Dick Cheney joined the fray this afternoon, telling a rally in Fort Myers, Florida:
You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected. And I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father.
The Kerry’s campaign has responded incoherently to the flap. His campaign manager, Mary Cahill, said that the Cheneys seem to be proud of their lesbian daughter. Elizabeth Edwards, on the other hand, chimed in with a contradictory and singularly graceless critique of Mrs. Cheney’s comments:
I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter’s sexual preferences. It makes me really sad that that’s Lynne’s response.
John Kerry has felt the heat to the extent that he issued a statement today:
Kerry responded Thursday that he did not mean to offend anyone.
“I love my daughters. They love their daughter. I was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with the issue,” he said in a statement.
Kerry’s statement appears disingenuous; when he invoked Mary Cheney’s name during the final debate, he certainly was not saying “something positive about the way strong families deal with the issue.” Here is what he said, in response to this question from Bob Schieffer: “I want to ask you a more basic question. Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?”:
We’re all God’s children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney’s daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she’s being who she was, she’s being who she was born as.
I think if you talk to anybody, it’s not choice.
Nothing there about strong families “dealing with the issue.” Rather, an invocation of Mary Cheney in support of the mantra that sexual orientation is pre-ordained.
Will Kerry’s cynical exploitation of Dick Cheney’s daughter, who tries to guard her privacy, hurt him with the voters? Normally, I wouldn’t think so. But in the last days of a campaign, undecided voters are looking for something–some clue to the candidates’ characters–to push them in one direction or the other. For some, anyway, it is possible that Kerry’s cynical opportunism will affect their votes.
I’ve never met Mary Cheney. But four years ago, when Dick Cheney was in the Twin Cities, I got word that he would make an unscheduled stop at an outdoors-type store, REI or something, in the suburbs, for a photo-op. Since the stop wasn’t being publicized, there would be only normal shoppers in the store. I went to have a look at the Vice-Presidential candidate. He strolled through the store, bought some fly-fishing equipment, shook hands with some customers and answered a few questions before leaving.
Truthfully, Cheney didn’t make much of an impression on me. He was as diffident as you would expect, and, as with most famous people, my main thought upon seeing him in the flesh was that he looked just like he does on television.
The person who did make a deep impression on me was Mary Cheney. She appeared to be in charge of her father’s security detail. She was wearing a leather jacket and a microphone, through which she communicated steadily with other security personnel. She seemed very intense and looked tough, but not at all unattractive. In all my life, I have never seen such a striking image of protectiveness. She hovered over her father, cleared a path for him, scanned the small crowd anxiously. It was obvious that she adored her father; incongruously, perhaps, she reminded me of an eagle protecting its young.
Mary Cheney does not, I think, do campaign speeches and interviews. Perhaps she is not comfortable in that role. But we all serve where we can. That day four years ago, it was very clear that if anyone sought to harm Dick Cheney, he would have to do it over his daughter’s dead body.