Memo To: Log Cabin Republicans
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Kerry's Low Point?
When I read Bill Safire's column today in The NYTimes, where he charges that Senators Kerry and Edwards deliberately planned their mentions of Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter in their debates, I wondered what you folks thought about all this. As the nation's largest organization of Republicans who support fairness and equality for gays and lesbians, I figured you would have a view that might put an end to this nonsense. In 1996, I recall, you sent a campaign contribution to Bob Dole for his presidential campaign and Dole, taking dopey advice from his political team, sent the money back -- as if it might somehow taint him. My wife Patricia said simply at the time: "He doesn't deserve to be President." I do think Dole regretted his move, one of many that kept him from the Oval Office.
So I went to your website, http://www.logcabin.org, and found a brief press release from last Thursday:
(Washington, DC)—"Senator Kerry could have made his point about gay and lesbian Americans without mentioning the Vice-President's daughter. However, this shouldn't distract us from the fact that President Bush, Karl Rove and other Republicans have been using gay and lesbian families as a political wedge issue in this campaign.
Log Cabin Republicans have a message for both campaigns. For Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards, you do not need to talk about the Vice President's daughter in order to discuss your positions on gay and lesbian issues. For President Bush and Karl Rove, you have a moral obligation to stop using gay and lesbian families as a political wedge issue. Our country and our party deserve better."
Hmmm. I suppose Kerry could have made his point without mention of Cheney's daughter, when asked if he thought homosexuality was a matter of choice. But I frankly thought his answer was appropriate, and could not have been planned by the Kerry team to make homosexuality a wedge issue. It has been the other way around, as you folks have been saying.
Unless Safire has some inside information to support his "indisputable" assertion that the Kerry/Edwards prepped for the topic, I think it is further evidence that he is in the early stages of senility and should hang it up. In the same edition of the Times, Adam Nagourney, the paper's chief political correspondent, noted that: "Mr. Kerry's aides said his comment was not part of a big political plan, and two officials who attended debate preparations said they had not heard the subject of Ms. Cheney come up."
The best exchange I saw on the topic came on Sunday's "Meet the Press," when Ken Mehlman of the Bush campaign squared off with Bob Shrum of the Kerry campaign. If Shrum, Kerry's chief strategist, was part of the sinister plan reported by Safire, you would be able to tell watching him and hearing him. My conclusion is that the remarks were innocent and even well-intentioned:
* * * * *
MR. RUSSERT: Let me move to a subject, Mr. Mehlman, that you raised, and it's been -- caused somewhat of a firestorm, certainly with the media, and that is John Kerry's comments in the debate when asked by moderator Bob Schieffer whether being gay was a matter of choice. This is how Senator Kerry responded in part:
(Videotape, October 13, 2004):
SEN. 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.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, The Washington Post and ABC talked to Americans all across the country. Is homosexuality a choice? Yes, 33; no, 57. Was it appropriate for Senator Kerry to bring up Vice President Cheney's daughter? Appropriate, 33; not appropriate, 64. Should Senator Kerry apologize?
MR. SHRUM: Absolutely not. He was making a positive and constructive comment. When John Edwards made the same comment in his debate with Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney turned to him and said, "Thank you for that." I think what happened was the president did so badly in that debate--he lost all three debates--he can't talk about a whole set of these issues--that they launched a cheap and tawdry attack on John Kerry, in which they called him literally a bad man. Now, this is a man who went and fought for his country. This is a prosecutor who put people in jail for life. This is a senator who put 100,000 cops on the street. This is a senator who with John McCain went to Vietnam to find out the truth about our POWs, and he wants to do something about health care and jobs in this country. He's not a bad man.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Mehlman, the vice president in August was asked at a town meeting by a voter this question: "I would like to know, sir, from your heart--I don't want to know what your advisers say, or even what your top adviser thinks--but I need to know what do you think about homosexual marriages?"
And this is how the vice president responded.
(Videotape, August 24, 2004):
VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: With respect to the question of gay marriage, Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue that to our family's very familiar with. We have two daughters and we have enormous pride in both of them. They're both fine young women.
MR. RUSSERT: The vice president raised it and then, as Mr. Shrum said, October 5, John Edwards said, "Let me say I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter, I think they love her very much," and the vice president said. "Let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much." If the vice president raised his daughter and he thanked Senator Edwards for talking about her, why all this outrage now?
MR. MEHLMAN: Well, Tim, I think it's pretty simple and I think that, as you pointed out, most of the American people understand it, and that is, it's wrong to bring up the private life of a member of the vice president or president's family to make a political point. It's that simple.
MR. SHRUM: Well, but wait a minute. Vice President Cheney brought up his daughter's private life. When Senator Edwards brought it up -- and by the way, she was a public figure because she was director of gay and lesbian affairs for the Coors Brewing Company. When he brought it up, he said, "Thank you." So what's wrong with it--Senator Kerry obviously was trying to say something positive. You guys got killed in three debates. I walked into the spin room. Everybody thought you'd been killed. You were looking for something to say.
MR. MEHLMAN: Tim, I...
MR. SHRUM: That's what happened here.
MR. MEHLMAN: Tim, I think fundamentally it's pretty simple. Again, you don't use the private lives of the member of the family for political purposes.
MR. SHRUM: Then why did Dick Cheney--why did Dick Cheney mention his...
MR. MEHLMAN: The campaign always talks about how they asked Bill Clinton for advice...
MR. SHRUM: Why did Dick Cheney--why did...
MR. MEHLMAN: One of the things the Clintons did very well, I thought, was keep a zone of protection around the family. And I think most Americans believe that's the right thing to do.
MR. SHRUM: Why did Dick Cheney--wait a minute. Mary Cheney is an official of the Bush campaign. Why did Dick Cheney mention his daughter's private life if it's inappropriate?
MR. MEHLMAN: I think Dick Cheney was responding to a question. I think it's very different than John Kerry doing it on national television. And, Tim, here's the problem. Remember the famous...
MR. SHRUM: So if you're responding to a question--John Kerry was responding to a question.