Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Prager criticizes Teresa Kerry...

I’m a huge fan of Dennis Prager and I respect him a great deal, but his latest column gave me pause. He begins his list of reasons why he can’t vote for John Kerry with this:

1. John Kerry was described by Lynne Cheney as "not a good man" after Kerry used the Cheney daughter's sexual orientation to score political points. She may be right. As William Safire writes, "The sleazier purpose of the Kerry-Edwards spotlight on Mary Cheney is to confuse and dismay Bush supporters who believe that same-sex marriage is wrong, to suggest that Bush is as 'soft on same-sex' as Kerry is, and thereby to reduce a Bush core constituency's eagerness to go to the polls." Even the press, Safire notes, has respected Mary Cheney's right to privacy.

As I read this, I thought, “She may be right” is a little understated, but okay, he made his point—one with which I agree. A little later Dennis writes:

3. Normally even partisan observers of elections say nothing about the wives of presidential candidates. Aside from propriety -- the families of candidates should remain off-limits to political attacks -- every wife of every presidential candidate and of every president in living memory has been an asset to the country. It brings me no joy to say that Teresa Heinz Kerry is not worthy of being the first lady of the United States of America. From her public utterances -- such as young American men and women dying in Iraq because of American "greed for oil" -- and her many years of financial support for radical groups, it is clear to me and many others that this woman does not particularly care for this country. Her primary identity is that of world citizen, and her values are those of France and anti-American Europe.
Wow—“not worthy of being the first lady.” That’s harsh, and I reacted to it very much the same way I reacted to John Kerry’s remark about Mary Cheney: “that’s wrong.”

I’ve been sitting here for several minutes trying to digest the juxtaposition of these two passages, trying to understand why it might be okay to say such a thing about Teresa Kerry while being critical of a reference to Mary Cheney. Here are some of the things I considered:

  • Mary Cheney (MC) isn’t running for anything. If she’s a public figure it’s only to the extent that she is related to the Vice-President. Teresa Kerry (TK) is “running” for something in that she is actively campaigning to become First Lady.
  • The reference to MC was entirely gratuitous; the reference to TK is directly relevant to the point being made.
  • The reference to MC was not “harsh” in content, but rather in context—i.e. it was an intrusion into her personal life for the purpose of scoring political points against her father and his running mate. The reference to TK was harsh in content, but very much in context—i.e. it relates directly to her political activities, which are relevant to the campaign.
  • The reference to MC was made by a candidate for President of the United States; the reference to TK was made by a radio talk show host and columnist.
  • The reference to MC regarded private and personal activities; the reference to TK regarded public and political activities.
  • Dennis says himself that First Ladies are off limits, yet he proceeds to criticize TK anyway. That adds even more sting to his remark.
After walking through these considerations, I’m slightly less bothered by Dennis’ remark than I was initially, but I’m still uncomfortable with it. Intellectually, I feel these differences are enough so that I should be okay with the remark. But emotionally it still feels wrong--perhaps wrong is too strong a word. Still, I wish he hadn’t said it.

Perhaps it's simply my respect for the "office" of First Lady that is making me uncomfortable. Perhaps I'll feel differently tomorrow.

I'll be curious to see if this receives any attention.

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