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Nov 21 2013

Liz Cheney and Political Hypocrisy

Andrew Sullivan writes about the recent dustup between Liz Cheney, her sister Mary and her sister-in-law Heather Poe and points out, correctly, that this is just the latest public playing out of a longstanding conflict in Republican circles, where people who are personally fine with gay people and want equality for them nonetheless use anti-gay bigotry for political gain.

I remember – those were the days – when I was invited to meet Rove in the White House early in the first Bush term, and pressed the case against the FMA, or any variant thereof. Rove simply told me that there were many more Christianists than homos, and that mathematical reality dwarfed any arguments, however meritorious. It wasn’t the first time I had seen utter cynicism on this issue in high places – it was hard to beat the Clintons for that. But the baldness of the cynicism – the reflexive refusal even to address the actual rights and wrongs of the matter – was never better expressed than by Rove.

Cheney got a pass – but he shouldn’t have. He boldly came out for marriage equality explicitly … in 2009. In the vice-presidential debate of 2004, he bristled – as did the public – at being confronted by the fact that he was hurting his own family on this issue. But at some point, the contradictions – and their deep moral consequences – had to emerge. And now they have in full bloom. Liz Cheney, not a homophobe in my personal memory, is nonetheless opposing her sister’s right to marry – anywhere. Actually, she is in favor of her sister and her wife being stripped of all legal protections the moment they come into their family’s home state. Let me put this more clearly: Liz Cheney is attacking her sister’s dignity and civil equality, in order to advance her political career. In a word, it’s disgusting.

It’s not made any better by Liz Cheney’s response:

I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them. I believe that is the Christian way to behave.

To which I would like to respond on behalf of Mary and Heather and the rest of us: fuck your compassion. Just give your sister the basic equality and security for her own family that you have for yours.

If George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are capable of self-reflection and shame at all — and I’m not sure they are — this is something that should keep them awake at night. Neither of them is an anti-gay bigot in the least. Both have family members and close personal friends who are gay. But they still used that bigotry to get themselves into office and to stay there, pandering to their base for political convenience and selling out those loved ones in the process (Obama did the same thing, though to a smaller degree, with his rhetorical games about civil unions and marriage equality, waiting until the polls safely allowed him to come out for full equality at the end of a highly contrived and poll-driven “evolution).

Contrast this with LBJ. Despite being one of the most audaciously corrupt men ever to occupy the White House, he signed the Civil Rights Act despite knowing that it would damage his party politically. He opted for doing the right thing rather than the politically beneficial thing. Bush and Cheney showed no such fortitude or integrity.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    If they publicly opposed equal rights for LGBT people, they are anti-gay bigots. Period, full stop, end of story. I don’t give a rat’s ass how they are in private: their striving for political gain speaks far louder than whatever they may whisper in secret.

  2. 2
    colnago80

    Interestingly enough, it is my information that Karl Rove’s foster father is gay.

    It should also be pointed out that both Obama and Clinton in their debates in 2008 opposed same sex marriage and endorsed civil unions. Both have now “evolved”.

  3. 3
    Modusoperandi

    Good God, man, have some sense of proportion. Sure, family’s important, but this is politics.

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    Thanks, MO: we can always count on you to keep us focused on what is important.

  5. 5
    barry21

    Liz can use the old Cheney standby of “other priorities”.

  6. 6
    troll

    I see no operational difference between genuinely held bigotry and bigotry used for political expedience.

  7. 7
    freehand

    When I was a kid…
    accusing someone of hypocrisy usually meant that they were publicly taking a stance more moral than one they expressed in private behavior; they condemned behavior in others which they themselves regularly indulged in.

    Leave it to the GOP to reward politicians for taking a stand less moral than their own proclivities would lend themselves to.

  8. 8
    eric

    see no operational difference between genuinely held bigotry and bigotry used for political expedience.

    An opportunist can be expected to flip when the votes flip. An idealist won’t. So (for any political issue), if you think support for your side is getting stronger over time, you want your opponent to be an opportunist. OTOH if you think support for your side is waning, you want your own representatives to be idealists.

    Getting more meta-, an idealist is probably more reliable in terms of trying to accomplish campaign promises. They are, in one sense, what the democratic process is intended to put in place: two (or more) people tell us how they plan to run the government. We collectively pick one with the expectation that they will follow through with what they say. With an opportunist, caveat emptor and the whole democratic process becomes more of a crap shoot.

  9. 9
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    If George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are capable of self-reflection and shame at all — and I’m not sure they are . . .

    I’ve read quite a few books on the Bush Administration, more than a dozen. A large part of my motivation was to better understand these two’s capability for acknowledging their culpability for causing so much human suffering, which will last for many generations. Which Americans were more eager and able to throw others under the bus?

    I’ve generally concluded that Mr. Cheney has no conscious. They don’t come any more vile then him, he’d eagerly serve a Hitler or Stalin. He’s a class example of Altemeyer’s social dominator.

    I think Mr. Bush struggles with some cognitive dissonance. I think his conservative (authoritarian) personality, coupled to his religion, helps him keep himself closed off to the truth and ratlonalize the harm he’s done. I do think his actions bother him to a small degree, but not enough he’ll ever become publically contrite.

    Probably the most revealing piece of evidence on Mr. Bush wasn’t anything I read, but instead comes from his paintings. I never saw that coming.

  10. 10
    Raging Bee

    Oooh, Bush Jr. is a painter! Are his paintings any better than Hitler’s?

    I think Mr. Bush struggles with some cognitive dissonance. I think his conservative (authoritarian) personality, coupled to his religion, helps him keep himself closed off to the truth and ratlonalize the harm he’s done.

    In other words, he’s just as vile as Cheney, but less assertive and confident about it.

  11. 11
    Modusoperandi

    Michael Heath “I’ve generally concluded that Mr. Cheney has no conscious.”
    Really? He seems conscious to me. Dubya was the unconscious one.

  12. 12
    naturalcynic

    Oooh, Bush Jr. is a painter! Are his paintings any better than Hitler’s? Rbee, you give him too much credit. However, Bush is more talented than John Wayne Gacy.

  13. 13
    briandavis

    I’ve generally concluded that Mr. Cheney has no conscious.

    Maybe his conscience is being guarded at a secret location.

  14. 14
    ianeymeaney

    According to Karl Rove, his stepfather, Louis Rove, wasn’t gay, he just liked pierced dicks. Yes, he said that with a straight face.
    http://www.bilerico.com/2010/03/karl_rove_my_dad_wasnt_gay_he_liked_pierced_dicks.php

  15. 15
    danrobinson

    @naturalcynic #12

    Bush killed a lot more people than JWG too. Another manifestation of his talents I guess.

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