Thursday, October 14, 2004

Mary Cheney and Captain Renault

Andrew Sullivan argues that Kerry mentioning Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter is not some underhanded smear.

You have to regard homosexuality as immoral or wrong or shameful to even get to the beginning of the case against Kerry.

Not necessarily. What you do have to recognize is that we don't live in a perfect world and that, unfortunately, some voters will make a negative association with Cheney as a result of Kerry's remark. Here's an example. If in the debate Bush had referenced Kerry's Catholicism, big deal. Anti-Catholic prejudice is pretty much dead. On the other hand, if Richard Nixon had referenced Kennedy's Catholicism (something that, much to his credit, he never did) in the 1960 debates, it would have been a big deal since a significant number of voters in that election did have anti-Catholic prejudices and such a reference would have triggered or reinforced their bias against Kennedy. It didn't matter what Nixon thought about Kennedy's Catholicism. What mattered is whether he perceived an anti-Catholic bias in the public and whether he played to that bias.

The same goes for race issues. If I wanted to do in Clarence Thomas among racist whites, I could run around talking about how much I respected his interracial marriage. Hell, I could even run puffy TV ads showing Thomas and his wife, calling them "my esteemed opponent and his lovely and charming wife." Even if I thought interracial marriage was fine, I'm still playing the race card. And in some ways, that's far more reprehensible and cynical than if I were honestly racist.

That said, Sullivan is absolutely right when calls out conservatives for being "shocked, shocked" at the idea of using gays as a wedge issue.

4 comments:

Thomas said...

Exactly right. The funny thing is, Andrew Sullivan used to know this. He criticized Democrats for using a gay-baiting campaign against Mike Taylor in the Montana US Senate race back in 2002. When Baucus defenders offered the line that Sullivan's offering now, Sullivan rejected it.

What's changed? Well, Max Baucus has been a good friend to the gay community, but John Kerry's election is even more important. Or some principle along those lines.

Anonymous said...

Oh please. If Cheney hadn't talked about Mary HIMSELF in the Veep debate, if they hadn't started making huge use of pix of her with her partner starting at the convention (when they suddenly discovered they were "compassionate" conservatives again), or otherwise used her opportunistically whenever they needed to, I might buy into your argument against Kerry's comment.

As it is, it's just the same old, same old; okay when B/C do it, criminal when K/E do it. If Mary wants to call John Kerry out for being presumptuous (maybe she doesn't think God made her gay, and I don't suppose she really owes the world her philosophy on the subject) that's her business and she should do it. But her Mommy and Daddy need to stop using her sexuality to make a point about their supposed levels of tolerance and understanding, then reacting with outrage when anyone else dares to mention it.

Anonymous said...

Well Kerry mentioned Ms. Cheney in relation to a question on gay marriage. It was on topic and a valid point because the President advocates an amendment that would negatively impact the rights of gay Americans including his own VP's daughter. Your Nixon-Kennedy analogy would only hold water if there was a question in relation to the candidates' faith. I wasn't around then so I don't know if it came up.

Anonymous said...

Considering the fact that Bush uses gays as a big issue in his campaign, why exactly is it so horrible that Kerry mentions it too?