. . . Wednesday August 25, 2004

Pulling at Both Sides of the Cheney

Either way, I like what I heard from Dick Cheney.

Yesterday, in response to a question about the marriage amendment, Cheney explained that he felt it was an issue better left to the states. Actually, he went beyond that reaffirmation of his longstanding (but less mentioned) position. Cheney included the comment that: “Freedom means freedom for everyone [to enter] into any kind of relationship they want to.”

Cheney said he would support the President but that he essentially disagrees with the push for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

So, we’re left with two ways to look at this (leaving open the option that the whole truth is likely made up of some combination of both).

First there is the human way. Cheney has long held this position. His daughter Mary is a lesbian. There is little risk of him looking like he’s too liberal for the job. And the amendment is only a political tool. It’ll never pass. So it wouldn’t be all that risky for Cheney to have merely answered a question with a statement that accurately reflects the way he feels about this issue. None of this is particularly hard to believe, especially because it is the right way to feel about it.

The second way to examine this turn of events is the political (contrasted with human) way. When we look at it through this lens, the story plays out a bit differently. There are the same elements of non-risk. In other words, Cheney will not hurt his status with the far right and the amendment is going nowhere anyway. But in this case, Cheney’s comments were all about timing. For the last few months, Cheney has been the hardnosed attack dog going after John Kerry. And for the last four years, the broader promise of compassionate conservatism has been replaced by a constant move towards the kick-ass right wing.

But this is general election time. The base has their red meat on which to chomp. The time has come – just ahead of a convention during which we will hear from the most liberal elements of the Party (Arnold, a Republican?) – to bring compassion back into the mix. And what better way to kick that effort off than by softening up the guy who is perceived as being so heartless (ironic, no?) that there were months of (insane) rumors that he would be dropped from the ticket?

To really understand this phenomenon, think back to the scene in the original Star Wars trilogy when Darth Vader takes off his helmet. Cheney played Vader perfectly in yesterday’s scene. The helmet comes off. And he shows us all that he is not really the evil Vader. He is Mary’s (in the role of Luke) father.

Indeed, it was with Hollywood-like precision (and come on, these were also Hollywood-like values) that Cheney removed his Vader gear at the perfect moment to begin the reintroduction of his Party; the one that runs, as opposed to the one that governs.

Like I said, I like what I heard either way (due in no small part that Cheney is voicing the sensible side of the issue and there’s no way this issue goes forward legally without him). The human part of me (shrinking rapidly by this point in an election cycle) thinks Cheney was being a good dad and a good American by standing up for what is right. The political side of me (with whom I refuse to be seen publicly) just has to admit that if this was all part of a grand plan it was timed perfectly and ended up being pretty damn effective.

I guess I’ll have to leave the final analysis up to the undecided swingvote in my unconscious.

Concentration is important!