Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 2004 / 4 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Edward I. Koch

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Johns' disgraceful behavior has sealed their fate | Disgraceful attempts by John Edwards and John Kerry to exploit for political purposes the sexual orientation of Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, ended the possibility of their winning the election.

Adam Nagourney of The New York Times, summed up the feelings of many, when he wrote, "Amid signs of Democratic concern, Mr. Kerry's advisers acknowledged Sunday that some voters perceived Mr. Kerry's remark [that Mary Cheney is a lesbian] as an invasion of Ms. Cheney's privacy, a gratuitous personal insult, or a crass political calculation by which Mr. Kerry was trying to drive a wedge between Mr. Cheney and conservatives unaware that his daughter was gay."

Defenders of Kerry and Edwards protest that Mary Cheney was already out and was even publicly described by her father as gay. But that is not the issue. Kerry and Edwards did the inexcusable: they tried to use the child of an opposing candidate for political purposes. Mary Cheney lives her life with a female partner. She has displayed a desire to lead that life privately, never granting interviews and remaining as anonymous as she can. She did not accompany her parents to the stage at Madison Square Garden when the Cheney and Bush families accepted the Republican Party's nomination, while the President's daughters did.

Edwards' apologists say that the Vice President thanked him for his comment during the debate. Let's see exactly what Edwards said and what Dick Cheney said in response. Edwards said, "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." Cheney's response: "Well, Gwen [Ifill], let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much." Gwen Ifill: "That's it?" Dick Cheney: "That's it." Not exactly a happy response. Cheney said the bare minimum consciously trying to prevent the debate from deteriorating into an angry episode.

During the third Bush-Kerry debate, moderator Bob Schieffer, asked first of President Bush, "Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?" The President responded, "You know, Bob, I don't know. I just don't know." Kerry responded, "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 you talk to anybody, it's not a choice."

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After the debate, Lynn Cheney expressed what was clearly her parents' anger at Kerry for having used their daughter as a case study before millions of strangers. She said, "I am speaking as a mom — and a pretty indignant mom. This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick." Dick Cheney followed with, "You saw a man who will say and do anything in order to get elected. And I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father." Mary's sister, Liz Cheney, said, "It was a very offensive thing for him to do."

How would Kerry know what is in Mary Cheney's mind? Had he ever discussed the subject with her? Doubtful. Why introduce her into the debate? The comment later by Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, added fuel to the fire by revealing the real purpose of the Kerry-Edwards comments. Cahill said: "There are a lot of questions here about gay marriage and she is someone who's a major figure in the campaign. I think it's fair game." Cahill's remarks undoubtedly reflect the real attitude of the Kerry campaign.

Mary Cheney's life is not "fair game" in any sense. Ms. Cheney is trying to lead a private life, particularly as it relates to her sexual orientation. She does not appear ashamed of her lifestyle, nor are her loving parents ashamed of her, notwithstanding the comments by John Edwards' wife Elizabeth, who said, "It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response. I think that indicates a certain degree of shame with the respect to her daughter's sexual preferences."

What an outrage! What would have happened four years ago if, in Cheney's first vice presidential debate, he had exclaimed, "Isn't it wonderful that in our country we have reached the point where a Jew, Senator Joe Lieberman, could be a heartbeat away from the presidency?" What if Ronald Reagan in the course of his debate with Jimmy Carter had said, "It is just wonderful how Jimmy Carter defends his alcoholic brother Billy from those who criticize his antics?"

What if George W. Bush in debate said, "The best examples of corporate greed are the tax avoidances used by John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, already one of the richest women in the U.S.; and how wonderful that an 'African American' (which she has called herself) could have climbed so high. Only in America."

None of these remarks nor the shameless use of Mary Cheney for political purposes could pass the Kerry "global test," which we used to call the "nose test." Instead of a forthright apology, he defended his remarks, saying, "I love my daughters. They love their daughter. I was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue."

Heretofore I said Bush's margin of victory would be 8 points. I'm raising it to 10 points. In the hearts and minds of the American voter, character — and lack thereof — still count.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Sunday from 9-10 am . Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Edward I. Koch