Saturday, October 16, 2004
said all that to say this. John Kerry's use of Vice President Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary, in one of his answers might be the kind of serious gaffe with undecided voters that could spoil what otherwise has been a strong, home-stretch run by the challenger's campaign.
For all of Kerry's crisp answers, the blizzard of policy statistics and his efforts to appear presidential, could 30 seconds that produced audible groans among observers bite him?
The question was whether each candidate believed that homosexuality is a choice. Bush, who went first, gave an honest "I don't know," and talked of the need to treat everyone fairly.
Kerry started with some stock verbiage. "We're all God's children," he said, soberly. He paused ever so slightly and tried to add some depth, a personal touch, to his answer. "And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as."
Reportedly, a focus group of undecided voters organized by Republicans, which had been moving Kerry's way throughout the evening, was stopped cold by the remark.
The next day Cheney and his wife, Lynne, blasted Kerry for exploiting their daughter. "I am speaking as a mom, and a pretty indignant mom," Lynne Cheney said. "This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick."
Political trick or not, it crossed a line. Kerry needlessly used the daughter of his opponent's running mate as a gimmick in a debate answer without offering any "foundation" -- a courtroom term former prosecutor Kerry knows well -- that he has any idea what Mary Cheney thinks or feels.
It looked like a low blow, a cheesy ploy to suggest that Cheney and Bush are hypocrites or perhaps to deflate evangelicals in the GOP base. Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Kerry's running mate, made matters worse the next day by saying the Cheneys' reaction looked to her like they felt "shame" over their daughter's lifestyle. Ouch!
The matter is a misstep, a groaner, literally. Big one or small one? Could be big, underscoring Kerry's likeability problems. They say undecided voters can turn one way or the other based on tie color. Stay tuned.