Monday, October 18, 2004

Indecent tactic

“The memoir about the Kerry-Edwards campaign that will be the best-seller will reveal the debate rehearsal aimed at focusing national attention on the fact that Vice President [Dick] Cheney has a daughter who is a lesbian,” New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

“That this twice-delivered low blow was deliberate is indisputable. The first shot was taken by John Edwards, seizing a moderator’s opening to smarmily compliment the Cheneys for loving their openly gay daughter, Mary. The vice president thanked him and yielded the remaining 80 seconds of his time; obviously, it was not a diversion he was willing to prolong,” Mr. Safire said.

“Until that moment, only political junkies knew that a member of the Cheney family serving on the campaign staff was homosexual. The vice president, to show it was no secret or anything his family was ashamed of, had referred to it briefly twice this year, but the press — respecting family privacy — had properly not made it a big deal. The percentage of voters aware of Mary Cheney’s sexual orientation was tiny.

“But Edwards’ answer in the vice-presidential debate raised that percentage. Because Cheney refused to react and the media did not see the spotlight on lesbianism as part of a political plan, the opening shot worked.

“Emboldened, members of Kerry’s debate preparation team made Mary Cheney’s private life the centerpiece of their answer to the question, especially worrisome to them, about same-sex marriage.”

Mr. Safire added: “Kerry will, I hope, assert his essential decency by apologizing with sincerity. Other Republicans hope he will let his self-inflicted wound fester. They have in mind a TV spot using an old film clip of a Boston lawyer named Welch at a congressional hearing, saying ‘Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?’”

Indecent tactic II

“John Kerry clearly felt he was riding high in the final presidential debate last week in Tempe, Ariz., when he impulsively and inexplicably noted that Vice President [Dick] Cheney’s daughter Mary is a lesbian,” syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak writes.

“That shocked politicians of both parties, focus group participants and just plain voters. What happened next could affect the outcome of the closely contested election,” Mr. Novak said.

“The negative reaction by prominent Democrats was conveyed to the Kerry campaign plane with this recommendation: Apologize for an inadvertent insult. That received some support within Kerry’s staff, but not much. The overwhelming sentiment was for no apology. Indeed, the hard language from principal Kerry surrogates described Mary Cheney as ‘fair game’ and asserted that her mother is ashamed of her.

“It is hard to believe that in the closing weeks of a campaign in which great issues are debated, the sexuality of the vice president’s daughter could be determinant. Still, overnight polling after the Cheney flap showed a sharp gain by George W. Bush. Whether this is coincidental or cause-and-effect is a subject for backstage political discussion in both parties.”

Lighten up, Jon

Jon Stewart, host of the “Daily Show” on Comedy Central, seems to have lost his sense of humor.

Last week, he angrily slammed the Bush administration and conservative columnist Robert D. Novak and announced that he plans to vote for Sen. John Kerry, the Media Research Center reports.

“On Friday, in a quite serious appearance on CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ in which Stewart lashed out at the show (‘You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably’), co-host Tucker Carlson reminded Stewart of his kiss-up questions to Kerry, such as, ‘How are you holding up?’ ‘Is it hard not to take the attacks personally?’ and ‘Have you ever flip-flopped?’ Carlson wondered if, given Stewart’s support for Kerry, it will be ‘harder for you to mock his administration if he becomes president?’

“Stewart responded with a slam at Bush: ‘The only way it would be harder is if his administration is less absurd than this one. So, in that case, if it’s less absurd, then, yes, I think it would be harder. But, I mean, it would be hard to top this group, quite frankly.’”

Mr. Stewart, at a Thursday breakfast event sponsored by the New Yorker magazine, “also lashed out at columnist Bob Novak for his column which cited Valerie Plame,” Brent Baker writes at

“In Friday’s New York Daily News, Lloyd Grove quoted Stewart as charging: ‘He leaked a CIA source for punitive reasons — for ugly, partisan purposes.’ Stewart complained: ‘There’s millions of dollars being spent on this investigation, and people are going to jail, but his evil is not allowed even in the darkened abyss of his soul — some would say soul.’

“Stewart grew even more vicious: ‘I would not have him on the show. I have standards. I wouldn’t do it. He shouldn’t be on television. CNN should not have him on the air. He should not be amongst civilized people.’”

Missing man

Vice President Dick Cheney is missing from a pamphlet that Oregonians consult as they ponder who to vote for — and state officials say they are getting “tons of calls” about the omission.

“People are jumping to the conclusion that we were playing some sort of political game. Some of the calls are nasty,” said John Lindback, the state elections director.

Some are blaming Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, a Democrat who has been accused by Republicans and others of being overly partisan. But Oregon Republican Party Chairman Kevin Mannix is coming to Mr. Bradbury’s defense, an odd twist in this hard-fought election year.

“There was no funny business on their part. The secretary of state’s office did their job,” Mr. Mannix said.

It was the presidential campaign’s decision not to send in material for Mr. Cheney to go into the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet, thinking it was enough to have President Bush’s photo and biography in the booklet and not spend the $1,000 to place Mr. Cheney in the pamphlet as well, Mr. Mannix said.

“Their thinking is that the president is the standard-bearer, and people are voting for president,” Mr. Mannix said.

Both Democratic contenders, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and running mate Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, are in the 40-page pamphlet, the Associated Press reports.

Clinton’s recovery

Former President Bill Clinton is proving to be a surprisingly “patient patient” as he recovers from quadruple heart-bypass surgery, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, said yesterday.

But his doctors haven’t yet cleared him to hit the presidential campaign trail for Sen. John Kerry.

“That is still being worked on as we speak,” the former first lady said during a press conference in New York about flu vaccine. She said Mr. Clinton has received a flu shot, the Associated Press reports.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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