I have a question for Scott Walker. At what point did he decide to be heterosexual? At what age did he decide that he would not be homosexual or, if he had the energy, bisexual? I know for myself that I am unaware of making such a decision and did not mark it down — as I now would — in my Google Calendar or tweet it to much of America and the ships at sea.
I ask these questions of Walker as a way to clarify his befogged mind. The man is running for president of the United States. He is governor of the state of Wisconsin. He is a husband and a father and a former Boy Scout, and yet he cannot say — or he will not say — whether he thinks being gay is a choice.
“I don’t have an opinion on every single issue out there,” the Republican candidate told CNN while campaigning recently in Iowa for the nation’s loftiest office. “I mean, to me, that’s I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question.” I see.
Much has already been made of things that Walker does not know — foreign policy, for instance, or evolution, about which he offered no opinion when asked about it in London back in February. He just wouldn’t say yes or no, maintaining that he was in England on a trade mission and not to discuss evolution. He implied that Wisconsin taxpayers would not like it if, while on an overseas trip to hustle cheese and stuff, he responded to a non-cheese question. You can see his point.
Much has also been made of Walker’s lack of a college degree. He dropped out of Marquette University, and, to some people, that means he is not intellectually qualified to be president. Others, though, like the common touch in all of that and insist, rightly in my view, that not having a college degree is not in itself proof of dullness. It would, however, make him a rarity among American presidents and, just for the record, the astoundingly inarticulate George W. Bush graduated from Yale, a very fine school, and led his nation into a war from which it is not yet fully extracted. Boola Boola!
Walker is now being tutored in foreign policy. Better late than never, I say. The experts were brought aboard after Walker said “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” was Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers. That, he maintained, showed the Kremlin that this man Reagan was one tough cookie — never mind Star Wars or the speech at the Berlin Wall. Walker not only has a lot of catching up to do, he makes me wonder where he’s been all these years. Foreign policy ought to be an abiding interest of a presidential candidate. It’s not like, say, evolution.
Presuming that Walker is genuinely mystified about how one becomes a homosexual or any other kind of -sexual, it shows an abysmal ignorance and an epic lack of inquisitiveness. A mountain of literature exists about the struggles of homosexual men and women to come to grips with their sexuality. These stories are often painful, excruciatingly so. To repress one’s sexuality is no easy thing. To pretend to be what you are not is just a downright horror.
I recently heard Barney Frank, the former Massachusetts congressman, talk about what it was like to hide who he really was — and how he eventually decided that the closet was a jail that was crushing his soul. He came out and risked his political career.
If Walker does not know that the “decision” to be gay is no different than his “decision” not to be, then it is because he has devoted himself to the pursuit of ignorance. If he thinks that gays should not be Boy Scout leaders — another of his measured non-opinions — lest they entice boys into a life of unspeakable sin, then once again he has steadied himself against a gale of findings and studies. Even within his own home, people disagree with him — his children, for instance, on same-sex marriage. His wife, while officially standing shoulder to shoulder with her husband on this issue, has nevertheless embraced a gay relative.
The more Scott Walker campaigns, the more he proves he is not intellectually fit for the office he’s seeking. He asserts innocent ignorance on matters he should by now know something about — a way of masking his apparent bigotry. I have another question for him. Never mind when he decided to become a heterosexual, when did he decide to be such a dolt?
Read more from Richard Cohen’s archive.