little spiel about how much we need love in the world. I wonder what the Asian American woman is thinking. She keeps wearing an expression of polite interest. Are you really interested or actually bored out of your mind? After all, we can see your face, so you probably can’t see any of the people onstage! She’s been staring at the backs of them the entire time.
Jonathan asks why he Gravel thinks that Obama, Clinton and Edwards are ahead of him. Gravel says, "it’s because they’re playing it safe."
"A good politican can tell you to go to hell and make you look forward to the trip," Gravel says. That’s kinda funny, actually.
OK, I just zoned out again … I come back in when Joe asks a question about HIV infection rates among black gay men. Gravel says we need to do a better job on healthcare. Wait! He just said you should be able to go to a liquor store and buy marijuana! Melissa smiles broadly — yeah she’s lookin’ forward to that day. I think he just said you should be able to get hard drugs from your doctor! Dude, Gravel, you are a bit extreme. He talks about why Prohibition was a big failure and we should understand that now. I think he just said that he would legalize drugs if we elected him president. Uh, wow.
Next up: Governor Bill Richardson from New Mexico. (Really, who are these people in the front row?)
Jonathan starts off by asking when will same-sex marriage be "achievable," and what would he do to foster an environment where it would become achievable?
Richardson says he thinks the country is on a path to full inclusion; what is achievable is civil unions with full marriage rights and domestic partnerships. He says he would get rid of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and he would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, an initiative that he voted for but now regrets having voted for it.
I keep zoning out of Bill Richardson’s answers. Maybe because he is just so down-to-business. Let me take a look at his suit. There’s a slight stripe in it, black on black, and a bright red tie with black-and-white squares on it. He seems kinda rumpled, like an old-time politics-is-local guy. I guess that’s who he is, actually.
Jonathan asks about his use of the word "maricon," spanish for "faggot" on the Don Imus show. He has since apologized for it; Jonathan asks if he should have to deal with the consequences. Richardson says he’s Hispanic and he has apologized, and he meant no harm when he said it. He then says you should look at his actions as a governor. He says only six states don’t have DOMA, and New Mexico is one of them because he kept it off the ballots. "Shouldn’t that count for something?" he asks.
Joe asks: If the new Mexico legislature handed you a marriage bill, would you sign it?
Bill avoids the question. Joe keeps on pushing with his hypothetical question. "In your heart" where are you? Bill says in his heart he’s doing what is achievable, and he’s not there yet. Melissa is shaking her head and looks like she’s about to start laughing at him.
Joe goes into the immigration issue: What would he do for binational gay and lesbian couples? Bill dodges the queston. I sense a pattern.
Melissa jumps in with an unexpected one: Do you think homosexuality is a choice or is it biological?
Bill answers, "It’s a choice …"
Melissa interrupts him and says, "I don’t think you understand the question." She explains herself, and Bill answers that he’s not a scientist; he likes to see gays and lesbians as people. He clearly has no idea what he’s talking about. Watch the video:
After a brief attempt by Melissa to lighten the atmosphere by bringing up the bark beetle infestation in New Mexico (her plug for environmental activism), Margaret interrupts her and goes back to Melissa’s question about the "lifestyle choice," but Bill’s still not doing a good job of answering the question. He keeps saying that his actions have been very supportive of gay rights, but somehow he cannot articulate his support for gay rights.
He asks Melissa to tell Al Gore not to run. Melissa says Al Gore told her he won’t do it again because it’s too "soul-sucking." I love Al Gore. Al, don’t run. I just want you to save the world from global warming, that’s all!