Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Line No Man Should Cross

I figured that Wednesday's debates would be good. Bush didn't just think with a red tie, he wore a red tie, and he was correspondingly aggressive in the first half-hour. Moderator Bob Scheiffer's questions were balanced overall, but the ones that favored Democratic responses came during the middle of the debate. Kerry managed to regain some footing after Bush's assault thanks to these questions, and the momentum shift was pronounced. Bush was strong again toward the end, so this debate would have been like a song: for the most part, the first note and the last note are the ones you remember. Unfortunately for Kerry, there's only one part of this debate that's unforgettable: his thinly-veiled attack on Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter Mary. If not for that one moment, the whole thing would have been a draw. I can't say that Bush won, but I can say that Kerry beat himself.

See, there's one political sacred cow that is always constant: Never, ever attack the kids. Up until now, Bush and Kerry have upheld that rule; however, by mentioning Mary Cheney in such a bizarre manner, Kerry broke it to pieces. As you've probably seen, I tend to think more even-handedly than most bloggers. I've also had friends of mine who were gay. So when I first heard the statement, I didn't think much of it until I realized how condescending Kerry's tone of voice sounded. I brushed that much off, but when I found out later that campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill had described Mary Cheney as "fair game," I was incensed. (The statement apparently came in post-debate analysis on Fox, which the cable service in my dorm doesn't carry.) But wait, it gets worse....

The next day, Lynne Cheney railed against Kerry for what she knew was an attack on her daughter. Elizabeth Edwards had the nerve to say later that day how Lynne Cheney seemed to have "a certain degree of shame" that Mary was gay. Dick Cheney later attacked Kerry both as an incumbent Veep and as a father. As you can imagine, Kerry later tried to explain away his comments, but you can't undo all the damage when two other people on your side are in on this kind of attack. An ABC News poll came in showing that a large majority of voters thought Kerry's comment was inappropriate, including 51% of Democrats and 64% of independents. That alone ought to tell you something.

The DA ran a letter to the editor yesterday that said Dick Cheney should never have involved her in the campaign in the first place, saying it's exploitation and warrants an attack. If that were the case, the Dems would have attacked the Bush twins' partying ways; after all, they've been campaigning for their dad. Why haven't they been attacked? Because you never, ever attack the kids. That, and attacking them would be too obvious. By attacking Mary Cheney, the statement sounds reasonable to other Democrats and, in the mind of the Kerry campaign, distances the Bush ticket from anti-gay voters. Sorry, Kerry; the only thing exploiting her did for you was distance your ticket from America's parents. I was starting to gain respect for you, but since this attack, it's all gone.

A side note: I doubt the DA agreed with 'using' Mary Cheney. The title they assigned to the letter to the editor was simple and direct: "Cheney Daughter Comment Fair Game." Partially a snipe at the Cahill quote, and partially a call for discussion of the issue. Bravo, DA.

Another note: Did anyone else think Kerry's remarks Wednesday night on welfare and minimum wage sounded condescending? He seemed to imply that minorities and women are always earning minimum wage and need welfare. It may be a normal talking point, but the way he said it seemed really elitist to me.

If you want to see the reaction poll, go here:
http://www.abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2004/story?id=169306&page=3

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