Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sunday sermons from Mary and John

Mary Cheney is a tad puzzling. The vice president's openly lesbian daughter was on Fox News this morning, still exuding outrage that John Kerry referred to her as openly lesbian during a 2004 presidential debate. As she told Chris Wallace, "I think it was a pretty sleazy thing to do."

I was there that night, in Arizona, and when Kerry brought up Mary Cheney ("she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as"), we scribes nodded knowingly at each other, because we could see what Kerry was doing. Of course it was a hardball political act on his part. He was going for a two-fer:

1. By mentioning to viewers that Mary was gay, Kerry was hoping to shock those religious conservatives who might be hearing that fact for the first time, and thereby dampen their enthusiasm for the Bush-Cheney ticket.
2. And, more importantly, Kerry was charging Bush-Cheney with hypocrisy, for tolerating and supporting an open lesbian family member who was living with another woman, while, orchestrating a state-by-state referendum campaign to ban gay marriage.

Which brings us back to Mary Cheney today. In addition to calling Kerry's move "sleazy" on Fox News, she charges in her new book: ''What was offensive was that he was trying to use me and my sexual orientation for his own political gain.'' She also called Kerry an SOB.

By now, you might be hip to Mary's blind spot.

Here was the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, in the midst of its nationwide effort to use gay people for their own political gain -- by getting anti-gay marriage referenda on ballots in key states, in order to gin up conservative turnout -- and Mary today is still most outraged about the Democratic challenger. Moreover, Kerry had brought up her name in response to some comments that Bush had just made -- about his opposition to gay marriage.

It was Mary's party that was trying to intrude on her personal life, by passing laws curbing her personal choices. It was Mary's party that had put the gay issue on the table in that election. It was Mary's party that had made the issue fodder for discussion during that debate. It was Mary's party that got the issue on the ballot in Ohio, thereby attracting anti-gay voters and helping Bush win that pivotal state by a thin margin.

And yet she's still outraged at the Democrats...for saying something that was true. And, having vented again on that subject today, she then tried to have it both ways -- by criticizing the idea of amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage ("I would also hope that no one would think about trying to amend the constitution as a political strategy, that people wouldn't try and use amending the constitution to further their own political goals").

Well, guess what: her own party, in the Senate, is planning to bring up that idea for a vote next month, as a conservative base motivating tool. I haven't heard President Bush seeking to dissuade the Senate Republicans from doing so. In fact, the Republicans are trying again this year to get those referenda on state ballots, in time for the November congressional elections. But in Mary's view, Bush is "a very good man. On these issues, he hasn't caught up."

Yet it's Kerry who is the SOB.


Well, the Straight Talk Express stopped at Jerry Falwell's college this weekend for some long-scheduled sweet talk with the Falwell student body. I caught the commencement speech earlier this evening on C-Span. Two observations:

1. McCain, who once called Falwell an "agent of intolerance," has absolved Falwell of that harsh sobriquet (because now he needs Falwell, as an ambassador to religious conservatives). Now he has found a new agent of intolerance:

"When I was a young man, I was quite infatuated with self-expression, and rightly so because, if memory conveniently serves, I was so much more eloquent, well-informed, and wiser than anyone else I knew. It seemed I understood the world and the purpose of life so much more profoundly than most people....I had opinions on everything, and I was always right. I loved to argue, and I could become understandably belligerent with people who lacked the grace and intelligence to agree with me....All their resistance to my brilliantly conceived and cogently argued views proved was that they possessed an inferior intellect and a weaker character than God had blessed me with, and I felt it was my clear duty to so inform them.
"It’s a pity that there wasn’t a blogosphere then. I would have felt very much at home in the medium."

There it is, an anti-media punch line for the 21st century. I guess all those blogger barbs about his rightward positioning have stung a bit.

2. He stood foresquare behind the war in Iraq: "My patriotism and my conscience required me to support it and to engage in the debate over whether and how to fight it.... I stand that ground because I believed, rightly or wrongly, that my country’s interests and values required it...Should we lose this war, our defeat will further destabilize an already volatile and dangerous region, strengthen the threat of terrorism, and unleash furies that will assail us for a very long time. I believe the benefits of success will justify the costs and risks we have incurred."

He is at least as hawkish on Iraq as the president whom he supports. Which again prompts a key question: If he becomes the '08 GOP nominee, would he really be able to sustain his past popularity among swing-voting independents and moderate Democrats -- when most of those voters have already soured on the war?