Fred Karger is a retired Republican operative who's pulled off some nasty hatchet jobs in presidential elections past. Now he's a gay activist and running for president himself, pretty much just to harass Mitt Romney in televised debates.
Karger came out in 2000 and retired soon thereafter to become a gay rights activist in California where, among other things, he worked on the unsuccessful anti-Prop 8 campaign in 2008. He seems like a nice guy in his introductory video above, right? And he probably is. But his background does show a certain, well, "moral flexibility." From the Washington Post's profile of him today:
His heart was in politics, though, and he got a foot in the door at the Dolphin Group, a feared and revered consulting firm for conservative candidates and causes. For 27 years he specialized in opposition research, digging up unsavory facts that could sink opponents and sway public opinion. He worked on Reagan's '80 and '84 campaigns alongside firebrand Lee Atwater. He toured the relatives of William Horton's [rape] victims around the country in '88 to spin an exaggerated narrative about Dukakis's stance on crime.
So there's that. But for months now, he's been campaigning in New Hampshire and Iowa, usually doing meet-and-greets with younger Republicans whom he thinks would be more socially liberal. His goal is to raise $5 or $6 million, which shouldn't be difficult at all since his potential donor network consists of gay California Republicans, each and every one of whom automatically has fifty billion dollars.
"There's two reasons I can do this," Karger told me last month when he stopped by the Atlantic's offices on a trip to DC. "One is I'm openly gay and that's never happened before—never before has an openly gay candidate run for president."
The other, as he put it: "Exposing Mormons." Should Karger's run gain attention in Iowa and New Hampshire, his prime target for ruckus-making will be Mitt Romney, who, he says, follows a severe anti-gay ethos as an "obedient" Mormon.
Watching Mitt Romney feel uncomfortable in real time on national television is the pinnacle of entertainment in presidential politics. Just the pinnacle of entertainment in general, really. So we hope that Fred Karger collects enough rich gay money to get there.