Friday, October 15, 2004

Kerry takes the low road...

There is a lot of discussion going on about John Kerry’s reference in last night’s debate to Mary Cheney, Dick Cheney’s gay daughter. The Republicans are obviously going to make as much of this as they possibly can. That said, I just can’t take seriously those who argue that Kerry intended this as anything less than an attempt to embarrass the Bush/Cheney ticket. Why else would he bring it up?

Let’s be honest. Kerry’s whole purpose for being on that stage was to make Bush look bad and himself look good. Kerry did not give up precious seconds of his rebuttal time simply to compliment Mary Cheney and her parents for being swell folks. (“I was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue.” Give me a break.) Neither was it necessary for Kerry to single out the Vice-President’s daughter to make his point, that he believes gays don’t choose their lifestyles. No, it was entirely gratuitous, and entirely calculated (we saw John Edwards use the same tactic in his debate with Cheney). He did it entirely to score political points.

So what was Kerry’s goal in invoking Mary Cheney in this way? Who knows. Maybe he thought that viewers who approve of the way the President is defending traditional marriage would be outraged to learn that Cheney’s daughter is gay. Maybe he was trying to paint the Bush administration as uncompassionate, even when it comes to one of their own daughters. But regardless of what Kerry’s message was, or who it was directed at, there is no question his gambit boiled down to this: “Neener, neener, neener, Cheney’s got a gay daughter!” And this in itself is very telling. For if Kerry felt that he could embarrass the Bush/Cheney campaign by pointing out that Cheney’s own daughter is gay, might it be because Kerry himself feels there is something belittling or embarrassing about being gay?

And of course it’s a cheap tactic. Not cheap in the way that Kerry repeatedly invokes the name of John McCain. That’s an obvious poke in the eye: “One of yours is (apparently) on our side, so there!” But this is far worse. McCain is a senator. His statements are on the record on behalf of himself. It’s an entirely different matter to attack a candidate through his own daughter, who is not running for anything, and who didn’t ask to have her sexuality used as a political football. Kerry’s campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said last night that using Cheney's daughter to get to Bush is “fair game.” She couldn’t be more wrong. Such tactics are utterly classless and unbecoming a presidential candidate.

But Kerry was wrong to invoke Mary Cheney for another reason. He presumed to speak for her. He has absolutely no authority to represent what she would say on any matter, let alone something so personal, let alone as a way to attack her own father, let alone before the nation and the world. He simply has no right or justification for putting words into her mouth to make a political point. Period.

And so Dick and Lynne Cheney have a right to call foul. To be indignant about having their daughter dragged into the spotlight to be used against them. And to call Kerry on what Lynne Cheney rightly labeled a “cheap and tawdry political trick.”

And Republicans have a right to use what was a stupid and classless maneuver on Kerry’s part to whatever benefit they can make of it. And while they are at it, they should really go after this remark by Elizabeth Edwards as well:
“I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences,'' Mrs. Edwards said. ``It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response.''
This is entirely contemptible. You simply do not, under any circumstances, make such statements about a woman and her daughter. This is a personal, private bond that no one has a right to call into question.

John Kerry took the low road, and for that he should feel ashamed. But Elizabeth Edwards showed something equally loathsome today. I can’t imagine many mothers (or fathers, for that matter) hearing her words and not being extremely offended.

Update: More from Betsy, Lorie Byrd, Captain Ed, Just One Minute, and Mona Charen.

Update 2: More on this here.

Update 3: Oops. I sent a trackback out to Sean Gleeson then accidently left him off the link list. Bad form. My apologies to Sean. Please go check out both his post on the debate and his his entire site.

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