Kerry's McCarthyite Moment

This column from The Weekly Standard was written by William Kristol.

"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."

John Kerry, responding to Bob Schieffer's question,
"Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?"
in the third debate, October 13, 2004

"I said it in a very respectful way about their love of their daughter. . . . I was saying it in a way that embraced the love of their daughter. . . . All I was trying to do is point out that it--let their daughter speak. Was it a choice, or was she born the way she was? That was the question. I was being respectful, purely respectful."

John Kerry, quoted in the Des Moines Register, October 15, 2004

Was John Kerry born a shameless and ruthless opportunist, or did he choose to become one? In a way, who cares? Who knows how John Kerry became who he is? What is clear is that he is, as Dick Cheney put it, "a man who will do and say anything to get elected." And what is equally clear is that he shouldn't be elected president of the United States.

Leave aside the cheap, cold, calculating cynicism - and cruelty - in Kerry's appropriation of the alleged opinions of an opposing candidate's family member to try to embarrass his opponent. Leave aside the view Kerry and his campaign must have of millions of religious Americans if they think this particular McCarthyite moment will work. Leave aside their fear of having an honest debate about a legitimate public policy issue - same-sex marriage, the role of liberal judges in advancing it, and the proper response of the elected representatives of the American people. Leave aside the fact that Kerry's alleged opposition to same-sex marriage is manifestly dishonest and cowardly.

Leave it all aside. How stupid does John Kerry think the American people are?

Does he really think they will believe that he singled out Mary Cheney because he "was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue?" Does he think they will accept his claim that he was saying something about the Cheneys' "love of their daughter"? Of course, he wasn't. In his answer, he never mentioned or came close to mentioning the Cheney family, or the Cheneys' love. He merely brought up Mary Cheney as a lesbian, out of left field, in order to get her name and sexual orientation into an answer where no such citation was expected, called for, or remotely appropriate. His campaign manager let slip the truth when after the debate she told Fox News's Chris Wallace that Mary Cheney was "fair game."

Kerry's desperate attempt at next-day spin was also revealing. It showed the way he had been supposed to bring up Mary Cheney - the way he and his staff had planned to pull off this maneuver. Kerry was supposed to do what his more skilled and cleverer debating partner, John Edwards, did. He was supposed to sugarcoat his use of Mary Cheney more effectively. Edwards prefaced his answer to Gwen Ifill's same-sex marriage question in the vice-presidential debate with, "Let me say first that 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; the fact that they embrace her is a wonderful thing."

But Kerry forgot his lines. And while Cheney had to pretend to accept Edwards's phony, condescending compliment, and everyone else allowed Edwards's deftly exploitative comment go by, Kerry's appropriation of Mary Cheney came in no such lawyerly and sugary packaging. The rawness of his ruthlessness was there for all to see. The Democrats are terrified of a debate on same-sex marriage, and used Mary Cheney to try to brush back the Bush-Cheney ticket from forcing a real policy debate.

No one would blame President Bush for hesitating to engage in such a full-bore debate, partly because he undoubtedly wants to avoid further awkwardness for his running mate and his family. But the rest of the country doesn't have to be intimidated by John Kerry's McCarthyism. They should punish him for it - and also remember that when they vote on November 2, they are choosing between two candidates who have very different social, moral, and cultural outlooks. They should remember that Bush and Kerry will make very different judicial appointments, just as they took opposite stands on the Defense of Marriage Act, which sought to protect states from being forced to recognize other states' same-sex marriages, and on a constitutional amendment. This is a legitimate ground for choice - as is the character revealed by a candidate who did what John Kerry did, with malice aforethought, Wednesday night.
By William Kristol