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“Blowing With The Winds”: Conservatives Love Scott Walker’s Anti-Gay Transition

Scott Walker has his groove back with social conservatives and he has the Supreme Court to thank.

After the court ruled that the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry, Walker released a statement calling for a constitutional amendment to let states define marriage as between one man and one woman. Social conservatives loved it, and it came at a moment when he needed all the love he could get.

Back in May, the Wisconsin governor traveled to Washington to meet with a bevy of leaders from the party’s more conservative wing.

And in that meeting, there were lots of Walker skeptics.

Penny Nance—the president of the influential conservative group Concerned Women for America—emailed to The Daily Beast after that meeting to say she still wasn’t convinced Walker was a strong enough opponent of same-sex marriage.

“I think people are still trying to discern” his position, she wrote.

His list of confusing comments about the issue over the years made it a little tricky for some on the right to ascertain his position.

In 2014, for instance, after a district court judge declared that the Badger State’s ban on same-sex marriage wasn’t constitutional, he gave an oddly obtuse answer on the topic at a press conference.

“It doesn’t really matter what I think,” Walker told reporters, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s in the Constitution.”

Then he refused to clarify his position on the marriage question.

“No,” he said. “I’m just not stating one at all.”

For gay marriage foes, that little exchange didn’t exactly make him a profile in courage.

And it wasn’t the only time he telegraphed a position on the question that was a bit more nuanced than you might expect from, well, a Republican presidential candidate.

In a 2013 interview with Bloomberg, the likely 2016 contender indicated that he could be comfortable with federal legislation protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination. Walker noted that Wisconsin didn’t let same-sex couples marry, but still afforded them those employment protections.

“There’s a healthy balance there,” he said.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are not interested in finding “a healthy balance,” and they weren’t thrilled with Walker’s comments.

But all this changed on Friday after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed.

In response, Walker released a statement saying he favored amending the Constitution to let individual states decide whether or not to allow those unions. As The Daily Beast noted at the time, this distinguished him from other top-tier Republican contenders who refused to back changes to the Constitution.

And people noticed. When the Beast asked Nance if Walker’s full-throated support of a constitutional amendment gave her more confidence that he would side with her on the marriage question, she emailed, “Boy has it!”

“In calling for a federal marriage amendment that would allow states to determine their own laws on marriage Walker has put to final rest any questions social conservatives had on his willingness to lead on the matter,” she wrote.

And though Nance—like most activists—doesn’t have a 2016 favorite yet, she said taking a Walker-esque position on marriage is a must.

“Just as Roe made the issue of life central to support for a presidential candidate, the Obergefell decision has hardened our resolve on marriage,” she wrote. “The courts have made them issues that candidates for federal office can no longer duck.”

Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, is in the same boat. He said he was “distraught” with the comments Walker made last year about the overturn of Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment.

“I thought it was a huge mistake,” Brown said. “But ever since then, he has been working very hard to be a leader on the marriage issue.”

He also said that, in his view, Walker has changed his position on marriage, and for the better.

“If we ask people to sign pledges and stand for principles, then when they do it, we can’t second-guess them,” he said. “So I’m ecstatic he’s doing this.”

And Bob Vander Plaats, the president of the Iowa-based conservative group The Family Leader, said he was also delighted with Walker’s endorsement of an amendment.

He said his group was “openly concerned” with some of Walker’s previous comments on marriage, and that the governor’s stance has assuaged those fears.

Asked if he thought Walker had changed his position on how to handle marriage issues, Vander Plaats said, “Yea, without question.”

“I was thrilled to be able to see his response to this opinion,” he said.

Walker aides emailed to say that the governor’s position on the issue hasn’t actually changed, noting that in 1997 as a state legislator, he voted to ban same-sex marriage in the Badger State.

But while Walker’s single-minded opposition to same-sex marriage has won him favor with anti-same-sex-marriage activists, it’s already alienated some big Republican donors.

The Washington Post reported last week that Walker lost the support of one hedge-fund billionaire after having a long argument with him about the issue.

And an insider close with the New York Republican donor community expressed disappointment with Walker’s change of tone on the issue and support for a constitutional amendment, and suggested it could make it harder for him to secure New York Republican donors.

Mary Cheney, an openly gay political consultant who is also Dick Cheney’s daughter, expressed bafflement at Walker’s move.

“From a political perspective, I don’t understand why you would do that,” she said.


By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, June 30, 2015

July 3, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Marriage Equality, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cheney Family Values”: A Political Maneuver Tailored To A Conservative Electorate

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

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Marriage Equality, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Unknowns That Are Known”: No One Cares What Donald Rumsfeld Or The Cheney’s Think About Syria

A sneering Liz Cheney, looking to unseat Wyoming GOP Sen. Mike Enzi, told a Tea Party town hall in Jackson Hole Tuesday night that she would not support a congressional resolution to back President Obama’s planned Syria strike, deriding him for “an amateurish approach to national security and foreign policy.”

The daughter of the man responsible for fabricating the case for the Iraq war, the man who famously insisted “we will, in fact, be treated as liberators” and who had no plan for when that predictably turned out not to be the case – the daughter of that man is upset that Obama doesn’t seem to have a clear plan for Syria. This news comes on the heels of disgraced former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Cheney’s partner in war crime, blasting Obama’s plan as “feckless” and deriding him as the “so-called commander in chief.”

So let’s recap: The team responsible for one of the worst decisions in American foreign policy history is kneecapping the president in a time of crisis. Of course, Dick Cheney has been attacking Obama from the beginning, insisting before he was inaugurated that he was making America less safe by promising to end torture and close Guantánamo. But now his daughter is taking her Obama contempt so far that she’s bucking her dad’s neocon friends and resisting the president’s Syria plans.

Cheney’s turnaround is pretty striking. She was a co-founder of the neocon group Keep America Safe, along with always-wrong war-lover William Kristol. TNR’s Marc Tracy has detailed Cheney’s long list of statements backing action against Assad going back to 2007. As an assistant secretary of state she tried to use funds for regime change in Syria and Iran. Just last month, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin (who’s in the running to share Kristol’s title of “always wrong”) listed Cheney as among the rising Republican stars who would buck “the isolationist trend in our party and in the country itself.” But now, running in a state that’s skeptical of more foreign interventions, she’s siding with the isolationists.

Cheney downplays the extent to which she’s split from former GOP allies. “The press will try to portray this Syria debate as a battle between wings of the Republican Party,” she told the friendly right-wing audience. “Don’t believe them.” But in fact there is a split in the GOP, and Cheney is putting herself on Team Rand Paul.

Except she’ll never get to Washington to join Team Rand Paul. Trailing Sen. Mike Enzi by 30 points in recent polls, she sounded a little unhinged in her Jackson Hole remarks, comparing herself to Winston Churchill standing up to Adolf Hitler – although it wasn’t clear who is playing the role of Hitler, Enzi or Obama – and accusing congressional Democrats and Republicans of lying about the depredations of Obamacare. She promised to abolish the EPA, the IRS and the Department of Education.

Cheney also went on a rant against the Jackson Hole News & Guide –  the only paper covering her remarks Tuesday –  for reporting on the $220 fine she had to pay for misrepresenting her address to get a fishing license.

“Newspapers are dying, and that’s not a bad thing,” she said. “We’re not depending on the Jackson Hole News & Guide to get the news out. We’re depending on ourselves. We’re going to go over their heads.” Cheney then said if each supporter talked to 10 friends about her, they wouldn’t need the newspaper. An audience member then singled out the News & Guide reporter in the crowd, and Cheney supporters refused to be interviewed afterward. Friendly!

That’s the old Cheney charm. Also this past week she got in a fight with her sister Mary when she came out against gay marriage in order to hit the conservative Enzi from the right. The normally quiet Mary Cheney, who is married to her longtime partner Heather Poe, hit her sister back:

“For the record, I love my sister, but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage,” she wrote.

Even Dick Cheney has come out in support of gay marriage, citing his daughter’s relationship. Poor Liz can’t even find the courage to join the rest of her family. And it’s sad, because she’s opening the rift even though she has almost no chance of unseating Enzi.

But bashing Obama gets her back on the same page as her father, so family holidays may not be so tense after all.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, September 4, 2013

September 5, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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