Monday, October 18, 2004

Kerry's Big Mistake

Radio Host and blogger extrodinaire Hugh Hewitt knew that Kerry's exploitation of Mary Cheney waas a huge political mistake the day after he uttered the words. In fact this past weekend Hugh hosted a "Blogger Syposium" on the subject (read the entry from A Time For Choosing here). He also dedicated most of the time on his show after the third debate to covering the statement and the outrage it sparked. Today two old-media heavy weights weigh in on Kerry's initial comment and the Kerry Campaign's shameful rheotric after the debate. In today's Chicago Sun-Times, Robert Novak writes that Kerry's mistake, and his refusal to apologize, could prove to be very costly:

Instead of an apology, the rhetoric escalated. Democrats outside the campaign were stunned by the words that followed. Kerry's usually serene campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill referred to Mary Cheney as ''fair game.'' The peak in meanness was attained by Elizabeth Edwards, the motherly wife of vice presidential nominee John Edwards. She contended the outburst against Kerry by Mary's mother, Lynne, ''indicates a certain degree of shame'' toward her daughter. It is difficult to exaggerate Lynne Cheney's outrage over Elizabeth Edwards' suggestion.

Most of the Kerry camp, desensitized by political combat, saw nothing wrong with all this. His aides could find fault only with Lynne Cheney because she was enraged by the sight of Kerry invoking her daughter's name and then professing to read Mary's mind and express her thoughts.

Overnight polls by several organizations last Thursday night indicated a little slip by Kerry replacing a virtual deadlock between the candidates that followed the first debate. Pollster John Zogby's nightly tracking last week for the first time showed a few Democrats moving from Kerry to Bush. When Mary Cheney was mentioned, ''soft Kerry'' voters at pollster Frank Luntz's Arizona debate focus group for the first time electronically indicated displeasure with the senator. It was a mistake by John Kerry, and it might well prove a serious one.

William Safire has also weighed in on kerry's blunder in today's New York Times in an article called "The Lowest Blow":

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 Cheney has a daughter who is a lesbian.

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.

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's 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. Kerry was prepped to insert her sexuality into his rehearsed answer: "If you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian. ..."

But in this second time around, the gratuitous insertion of Cheney's daughter into an answer slipping around a hot-button social issue revealed that it was part of a deliberate Kerry campaign strategy.

Safire closes his column this way:

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?"

It's a question worth asking.

Be sure to check the current posts for updates.