THE "L" WORD. It's not "liberal"! Like most sane observers, I've been puzzled and disheartened by the apparent success the Bush-Cheney campaign is having over the issue of John Kerry's mentioning Dick and Lynne Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary.
I thought Kerry's invocation of the Cheneys during last week's debate was awkward and perhaps unnecessary; John Edwards handled it better in his debate with Dick Cheney, probably because he was talking to Dad, not about him. But never would I have dreamed that the Republicans could score points by referring to Kerry's "cheap and tawdry political trick," as noted lesbian-romance novelist Lynne Cheney did last week.
Now Paul Johnson, of 365Gay.com, reports that the furious Republican response may be have been the brainchild of M-Che herself. Johnson writes:
Sources close to the Bush-Cheney campaign tell 365Gay.com that the idea came up in a telephone call between Mary and her parents immediately after the presidential debate Wednesday night.
The younger Cheney, who serves as a backroom advisor to her father, suggested that she would continue to be a "issue" for Democrats unless something was done to stop it immediately.
If Johnson is right, then the temptation is to call this perhaps the ultimate in self-loathing, but I'm not going to go there. Even though she used to work as the liaison to the gay-and-lesbian community for Coors, and even though she has a prominent position in her father's campaign, Mary Cheney is known to value her privacy. She may have genuinely been getting sick and tired of hearing the Democrats drop her name every time the issue of same-sex marriage came up. Still, her parents' rhetoric suggests they are still not comfortable with their daughter's sexual orientation.
What's truly weird about this is that the Cheneys and other Republicans have gotten away with practically accusing Kerry of outing a openly lesbian adult who is also a public figure. The Democrats must feel like the Red Sox getting flogged by the Yankees once again: How do they do it? Adam Nagourney has an idea in today's New York Times:
In Mr. Kerry's mind, he was stating a well-known fact. Ms. Cheney is openly gay, and her father mentioned it at one of his rallies before the Republican convention. More significant, calling someone a lesbian in this era is hardly an insult in Mr. Kerry's mind, his advisers said.
But to listen to conservative radio shows, or to talk to voters since the debate, it is clear that not everyone shares Mr. Kerry's view. Even some Democrats said that many viewers thought either that Mr. Kerry was outing Ms. Cheney, or that calling someone a lesbian was a schoolyard insult, a bit of behavior that was unseemly for a presidential candidate.
The Incomparable One agrees, writing:
Some of you still don't understand why we've said that this comment was stupid. It was stupid because John Kerry is running for president, and has to get people to vote for him. And, however enlightened you may be about this, the American electorate does not share your outlook. Almost surely, Kerry is losing votes because of this ill-advised comment.
In an election as close as this one is likely to be, any little thing can make a difference. Four years ago, Al Gore may very well have lost (well, not "lost," but you know what I mean) because the media falsely and repeatedly quoted him as saying he had "invented the Internet."
Wouldn't it be something if Kerry loses because he said the word "lesbian"? Does anyone think it's even remotely as important as the deaths of 1101 American troops in Iraq?
NOT SO SWIFT. Last Friday, Media Log received intelligence that Ted Koppel had let swift-boat liar John O'Neill run wild on Nightline the night before. I did not have a chance to check it out, but Somerby, as usual, has all the ugly details.