Using Mary Cheney

Published October 14, 2004 3:45AM (EDT)

Vice President Dick Cheney's gay daughter Mary has now come up in two debates. Sen. John Edwards brought her up in his match with Cheney last week, and Wednesday night John Kerry invoked her to respond to a question from Bob Schieffer about whether people "choose" to be gay. This time Republicans are crying foul. Bush campaign spokesman Dan Bartlett told NBC Kerry "stepped outside of the bounds" when he brought up the vice president's daughter. "A flag should have been thrown." Lynne Cheney is furious, telling a Pennsylvania campaign rally Kerry "is not a good man" because he brought her daughter's sexuality into the debate and calling the remark "a cheap and tawdry political trick."

We had mixed feelings about the Democrats' use of Mary Cheney. In the moment it looked a little like an effort to shout THE VICE PRESIDENT HAS A GAY DAUGHTER to red-state homophobes. It's safe to say it wasn't meant to boost Cheney's appeal in the blue states. But the GOP's hypocrisy on the issue makes Mary Cheney an almost irresistible touchstone. And when Bush ducked Schieffer's question about whether being gay is a "choice" -- "I don't know," he said twice -- it was hard not to want to rub his nose in the fundamental simplicity of the issue by bringing it back to someone Bush knows who happens to be gay.

We'll give this one to Kerry-Edwards on points, if not on style.

By Joan Walsh

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