(Weekly Column) Like her father's misbegotten war in Iraq, Mary Cheney's book is backfiring. Just as Dick thought the Iraqis would throw flowers at our troops and greet them as liberators, Mary imagined her tome would liberate her from being perceived as a lesbian lackey. But instead of roses, people are roiled and "Now It's My Turn" makes Mary appear more sycophantic than sympathetic.
Time and again, Mary is confronted with opportunities to educate America and voice her opposition to President Bush's promotion of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Like clockwork, each possibility is squandered with aplomb and justified with solipsistic rationalizations.
For example, at the 2004 GOP Convention in New York, right wing activist Alan Keyes called Mary Cheney a selfish hedonist. At the same time, George W. Bush was stumping for the Federal Marriage Amendment. During this whole gay bashing debacle, Mary Cheney was completely silent.
In her book, she justifies not responding to Keyes by claiming that she was more "baffled" by his statement than "offended." This reaction was odd, because in the Vice Presidential debate, John Edwards merely said she was a lesbian, and Mary looked right at him and mouthed the unmentionable.
Implausibly, Mary dismisses Keyes as a "fringe player in Republican politics" and says she chose to remain muffled because, "Everyone already knows it was a completely bizarre and inappropriate comment for him to make."
This must have been news to Rev. Jerry Falwell and the legions of Federal Marriage Amendment supporters that packed the Madison Square Garden convention hall. What she insouciantly called "bizarre," Karl Rove cynically refers to as "the base" and he exploited and rode people who hold such views to victory.
At this incredibly tense moment, the GLBT community desperately needed Mary and her partner Heather Poe to say something -- anything. Instead, they chose not to go onstage following Dick's acceptance speech. The entire family was there -- except the lesbian couple. Clearly, it gave the appearance that Keyes' statement, combined with intensified efforts to energize the right, had kept the lesbians out of the limelight.
In her book, Mary claims it was her choice to stay off the stage and she tries to brush off critics by lamely saying, "I was happier and more comfortable staying behind the scenes."
Give me a break. In the history of presidential politics, there have certainly been shy family members who dreaded mugging in front of the national media. However, only the diffident duo of Mary and Heather failed to actually take to the stage, thus sending a terrible message to the rest of America: Gays are not part of the family.
One of the more telling moments of her book comes right after President Bush announced his support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Following a brief tantrum, Mary considered quitting her father's reelection campaign. She ultimately decided to stay because she "loves her father" and presumably all the Halliburton money that is only a heartbeat away.
Remarkably, in the midst of the most anti-gay campaign in memory, Mary writes, "in the days and weeks afterward, many campaign staffers, including members of the senior staff, came into my office, shut the door, and told me that they disagreed with the President on this issue...They were troubled by the amendment."
And this attitude is why Mary Cheney and the Republican Party trouble me. In order to gain and maintain power, they will use and abuse, goad and scapegoat gay people and other minorities. Instead of telling the truth about this ugly constitutional Amendment, they will cheer it in public and condemn it in private -- always locked behind a closed door.
Another shining moment in her book comes when a closeted GOP donor frantically calls Mary to say that he is about to be outed by gay activists, and this could lead to him losing his job. Mary tells her father who admirably replies that if this man gets hassled he will "take care of it."
However, there is no introspection by Mary on the anti-gay climate created by the GOP that helps put people like her friend in a precarious situation. She offers no such sympathy, understanding or remedy for the rest of us who simply can't call on the VP if our boss is a homophobe.
The final insult comes when the President relays that he understands if Mary makes a public statement denouncing his decision to back the Federal Marriage Amendment. And, of course, she makes the ultimate statement -- stony silence. "I didn't think it was appropriate for me as a campaign staffer to issue a statement."
Yeah, right, just a lowly staffer -- who happened to get a million dollar book deal.