Scott Walker's vile gay bashing: This is what an Iowa-centric campaign looks like

The Iowa front-runner reassures evangelicals that he won't be going soft on Big Gay any time soon

Published July 15, 2015 9:57AM (EDT)

Scott Walker                        (AP/Charlie Neibergall)
Scott Walker (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Scott Walker, the only top-tier Republican presidential candidate whose path to victory hinges on Iowa and its heavily social conservative electorate, has been having a little hiccup with the evangelicals. His wife and kids kinda-sorta love same-sex marriage!

“That was a hard one,” Tonette [Walker] said, pausing and choosing her words carefully. “Our sons were disappointed. . . . I was torn. I have children who are very passionate [in favor of same-sex marriage], and Scott was on his side very passionate.”

“It’s hard for me because I have a cousin who I love dearly — she is like a sister to me — who is married to a woman, her partner of 18 years,” she said.

IF TRUE, this would make Tonette Walker and their two children ... part of the sizable majority of Americans in 2015. But perhaps not part of the majority of Iowa Republican caucus-goers, or the self-appointed evangelical gatekeepers who situate themselves in the middle of the culling process.

Rick Santorum, who is running again as a total culture warrior in order to gain some semblance of a presence in this field, took the unusual step of fielding a "would you like to trash a fellow Republican candidate over something his wife has said?" question and actually running with it.

Asked what he thought about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s wife admitting to not exactly being against gay marriage, Santorum responded: “Spouses matter.”

“When your spouse is not in-sync with you — particularly on cultural issues, moral issues — [you] tend not to be as active on those issues,” he said.

Ehh? Maybe. But Laura Bush and Dick Cheney either actively supported or obviously didn't give a shit about gay marriage, and that didn't stop George W. Bush from winning a presidential election based on gay-bashing. This line may be potent, though, and will reassure social conservatives that Rick Santorum, not Scott Walker, is the man who knows how to make his wife obey. Santorum is also running to the right of Walker and even Ted Cruz on the matter of which stupid do-nothing constitutional amendment rolling back same-sex marriage rights he supports. Santorum would stick with the trusty ol' amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman -- i.e., eliminating same-sex marriage -- whereas Walker and Cruz would "simply" urge passage of an amendment allowing each individual state to determine its marriage rights.

There may be something to Santorum's implication that Walker wouldn't be as active on banning same-sex marriage as he would be -- because of the very obvious impediments to that, though, not because it would make his wife and kids sad. In an ABC News interview, Walker reiterated his support for a constitutional amendment, before admitting that it will never happen. “I'm also realistic to know that that's something that starts in the Congress and has to work its way through the states," he said. “And so I think, going forward, the most important thing I, as a candidate, and ultimately, as president, can focus in on is protecting religious freedoms." Unlike Rick Santorum, Scott Walker apparently would not waste four whole years trying to move an unmovable constitutional amendment as his top legislative priority. What a wuss!

So is Scott Walker going soft on the gays? That's not the impression he can give off if he's going to completely debase himself on every issue at the expense of his general election prospects in order to win Iowa, as is the plan.

So excuse me if I read this bit of outright bigotry from Tuesday as a move to reassure certain elements of the party that he won't waver in the battle against Big Gay. IJReview asked Walker, an Eagle Scout, how he felt about Boy Scouts of America's expected reversal of its ban on gay troop leaders:

“I was an Eagle Scout, my kids have been involved, Tonette (Walker) was a den mother.

“I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values.”

Promoting bigoted views that equate homosexuality with pedophilia? Breathe a sigh of relief, Iowa evangelicals: His wife hasn't softened him one bit.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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