If there was a moment in an otherwise unremarkable debate that got everyone's attention, it was Kerry's gratuituous statement, on national T.V. and in front of millions of viewers, that Dick Cheney's daughter Mary is a lesbian.
Here was the question:
Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?
And here was the first part of Kerry's answer:
KERRY: 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.
The reason why a lot of folks think this was calculated is because Edwards pointed out that Cheney's daughter was gay during the VP debate.
Mickey Kaus, a Kerry supporter, thought at the time this was odd, and suggested that there was a political purpose in Edward's comment. Kaus thinks that there are people out there (there probably are) who think that Cheney's having a lesbian daughter (HE'S UNCLEAN) is reason enough not to vote for him:
[I]t was "a very thinly disguised way of letting Reagan Democrats (and other conservative-leaning members of the electorate) know that Cheney has a lesbian daughter." In other words, a cynical, premeditated appeal to prejudice. (he is quoting from and agreeing with an e-mailer)
Kaus thinks that the Dems' intent was confirmed when Kerry raised the issue again:
When I criticized John Edwards for gratuitously mentioning Dick Cheney's gay daughter, I got lots of email suggesting that Edwards was simply being nice. Sorry, that won't fly after Kerry bizarrely, needlessly and explicitly raised the subject again
At any rate, there were a lot of reactions to this. Lynne Cheney was plenty annoyed:
"Of course, I am speaking as a mom, and a pretty indignant mom," Lynne Cheney said. "This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick."
And Dick Cheney had something to say as well:
''You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected,'' Dick Cheney told a rally in Fort Myers, Fla. ''And I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father.''
The Democratic initial response to this was--as usual--off key. Elizabeth Edwards was trotted out to suggest that the Cheneys' concern about their daughters' private life being made into a campaign issue was because they were ashamed of her:
"I think that it indicates a certain amount of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences."
Of course it might not be "shame" it might be that they are annoyed that you are trying to score political points over who one of their daughters sleeps with. And Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said that Mary Cheney was "fair game" ("game?" Are they planning to mount her head above the fireplace after they shoot her?)
John Mercurio of CNN thinks that the Bush/Cheney anger over the issue is calculated. In his mind, I guess, candidates are not allowed to have real emotions, and everything anyone says has to be calculated and spun for some political purpose. I don't buy it in this case, both Dick and Lynne sound awful angry, and this is their daughter that everyone is talking about. And of course the mainstream gay organizations are all coming out (coming out - get it?) on Kerry's side over his little exercise in gay bashing. Its to be expected, remember that all the womens' groups were on Clinton's side even when he was accused of sexual harrassment and rape. At the end of the day all that matters for some people is making sure the right team wins.
How do I feel (as if anyone cares)? I am aware that Mary Cheney is in her 30s and that she makes no secret of her sexual preference. But it is one thing--for example--for my friends and family to know that when my wife and I become intimate I dress up in a D'Artagnan costume (not true, btw, I dress up like Captain Kirk) and it is quite another thing to have it announced on national T.V. How about we leave the kid alone?