Forgetting his lines

In his editorial for the new issue of the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol makes a smart contribution to the symposium convened by Hugh Hewitt on John Kerry’s use of Mary Cheney as a prop for the Kerry campaign: “Fair Game.” In Kristol’s reconstruction of the underlying strategy, he compares John Edwards’ “sugarcoated” discussion of Mary Cheney in the vice presidential debate and notes the exculpatory, inaccurate explanation of Kerry’s naked reference to Mary Cheney as a lesbian. Kristol concludes that Kerry forgot his lines and asks:

How stupid does John Kerry think the American people are?
Does he really think they will believe that he singled out Mary Cheney because he “was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue?” Does he think they will accept his claim that he was saying something about the Cheneys’ “love of their daughter”? Of course, he wasn’t. In his answer, he never mentioned or came close to mentioning the Cheney family, or the Cheneys’ love. He merely brought up Mary Cheney as a lesbian, out of left field, in order to get her name and sexual orientation into an answer where no such citation was expected, called for, or remotely appropriate. His campaign manager let slip the truth when after the debate she told Fox News’s Chris Wallace that Mary Cheney was “fair game.”
Kerry’s desperate attempt at next-day spin was also revealing. It showed the way he had been supposed to bring up Mary Cheney–the way he and his staff had planned to pull off this maneuver. Kerry was supposed to do what his more skilled and cleverer debating partner, John Edwards, did. He was supposed to sugarcoat his use of Mary Cheney more effectively. Edwards prefaced his answer to Gwen Ifill’s same-sex marriage question in the vice-presidential debate with, “Let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can’t have anything but respect for the fact that they’re willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter; the fact that they embrace her is a wonderful thing.”
But Kerry forgot his lines. And while Cheney had to pretend to accept Edwards’s phony, condescending compliment, and everyone else allowed Edwards’s deftly exploitative comment go by, Kerry’s appropriation of Mary Cheney came in no such lawyerly and sugary packaging. The rawness of his ruthlessness was there for all to see. The Democrats are terrified of a debate on same-sex marriage, and used Mary Cheney to try to brush back the Bush-Cheney ticket from forcing a real policy debate.

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