Mary Cheney is No Martyr

Sympathizing with Mary Cheney for being punished for the sins of her father has worn thin for me. Why? Mary has actively defended her dad, Vice President Dick Cheney, for the Bush administration’s actions. Those actions include keeping Mary from legally marrying her partner, Heather Poe.

At first, I saw Mary as the gay daughter of a conservative politician who was pushed into the limelight. His selection made her a seemingly unwilling public figure. But Mary came around quickly. She said as much in her new book, Now, It’s My Turn, recounting a conversation with her father about his possible political future.

According to Mary, she told her father she’d “rather not be known as the vice president’s lesbian daughter.” But she promised to do whatever she could to help him make it to the White House.

So, she not only allowed herself to become the token gay representative of the Republican party, President George W. Bush and her father. Denying her “gayness” appealed to campaign organizers is more than naive – it’s stupid. The Bush-Cheney campaign used her as tool to court the gay and lesbian vote. And Mary knew it.

That’s why her attempts NOT to speak for the Bush administration, during a recent Larry King Live interview, really annoyed me. If Mary had just remained Dick and Lynne Cheney’s “gay” daughter, I wouldn’t chastise her for keeping her opinions to herself.
But she invited the intensified scrutiny. Once you’ve done that, complaining about being put under a microscope is disingenuous, particularly when you’re hawking a memoir.

Its excerpts illustrate the book’s attempt to describe how difficult being the gay, adult daughter of a polarizing politician can be. A large part of that revolved around dealing with those mean reporters.

“(They) only wanted to talk to me about my sexual orientation, and they only wanted to talk to me about that because my dad was a candidate for vice president. I had better things to do. Heather and I did write down everyone’s name and number, however. We toyed with the idea of auctioning off the list on eBay, but decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea to alienate all of those reporters at the start of a national political campaign.”

That passage annoys me on two levels. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I’m a reporter. I acknowledge some colleagues chase ambulances as well as lawyers. But Mary spent most of her life a stone’s throw from the nation’s capital, where her father was more than a mover and shaker. So, the “Little Red Riding Hood stalked by the wolf” routine rings hollow with me. It rings more hollow when Daddy must protect her from – Egads! – being interviewed in a public place. Mary described an incident during a Casper, Wyo. campaign rally.

“During the visit to the overflow room, I was standing off to the side with Liz when Howard Fineman from Newsweek came up and introduced himself. He was polite, but had obviously zeroed in on me. He started peppering me with questions: How did I feel about Dad joining the ticket? what was I going to be doing on the campaign; how did I feel about all of the attention that the media was paying to my sexual orientation? was I worried that the fact that I was gay was going to be an issue in the campaign?”

Yes, she promised her father – privatelyÃ?¾to help him win. But Mary still made a conscious choice to get involved in the campaign. She invited scrutiny by making that promise and following through on it. So, Fineman was doing his job and asked the right questions. Why would she want to get involved with a campaign so tied to the Religious Right? Why would she align herself with an administration that was intent on assailing her rights as a gay American?

Mary’s trying to have it both ways. She put herself in the fire. Mary can’t bitch because it’s getting too hot. Whining is unbecoming. But whining about vice presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. John Edwards, alluding to her sexual orientation is more than ludicrous. Mary brought on herself. Sorry, Mary, but my violin is broken.

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