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What Ben Domenech's experience tells us about the White House

The conservative blogger, who very briefly blogged for this party, responds to critics of his blog post (reprinted by CBS News) that passed on innuendo about Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

I erroneously believed that Ms. Kagan was openly gay not because of ... a "whisper campaign" on the part of conservatives, but because it had been mentioned casually on multiple occasions by friends and colleagues -- including students at Harvard, Hill staffers, and in the sphere of legal academia -- who know Kagan personally. ... I offer my sincere apologies to Ms. Kagan if she is offended at all by my repetition of a Harvard rumor in a speculative blog post. It still seems odd to me that the White House would single out this statement for attack, adamantly slamming closed a door that nobody was trying to open, as opposed to issuing a mild correction. As [Matthew] Yglesias notes, "I'd like to think we're past the point where saying someone's a lesbian counts as a dastardly 'accusation,' " and it certainly was not intended as such.

I don't doubt that Domenech thinks this, but he had to know that his fine academic point might have been lost in the preliminary chatter of a Supreme Court fight. And I think he gets close to something -- by turning the cannons on his blog post, the White House showed that it's paying closer attention to rumblings on the right than it did before Sonia Sotomayor's nomination. Very close attention.

According to Jimmy LaSalvia of the gay Republican group GOProud, the conservatives he's spoken to had never weighed forth on this (fabricated, by the way) rumor -- although he'd heard this line of attack against other potential Obama nominees.

"I don't think it's a smear," he said, "but I don't think we can ignore political realities. The fact that a nominee may or may not be gay simply isn't an issue to most folks. There will be some on the fringe who go into hysterics if gay person is nominated."

LaSalvia pointed to a possible warning shot from the Family Research Council opposing the White House's stance on hospital visitations from gay couples. But apart from that, the response to Domenech has cooled off the innuendo.

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By David Weigel  |  April 16, 2010; 5:48 PM ET
Categories:  Supreme Court  | Tags: CBS News, Elena Kagan, Family Research Council, Republican, Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court, Supreme Court of the United States, White House  
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