"You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected, and I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father."
"Now, you know, I did have a chance to assess John Kerry once more and now the only thing I could conclude: This is not a good man," she said. "Of course, I am speaking as a mom, and a pretty indignant mom. This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick."
What's the source
of all this anger and indignation?
When the candidates were asked whether homosexuality was a matter of choice or nature, George Bush ducked it with an "I don't know," but John Kerry responded with a definite position and an apt example.
"We're all God's children, Bob, and I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not a choice."
Frankly, I'm a bit astonished by the furor. I got home a bit later than I'd planned last night, and dozed off while watching a tape of the debate. That question was one of the last things I remembered, and one of the first I saw when I woke up and started replaying the tape. It seemed pretty unremarkable to me. Bush, as is his habit, evaded the question, and Kerry gave a pretty textbook response reflective of his long term dedication to civil liberties and respect for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
Next question, please.
But that's what the Bush campaign has siezed on as a defining moment in the debate. They've decided to exploit Mary Cheney for more points with the homophobic right.
Let's be clear. John Kerry didn't out Mary Cheney. She's been an open lesbian for a long time. She makes public appearances at BC04 events with her partner. She's not a private citizen. She's a Republican political operative, holding a responsible position as the manager of her father's re-election effort. She can be accurately described as a professional lesbian, using her orientation as a resume item when she was the liason between the Coors Brewing Co. and the G/L/B/T community.
Elizabeth Edwards is exactly on point in discussing Lynne Cheney's attack on Kerry.
"She's overreacted to this and treated it as if it's shameful to have this discussion. I think that's a very sad state of affairs. ... I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences. ... It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response."
Well, nearly on point. Elizabeth is clearly more compassionate than I. I'm not sad. I'm indignant. Angry even.
The big slap seems to be that the mention of Mary Cheney was 'gratuitous,' but that's simply not the case. The reason that so many in the gay community have been stressing the importance of opening the closet door is simple. Ignorance breeds bigotry, and it's been generally believed that as more people come to know that their neighbors, co-workers and family members are gay and lesbian, that knowledge will reduce homophobia. It's effective, too. I've been known to call people up short when they've begun to indulge in the kind of casual gay-bashing, usually in the form of 'jokes,' that contributes to so much division and hostility in this country, simply by pointing out to them that they're talking about my daughter. A real person. Someone I love.
So when George Bush feigns ignorance about an issue as fundamental as the choice v. nature question, it's worth pointing out that there's a real person, who his Vice President loves, a person George Bush knows, a person who is working hard to help George Bush, that he's feigning ignorance about.
So it's a fair question. Does George Bush think that Mary Cheney 'decided' to be a lesbian? John Kerry thinks Mary would say otherwise, and I think he's right. And Dick and Lynn's betrayal and exploitation of their daughter, makes me angry and indignant.
I'm not accustomed to giving Andrew Sullivan
the last word around here, but this time it's appropriate.
When Kerry cites Bush's wife or daughters, no one says it's a "low blow." The double standards are entirely a function of people's lingering prejudice against gay people. And by mentioning it, Kerry showed something important. This issue is not an abstract one. It's a concrete, human and real one. It affects many families, and Bush has decided to use this cynically as a divisive weapon in an election campaign. He deserves to be held to account for this - and how much more effective than showing a real person whose relationship and dignity he has attacked and minimized?