Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee who has made a point of not meeting with the Log Cabin Republicans -- the nation's leading Republican gay and lesbian organization -- has finally scheduled a meeting with gay Republicans for Thursday, in Austin, Texas.
But none of the officials from the national organization of the Log Cabin Republicans, with whom Bush has feuded, has been invited.
At least 12 prominent gay leaders have confirmed that they will attend, said Bush spokesman Scott McClellan, who declined to give any names. But, as Salon reported Thursday, those involved in the meeting will be Washington activist Carl Schmid, Washington City Councilman Dave Catania and public relations executive Charles Francis.
"It's important for the governor to be reaching out to gay Republicans and gay Americans to better understand our issues," Schmid said Friday. "And we look forward to having a good discussion of these issues and to seek ways to get him elected in the fall."
Others expected to attend are Pennsylvania Log Cabin Republican chapter president David Greer and Rebecca Maestri, a former aide to ex-Sen. Al D'Amato, R-N.Y., who is a member of the Log Cabin Republicans' Northern Virginia chapter.
Campaigning in Los Angeles on Friday, Bush confirmed the pending meeting
with Log Cabin Republicans who are alienated from their national
leadership. "I'm going to meet with members who are for me, who want to
help me get elected president," Bush said, adding that the meeting would include
"not only members of Log Cabin Republicans [but] other gay Americans also."
"It will be an opportunity to discuss how we can work together on our common agenda," said Bush spokesman Scott McClellan, "on ending the Clinton-Gore era, reforming education, strengthening Social Security and reforming taxes." And though Bush made a public issue of his refusal to meet with the group -- after which education advisor Diane Ravitch quit in protest -- McClellan said that now, after the GOP nomination is all but his, "Governor Bush will continue to take the opportunity to reach out to people of all walks of life and engaging the country in a message of reform and renewal."
Kevin Ivers, spokesman for the national organization, was quick to call the meeting bogus. "A meeting with Republican supporters who happen to be gay is not a meeting of substance," Ivers said. "If Bush wants to repair his relationship with the Log Cabin Republicans, he needs to meet with the leadership of the organization. The ball's in their court."
Ivers belittled the meeting, saying that it was "a media strategy" to make Bush look more inclusive rather than a legitimate attempt "to solve a problem of substance."
"They're meeting with a small group of people who have supported the governor from the very beginning that they've managed to scrounge together," he said. Ivers pointed out that Greer will be the only elected official from any of the local chapters who will attend the meeting, and that Greer's own organization, the Pennsylvania chapter, voted not to endorse Bush.
In California on Friday, the Texas governor acknowledged that there were
"some internal politics at play" within the gay GOP community, but said --
in direct contrast with remarks he made during the Republican primaries,
when he was trying to shore up conservative support -- that he was "looking
forward to the meeting ... I welcome all people to my team."
Schmid said the national organization was merely bitter because it was cut out of the equation. "For them to discredit the meeting because it doesn't include the two of them [Ivers and group president Rich Tafel] is hogwash," Schmid said. "I'm looking forward to an honest, constructive, positive dialogue on the issues."
Rather than including discussion of legislative agenda items like gay adoption and workplace discrimination, the meeting will probably be more of a get-to-know-you event, Schmid said. "We'll talk about who we are; we all have stories. We all have faced discrimination in our lives. And we'll work in our issues that way." Bush, Schmid said, "doesn't have a full understanding of the issues and what we are, and that gay people can be conservative." Correcting that will be the point of Thursday's meeting.