outings

It Was That Monster John Kerry Who Made Sexuality a 2004 Campaign Issue

On the one hand, nobody’s children should be made into political pawns just to score points against an opponent. On the other hand, an entire group of Americans shouldn’t be turned into second-class citizens just so you can get voters to come out to the polls. And thus describes the Bush-Cheney camp’s furor over Sen. John Kerry, in 2004, noting Mary Cheney is a lesbian.

Both Laura Bush, writing in Spoken from the Heart, and Karl Rove, in Courage and Consequence, mention the 2004 presidential campaign incident.

John F. Kerry’s unsolicited mention during a presidential debate that the daughter of then-vice president Dick Cheney was gay still rankles George W. Bush’s closest confidants, according to books that offer an unusually intimate view of the 2004 campaign from within the former president’s circle. The remark was made when a moderator asked the Massachusetts Democrat whether sexuality is innate. Kerry responded by saying that “Cheney’s daughter, who is a lesbian . . . would tell you that she’s being who she was.’’ The response and resulting anger in the Bush-Cheney camp are recounted in Laura Bush’s new memoir, “Spoken from the Heart.’’

Rove and Laura Bush contend it was Kerry’s comment that made gay rights and gay marriage a major and volatile campaign issue, sparking increased support for Bush from religious conservatives. That assertion challenges the theory that the rise of gay rights as a campaign issue was fueled by referenda to ban gay marriage, which were on the ballot in eleven states that year. “In 2004 the social question that animated the campaign was gay marriage,’’ Laura Bush writes. “Before the election season had unfolded I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue. We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay. But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead.’’

And of course, Rove asserts that it was Kerry who turned gay marriage into a wedge issue.

In his book, “Courage and Consequence,’’ Rove dismisses the idea that the referenda were part of a White House strategy or contributed significantly to Bush’s narrow victory. At the same time, Rove says that a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision to legalize gay unions drew attention to Kerry’s “wobbly views on marriage.’’ Instead, suggests Rove, it was Kerry’s comment about Mary Cheney, a lesbian who did not have a visible role in her father’s campaign, that made individual sexuality a major campaign issue.

“This was a jarring moment; the word lesbian had never been used before in a presidential debate,’’ wrote Rove. “I knew in an instant Kerry had made a bad misstep; he looked nasty and his comment dominated the coverage in the days that followed.’’

And here we thought Rove blamed not Kerry, but the Massachusetts Supreme Court for going uber-liberal.

[Boston Globe]