Nicolle Devenish, communications director for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said Thursday that John Kerry will pay a heavy political price for what he did. Lynne Cheney, the vice president's wife, said, "This is a bad man."
The crime? John Kerry in the final presidential debate suggested that we are all God's children and used Mary Cheney as an example of a healthy gay person loved by her family.
The response from the Cheneys and the Bush campaign has been blatantly political. In fact, it is they who are using Mary Cheney -- using her now to score points against Kerry and John Edwards over an issue on which they themselves are guilty of the wrongs that Kerry and Edwards are fighting against. Even after almost 30 years in Washington, I am surprised by the overwhelming hypocrisy and meanness of the Bush reelection campaign.
Let's review the facts. Before the election season, this administration opposed every initiative to offer equality for gay men and lesbians. Indeed, it has gone out of its way to be punitive, with such actions as the Office of Personnel Management's announcement that the federal government has no intention of honoring the Clinton administration's order to add sexual orientation to anti-discrimination rules in the federal government.
After the debate, the vice president said of John Kerry: "This is a man who will say anything and do anything to get elected." Many people thought the same thing about Dick Cheney and President Bush on Feb. 24. That was the day the president announced to the country that heterosexual marriages are in trouble because gay people might someday have such a right in a few states. The crisis was so dire that he implored Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to permanently take away any rights gay men and lesbians might have to equal access to government benefits of marriage.
The Republican leaderships in both houses of Congress brought this amendment to the floor. Anyone watching the debate would cringe at the dehumanizing and painful things said by Republican sponsors of the proposal about gay people.
All of the Cheneys have sat back as senators and members of Congress who stood up for their position against the constitutional amendment were attacked in campaigns across the country. In Texas, North Dakota, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina and elsewhere, Republican candidates are using the gay issue against Democrats who have done nothing more than vote to protect the notion of fairness and equality in our Constitution.
Where is the outrage of Dick and Lynne Cheney over this?
In August, at a town meeting, the vice president was asked to speak from the heart about gay marriage. He did. He said he was against the constitutional amendment. And he expressed love for his daughter. The country was impressed.
I think the record is pretty clear that fair-minded political leaders didn't talk publicly about Mary Cheney until her father did. All of a sudden it was clear to John Kerry and John Edwards that if the Bush campaign tried to attack them on the gay marriage issue, they should just respond by saying they had the same position on this issue as Dick Cheney. That is certainly the advice I gave them. How dare the president criticize Kerry, as he did again the other night, for taking the same position as Dick Cheney? And we know that anti-gay messages are being promoted in many districts around the country to get out the evangelical vote for President Bush on Election Day. The silent but admirable Mary Cheney has remained a loyal daughter and foot soldier in this homophobic campaign.
I feel sorry for her -- sorry that she seems to now be a pawn in this race. But the perpetrator is not Kerry. This issue is in the campaign because Bush sought political advantage by using it all year. This week's outrage rings so false it makes my ears hurt.
The writer is former chairman and chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America and a volunteer for gay rights causes.