If Liz Cheney, whose bid for the Senate has always had a stench of extreme opportunism, wants to discuss traditions and values, I’m all for it. Let’s start here: Isn’t there a tradition of close-knit family members’ taking care not to wound one another? Is there not value in that?
From the moment that Liz decided, from the perch of her longtime home in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, to act the part of an honest-to-goodness Wyoming resident and challenge an incumbent senator (and family friend) from that state, she must have known that the issue of same-sex marriage would come up. It is, after all, a prominent thread in the news. It’s also a prominent thread in stories about her family, given that her father, Dick, bucked his party to become an early Republican supporter of same-sex marriage, and given that her lone sibling, Mary, has a female spouse.
She must also have entertained speaking out against it, because that’s what she ended up doing on Sunday, on Fox News, saying that she believed “in the traditional definition of marriage.” And she must have foreseen that this would pain Mary, who was married last year and whose two children are being brought up with the understanding that their family has the same dignity as any other.
But she plunged forward anyway, disregarding the inevitable discord. As Jonathan Martin reported in The Times, Liz and Mary aren’t speaking to each other now, and there’s a long shadow over the Cheneys’ holiday get-togethers.
Is any political office worth that? Would victory redeem the public message that Liz just sent to her niece and nephew? I’m imagining her awkwardness the next time that she goes to hug or kiss them (and I’m assuming that she’s a hugger or kisser, which may be a leap). If there’s not a knot in her stomach, then there’s nothing at all in her heart.
Having a lesbian sister doesn’t compel her to support marriage equality. Having a gay relative doesn’t compel anyone to. There are earnest divisions here, often driven by deep-seated religious convictions.
But Liz’s decision to chart a course and publicize a view bound to offend her sister is entirely volitional. It’s also entirely different from airing other ideological disagreements within families. Conflicting views on abortion or the death penalty don’t challenge the very structure and foundation of a loved one’s home. Questioning the validity of a marriage does. You’re not saying that you part with the way someone thinks. You’re saying that you have qualms with who they are, and this is a statement — a sentiment — you can keep to yourself. Even once Liz had elected to run, she could have chosen to say that the issue of gay marriage wasn’t going to be part of her campaign.
Is she even being genuine in her opposition? In a 2009 interview about gay marriage on MSNBC, she said that “freedom means freedom for everybody.” On Monday I talked with three people who worked with her in the Bush administration, and all were very surprised by her current stance. They’d had the strong impression that she favored same-sex marriage.
Perhaps Mary and her wife, Heather Poe, did as well, because Poe wrote this on Facebook after Liz’s appearance on Fox News: “Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 — she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us.”
Happy back then, self-serving and seemingly cowardly now. This feels to me like a political maneuver tailored to a conservative electorate, and an unnecessary maneuver at that, with the risk of making her seem inauthentic and uncharitable to Wyoming voters who’ve had more than a decade to absorb her dad’s socially moderate views. Gay marriage won’t be those voters’ primary, secondary or tertiary issue, anyway.
In a statement released Monday, Dick and Lynne Cheney insisted that Liz had “always believed in the traditional definition of marriage.” I suppose that’s the politically prudent tack at this point, but now the Cheneys’ support for gay marriage, so moving over the years, is buried beneath a family feud. Their statement paid less attention to Mary, who’s not running for anything, not carrying her parents’ ambitions into a new era.
One word stood out. They said that Liz had shown Mary “compassion.” This echoed a statement of Liz’s own, in which she noted that she had “always tried to be compassionate” toward Mary and her family. What a curious vocabulary. It was as if they were all talking about some charity case.
I hope the Cheneys find their way out of this. It’s an ugly spot that Liz, in all her compassion, has put them in.
By: Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 18, 2013
Earlier this week, the New Republic’s Michael Schaffer published an immensely satisfying smackdown of the frustrating double standard the media tends to invoke when it comes to reporting about small towns. Culture war rules have firmly established that it’s fine for “real Americans” to slander cities as ungodly, anti-American dens of crime and iniquity.
Yet it’s all but compulsory for reporters writing about small town life to glop on the pious cliches about the honest, pure-hearted folk who allegedly populate these places, with their supposedly unwavering fidelity to family values, tradition, and the simpler things in life. These sepia-toned journalistic portraits of small-town life can be so treacly they run the risk of sending you into a diabetic coma.
But in reality, small towns are no simpler than anywhere else. And as anyone who grew up in such a place can tell you, small towns have their dark side. They can be vicious, bigoted, hateful places, and every bit as corrupt as cities. There’s a reason why Shirley Jackson set her chilling short story “The Lottery” in a small town. The town in the story was based on the place she was living in at the time; she and her family experienced ugly acts of ostracism and anti-Semitism there.
Thus we come to Maryville, Missouri, site of a now-infamous rape case, and various journalists’ not terribly persuasive attempts to whitewash the place, most notably the New York Times. But all the air freshener in the world can’t perfume the overpowering stench which practically wafts off my computer screen every time I read about the godforsaken place. As Schaffer usefully points out:
There are two ways the town could have lived up to the Times’ rose-colored description of its status quo ante:
1. Beforehand, by not sexually assaulting ninth-graders, videotaping the incident, and leaving a victim asleep on her front lawn in freezing weather.
2. After the fact, by not ostracizing the victim’s siblings, firing her mom from her job, dropping the case inexplicably, and burning the family’s house down.
Schaffer goes on to argue, persuasively, that both of the above scenarios are actually more likely, not less so, in a small town than in a more densely populated urban area. Among other things, there’s the problem of the quasi-feudalistic nature of rural life:
Turns out all that “close knit” small-town stuff turns out to kind of suck if you’re trying to get justice: When you’re so close-knit that your boss knows some of the families whose kids you’re trying to put in jail, and you just happen to get fired—that’s not a good thing.
The anonymity of city life comes with its own troubles, of course, including high crime rates. I wouldn’t want, or expect, journalists to gloss over these well-known problems. Why, then, is it okay for them to create absurdly idealized portraits of small-town life? Especially when, as is the case with Maryville, such portraits sugarcoat horrendous and widespread anti-social behavior and what appears to be a systematic attempt at obstruction of justice?
By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 26, 2013
“Brush-Back Pitch”: Senate Democrats Have Had All They Can Take From David Vitter And His Obamacare Fixation
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) this week tied up his chamber, blocking efforts to work on a bipartisan energy efficiency bill. He said he’d reconsider his obstructionist antics if the Senate voted on his measure to end the “Washington exemption from ObamaCare.”
As a substantive matter, Vitter is either deeply confused or playing a silly game in the hopes the public is deeply confused. There is no congressional “exemption” from the Affordable Care Act, as I imagine most senators realize. But Vitter engaged in his little stunt anyway, to his colleagues’ annoyance.
It appears that some of those colleagues are growing tired of the Louisiana Republican’s antics, and have a brush-back pitch in mind.
Senate Democrats have had all they can take from David Vitter and his fixation on Obamacare — and they’re dredging up his past prostitution scandal to hit back.
Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, has infuriated Democrats this week by commandeering the Senate floor, demanding a vote on his amendment repealing federal contributions to help pay for lawmakers’ health care coverage.
But Democratic senators are preparing a legislative response targeting a sordid Vitter episode. If Vitter continues to insist on a vote on his proposal, Democrats could counter with one of their own: Lawmakers will be denied those government contributions if there is “probable cause” they solicited prostitutes.
For those who may have forgotten, Vitter ran for the Senate on a “family values” platform, before getting caught with prostitutes. Making matters slightly worse, in at least one instance, the far-right Republican was found to have arranged a liaison with prostitutes from the congressional floor.
Vitter then ran for re-election anyway and won with relative ease.
By and large, Democrats have made very little effort to humiliate their conservative colleague over this, but it’s obvious they haven’t forgotten about it, either. The issue has apparently become something of a trump card Dems are prepared to play if nothing else works.
I imagine Vitter will see this as a cheap shot. Indeed, he’s already complaining.
“Harry Reid is acting like an old-time Vegas mafia thug, and a desperate one at that,” Vitter said in a statement to POLITICO, referring to the Senate majority leader. “This just shows how far Washington insiders will go to protect their special Obamacare exemption.”
First, let’s just be absolutely clear about the policy — there’s no such thing as an Obamacare exemption for Congress. It’s a made-up talking point that Republicans are fond of, which has no basis in fact. Whether or not Vitter realizes how wrong he is doesn’t matter; he keeps saying something that isn’t accurate.
Second, when you’re a married, family-values conservative who gets caught with prostitutes, you probably shouldn’t expect there to be no consequences for your actions.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 13, 2013
In December 2001, my father sent his first-ever Christmas card to me.
He even signed it, “Love, Dad.” Unprecedented. Throw some tinsel on my head and watch me sparkle like a snow globe; that’s how happy I was.
Dad came from the “show, don’t tell” school of parenting. He supported his family and shoveled the snow from the walkway before any of us were out of bed. His love was to be understood.
His postscript on that 2001 card made clear that despite the arrival of his one-time-only Christmas greeting, nothing had changed.
“I got a card from the wife of a man I used to work with,” he wrote. “She was at the church when you spoke, and she said you were the best they ever had. Don’t get the big head.”
What he didn’t mention was that he had attended my speech, too, delivered in the church of my childhood. He also skipped the part about how he had grinned through the whole darn thing.
Each December, I pull out Dad’s Christmas card and prop it up on my desk. He’s been gone for six years now, and the sight of his cramped handwriting makes him feel a little less far away. His admonishment about this head of mine is a reminder that in his own way, he loved me very much.
I spent way too much energy wishing my father would just come out and say it. Well into my version of adulthood, I’d end every phone call with, “I love you, Dad.” His response: “Yep.” Sometimes he’d mix it up by saying, “OK.”
Once in a while, I’d push back. “A-a-a-a-nd you love me, too?” His response every time: “Well, if you already know it, there’s no need for me to say it.”
When he finally wrote “Love, Dad” on that card, there was no victory. It was his second Christmas without my mother, and his heart was broken. How I longed for the days when Mom was still around and Dad’s “yep” was code for what he meant to say. Some things we learn too late.
This has been a long year for many Americans. Even if our own lives bobbed along without incident, it was hard to ignore the suffering of those around us. We did what we could. We attended funerals and hospital rooms, wrote checks and volunteered, worried ourselves sick and bowed our heads in prayer. Some of us smiled for no reason, and strangers felt a little less alone.
This Christmas season, the tragedy in Newtown, CT, altered the holiday for all but the most hardhearted among us. One minute we were shopping for stocking stuffers; the next minute we were trying to remember to breathe. Twenty young children and six adults who risked their lives to save them were dead. What? What? It was that horrible, that unbelievable. We never will be the same.
And yet, Christmas came.
Now the new year barrels toward us, a force of promise and uncertainty. May we welcome it with gratitude that we are here to greet it.
As I write this, snow is threatening to bury our house here in Ohio. My youngest daughter and her boyfriend spent the morning on cellphones, trying to reschedule canceled flights home. Halfheartedly, I try to hide my joy.
They are in a hurry, but I’m old enough to be on the other side of that impatience. All of our family was happy and healthy this Christmas. I know that kind of luck runs out.
I also know that my daughter’s heavy sighs mean only that she is young, with plans that did not include two more nights with her mother. I will not misread her signals, nor will I complain. Her love is understood.
For that, we can thank her grandfather for a lesson once learned too late.
By: Connie Schultz, The National Memo, December 26, 2012
GOP leaders in Congress who can’t stop talking about family values are proposing an array of deep cuts to food stamps, child tax credits, healthcare for the poor, and even block grants that help states with daycare and adoption assistance. Left untouched are military spending that has ballooned over the last decade and tax breaks for the richest Americans. This isn’t courageous or pragmatic. It’s fiscally irresponsible and morally wrong.
Religious leaders are not letting Rep. Paul Ryan—architect of the GOP budget proposal—get away with the fiction that this budget reflects the values of his Catholic faith. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent a series of letters to GOP-controlled House committees arguing that these cuts are “unjustified and wrong.” Bishops wrote this week that “a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons” and bluntly conclude that “the proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.” Catholic leaders have called for “shared sacrifice,” putting “unnecessary military spending” on the table and—in a pointed critique of Republicans’ fiscal fantasy that we can balance the budget by cuts alone—reference the need for “raising adequate revenues.” When Representative Ryan recently spoke at Georgetown University, almost 90 professors and priests at the Catholic university urged him to stop distorting Catholic social teaching to advance his radical ideological agenda. Expect faith leaders to keep challenging budget proposals and economic policies that undermine bedrock principles of justice, compassion, and the common good.
We should not pit national security against economic security. An effective military and a responsive government that doesn’t turn its back on vulnerable families are both achievable if we move beyond false choices. The working poor struggling in minimum-wage jobs, the elderly, and a squeezed middle class did not cause our deficits. They should not be asked to bear the greatest burden.
By: John Gehring, Washington Whispers Debate Club, U. S. News and World Report, May 10, 2012