The predatory treatment of Mary Cheney by John Kerry, John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards and Mary Beth Cahill reveals the path they have chosen and it’s not the high road. Two men in need of a heart and a soul took a wrong turn off the yellow brick road and mired themselves in a slough of despond. That can happen when your moral compass gets rusty.
Because our society attaches special value to family, we observe certain invisible boundaries in our private lives and public institutions. We all know someone who complains about their spouse or their children but, even if we agree, we are too respectful to join the criticism. When parents let their children become disruptive nuisances, we might be tempted to meddle but we bite our tongues instead. You could say we cherish families more than free speech. In breaching the privacy of the Vice President's daughter in the most public way, John Kerry crossed a line most of us take great care to avoid crossing.
Dick and Lynne Cheney have the right of family to invoke their daughters in public if they so choose. Michael and Ron Reagan have the right of family to invoke their father in support of their contrary positions on embryonic stem cell research. John Kerry’s unauthorized appropriation of the private life of Mary Cheney, whom he knows barely if at all, was as unseemly and out-of-bounds as his political exploitation of the personal tragedy suffered by Ronald Reagan, about whom Kerry had few kind words when he was alive.
The targeting of Mary Cheney by the upper echelons of the Kerry campaign appears to be a political calculation based on questionable premises. First and foremost, Mary Cheney serves as her father’s campaign manager, not as his gay outreach liaison. If she has opinions on same-sex marriage, she has not announced them nor designated a spokesperson in the Kerry campaign.
The Democrats must presume that their gay supporters will not object if Kerry and Edwards treat Mary Cheney like human bait while essentially echoing Bush’s stand on same-sex marriage. Undoubtedly there are those who delight in outing their own to make a point, especially if he or she is politically conservative as I noted earlier. Some of his supporters in the gay community, as in the anti-war crowd, might well believe that Kerry is paying lip service to moderate positions now and will make liberal policy to their liking later.
Kerry’s cynical strategy assumes that those who honestly share Bush’s opposition to same-sex marriage are right-wing Christian fundamentalist homophobes who would balk at a lesbian connection to the bottom half of their preferred ticket. A February 2004 poll taken in Massachusetts, the most liberal state, found that a majority there opposed same-sex marriage and an April follow-up indicated that a majority supported Governor Romney's efforts to stay the court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. If Kerry is a shoo-in to win his home state and a majority of its inhabitants are against same-sex marriage, what does that say about the contempt he feels for his own constituents?
In my world, the Cheneys’ pride in both their daughters is the rule and not the exception. With parents as loving and supportive as they seem to be, all God’s children can grow up unafraid of being themselves, safe from the kind of stigma John Kerry was seeking to manipulate with the crassest of intentions.
There’s something about Kerry that seems artificial, venal, heartless, soulless, bloodless. That was the lasting image of Kerry captured by the camera during the final presidential debate. No amount of money can help him take that snapshot out of circulation.