Today Politico Magazine’s Timothy J. Burger looks back at the “gay underground” of the George W. Bush administration, whose leaders famously supported amending the U.S. Constitution to federally ban gay marriage, and even paid off newspaper columnists to defend the amendment. So how big was the Bush White House’s velvet mafia? We finally have an answer.
Shortly after Bush left office in 2009, Burger writes, one of his former gay aides “sat down in front of Facebook and counted the Bush White House staffers he knew to be gay”:
He came up with at least 70 (only two of them women). That number—and after speaking with two dozen sources I have no doubt it was an incomplete tally—has surprised almost everyone I’ve told. Alberto Gonzales, the former Bush White House counsel and attorney general, for example, says he never knew dozens of gays had served on the White House staff. “I don’t think I could identify more than one or two,” he told me. “It was just something that we didn’t talk about.”
Burger documents how the presence (known and unknown) of gay staffers heightened the already pervasive tensions among White House officials about the administration’s strategic attempts to court social-conservative voters. And how some of those same gay staffers are still loyal to their boss:
“What liberals can’t wrap their heads around is Bush is a good and decent man,” says Jeff Berkowitz, an opposition researcher and policy ace who worked in the White House, State Department and RNC during Bush’s presidency. “It’s possible for someone to hold a policy view as he did and still be a decent, normal person.”
Berkowitz, who was outed in 2005 by the D.C. journalist Mike Rogers, defends his work for Bush: “Do I resign in protest? What was the point? I wasn’t on the [re-election campaign] because I thought Bush was good on marriage equality. It was because he was going to kill terrorists and was good on economic issues.”