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Mary Cheney And The Myth Of Karl Rove

Lost a bit in the Mary Cheney hubub is the fact that, as a political strategy for Bush, this doesn't make a great deal of sense.

The right's effort to masquerade as a defender of gay rights is fooling exactly no one in light of the Federal Marriage Amendment and so forth. Indeed, since the presupposition of the argument seems to be that its a terrible thing to have ones out lesbian daughter referred to as a "lesbian" in public, it seems only to have further enraged the gay and lesbian community against Bush. Meanwhile, insofar as one might attribute the Kerry-Edwards campaign's raising of the point as part of a nefarious plot to demobilize social conservatives (not, I think, the best interpretation of what was going on) all this furor serves to accomplish is to rub the fact that their hero vice president has a lesbian daughter in the face of social conservatives. That's a pretty high price to pay to throw the Kerry campaign temporarily off message, especially in light of the fact that it's thrown the Bush campaign off message as well. The new theme was supposed to be "John Kerry is a dirty, dirty liberal." And in light of the fact that that wasn't Bush's campaign theme as of a week ago, it's actually rather important that Bush stick to it if he wants it to work (more on this later).

In general, much liberal response to this seems to overly partake of The Myth of Karl Rove, Boy Genius. There's no doubt, of course, that Rove is a skilled political tactician and an expert media manipulator. When he sets his mind toward something -- passing a bloated Medicare bill, or shifting the national conversation to the subject of Mary Cheney -- he gets it done. We also know that he's very good at the not-exceedingly-hard task of getting conservative candidates elected in Texas and Alabama. But on the national stage his skills as a strategist and as a grand strategist seem to me to be sorely lacking. Consider the evidence:

Exhibit A has to be the California Feint of October 2000. As you may recall, Rove decided near the end of the 2000 campaign that Bush could get a boost in the polls by acting very confident that he was going to win. The thinking here was that campaigns that are perceived to be winning tend to generate press coverage about how great the campaign is, while campaigns that are perceived to be losing generate "X Campaign In Disarray" stories. Thus, a self-fulfilling prophesy may come about. In particular, Rove tried to demonstrate this confidence by pushing a bunch of resources into California rather than into swing states, in order to create the appearance that Bush had given up on merely winning the election and was now gunning for a landslide. Bush, of course, did terribly and California and then went on to win the popular vote. More importantly, the legal proceedings that following the 2000 election have tended to distract attention from the fact that Bush would not have won were it not for the mismarked ballots of Palm Beach County. Unlike some other Florida 2000 election hijinks, this cannot be attributed to Rove and all and was merely a fuck-up on the part of the local elections people and the PBC voters. Had those people who meant to vote for Gore but wound up voting for Buchanan actually cast their ballots for Gore, Bush would have lost and Rove would have gone down in history as the man who lost the election in order to try and prove a silly theory about self-fulfilling prophesies.

Another key example is the aforementioned Medicare bill. When this passed there was much gloom & doom in Washington's liberal precincts. Bush, or so the theory went, had just neutralized the prescription drug issue, which had long been a boon to the Democrats. Worse than neutralize it, now Bush would get the votes of pharmaceutical-conscious seniors. Even worse, the bill would also cut into the broader Democratic Party advantages on the issues of health care and retirements security. And liberals could hardly even take solace in the fact that Bush had sealed his re-election by passing a longtime favorite liberal priority -- the bill was terrible policy. Truly, the country was doomed, and all thanks to the genius of Karl Rove.

But as it turns out, none of that happened. Seniors don't like the bill. The Democrats are more trusted, as they've always been, on retirement security. And on health care. And even on prescription drugs for seniors. And the prescription drug issue isn't neutralized at all, with Democrats still pushing schemes to make the stuff cheaper. Instead, Bush burned a ton of credibility with Beltway free market types, generated much skepticism among said types as to whether a second term Social Security reform would produce a happier result, and, in general, got himself roundly denounced in the press by analysts of all political persuasions. The hardball -- and, indeed, illegal -- tactics employed to get the bill passed haven't generated nearly as much bad press coverage as they should have, but they've generated some harsh articles. And in exchange for all this they got, really, nothing but some campaign contributions from PhARMA. But this lobby supported the GOP anyway, and would have supported them in 2004 over the reimportation issue alone. Besides which, with $550 billion to throw around, anyone could have generated some campaign contributions and, unlike Rove, probably even won a vote or two in the bargain.

Even more overlooked than this is the sorry saga of the 2003 tax cut. As told in The Price of Loyalty there was some consideration -- coming from the president no less -- at the time given to the idea of proposing a demand-oriented cut aimed at low- and middle-income persons. Rove essentially talked the president out of this in favor of the dividend plan. Why, exactly, Rove -- who's supposed to be thinking about election strategy -- thought this would be a good idea is beyond me. In fact, the president's initial instincts were right. Not only would a different tax package aimed at generating more stimulus per dollar have been better policy, but because it would have been better policy it would have created a level of employment higher than the one the country is currently enjoying. That, in turn, would have made the president's re-election campaign a lot easier. Indeed, a sufficiently effective stimulus program would have effectively guaranteed it.

A minor episode in all of this concerns the steel tarrif of, I believe, 2002. This occurred at a time when the president was enormously popular and in no need of a short-term political boost. But Rove pushed it anyway, generating negative press attention and beginning to establish a public image of Bush as a totally unserious person on domestic issues, favoring political expediency over any ideological commitment. What's more, while this was good politics in Ohio and West Virginia, it was bad politics in Michigan. And even worse, the WTO ruled against the tarrifs (which should have been predictable), generating more bad press, and causing the president to lose whichever points he'd won in Ohio and West Virginia.

Insofar as one wants to attribute political motives to the Iraq War, that clearly hasn't been a boon for the president. More clearly political in motivation was the "Mission Accomplished" stunt which has, of course, turned into a debacle for the president, one entirely created by Rove. A gift of manna for the Democrats falling from the heavens out of the White House Operations budget. One can also detect hints of political opportunism in the Case of the Too-Small Occupation Force, another bit of bad policy that was sufficiently bad as to generate seriously adverse political consequences.

The jury's still out on the Federal Marriage Amendment issue, but as with Medicare the gloom and doom predicted by many liberals at the time has yet to materialize. Now we find ourselves doing the Mary Cheney Two-Step, which reallly could have been a good idea was not the president already so overcommitted to homophobia as a reelection strategy. And as I said, this new new message stomps on the old new message which was supposed to be "Kerry is too liberal." That, in turn, is a pretty tired and desperate theme, trotted only because they couldn't think of anything more original and because the old old message "Kerry is a flip-flopper" wound up backfiring at the debates, by setting up circumstances where any non-cartoon version of Kerry wound up looking good.

Thus we begin to see the genius political strategist behind the president who went from having the Highest Approval Rating Ever to being slightly behind in his re-election bid.

And when it comes to grand strategy Rove is even worse. The plan was to make inroads into the African-American and Latino communities. Hasn't happened. There was a plan to get the Carpenters Union or the Teamsters to join forces with the Republicans. Hasn't happened. White Catholics were supposed to be transformed from swing constituency to part of the GOP base. Hasn't happened. Outreach to Jews? Didn't work. Outreach to Muslims? Well, that really hasn't work. So Rove is left hoping on a combination of base-mobilization and vote-suppression will put him over the top. And who knows -- it might. But it's hard to see the genius at work here.

October 16, 2004 | Permalink

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Yglesias has a very good analysis of exactly why Karl Rove is not a genius (a point I've made here without the same level of supporting detail -- it's really quite a good post), but he whiffed the lead:Lost a bit in the Mary Cheney hubub is the fact th... [Read More]

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Comments

Nice post, though I think you meant to say that Bush lost the popular vote.

Posted by: ogged | Oct 16, 2004 1:14:08 AM

The one thing the faux Cheney outrage has done is push the whole "not caring about Osama" line off of CNN. Insofar as it blunted a major gaffe, it was quite successful.

Also, it allows conservatives to make believe that they're the nice guys, standing up for civility.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Oct 16, 2004 1:32:58 AM

Agree that Rove is overrated, but disagree on Mary Cheney, as I mentioned on a previous thread.

You're right that no one's going to believe that the Republicans have suddenly become gay rights advocates and that they're not going to win the support of the gay community over this. Of course they won't.

But there are a great many people in this country who are neither 100% tolerant of gays nor 100% hateful towards them. Many of them would hold the exact position, incoherent or not, that they'd privately love and accept their child if she turned out to be gay, but would also be embarrassed to talk about it in public.

It's all well and good to denounce this viewpoint as based on bigoted assumptions or whatever. But in relation to present-day American political spectrum, these people are neither strongly pro-gay nor strongly anti-gay. They probably represent the middle of the electorate.

Some of the GOP's rhetoric might make it sound like they're trying to masquerade as gay rights defenders. But the object of that rhetoric is not to drive home a logical point but rather to keep the issue in the news long enough to turn this "mushy middle" against Kerry. Those folks aren't going to be offended that the GOP's accusation relies on negative assumptions about gays - nor are they going to be offended over the fact that Cheney has a gay daughter per se. But they will feel sympathy for Dick and Lynn Cheney and identify with their sense of humiliation (genuine or not), which in turn will make them feel like Kerry is an asshole. And given that many people vote on these kinds of personality issues rather than on, say, a reasoned analysis of the underlying logic of the GOP's talking points, this really could end up hurting Kerry.

But I don't want to hijack the thread, which is about Rove. So getting back to Rove - I don't think he started with this attack because he's such a political genius. I think he just had no other choice given that this was the only opening that Kerry offered him at the debate. But that doesn't mean the attack isn't going to be effective. At the very least, it might divert attention away from the whole "I'm not worried about bin Laden" controversy, which otherwise might have been the last nail in George Bush's coffin.

Posted by: JP | Oct 16, 2004 1:33:05 AM

I like it, Matt, especially since it fits into my preferred theme of the Republicans being repeatedly taken down by their hubris. If they learn how not to overreach, they'll be deadly. Of course, they'd also be a lot more acceptable...

Posted by: neil | Oct 16, 2004 1:40:53 AM

My "yes, but" contribution:

One, I'd say the false piety about Mary Cheney serves two valuable ends: one, it distracted the media from Osama Bin Forgotten and a certain Bushie ex-a-ggeration on the subject. That success alone was probably worth a point in the polls -- not so much a point gained, but a point not lost. If instead of Mary Cheney the airwaves had been filled with Bush's manifold declarations not to be concerned about Osama, he'd be down further right now.

Two, Rove has cleverly cast this not as a blow for tolerance, but as a revenge play on behalf of righteously angry parents protecting their daughter from an underhanded attack. Further, the language of the defense (pretending the word 'lesbian' is somehow inappropriate, for example) parries Kerry's probable attack to show the GOP's closeted tolerance. This way, they can run both as the party of righteous revenge against Democrat misdeeds, and continue to turn out their base with homophobia and hate.

So, while I agree with many of your criticisms of Rove -- most especially that his candidate lost in 2000, no matter how you slice it -- I disagree with your critique of this most-current tactic. This is a candidate who cannot run on his record. He must run on wedge issues that turn out his base, he must focus the media on false stories of his opponent's misdeeds, he must distract the public from the economy, Bin Laden, Iraq, the environment, et alia et alia. The Mary Cheney ploy, just like having Sinclair broadcast propaganda, is brilliant and indeed absolutely necessary for his candidate to have a ghost of a chance.

Reelections are usually referendums on the incumbent. This incumbent would lose any such referendum. Hence, Rove is making sure the news is dominated by anything but Bush.

Posted by: wcw | Oct 16, 2004 1:41:15 AM

It's the secu4rity Moms stupid! Those "too busy to care, I'll get around to paying attention before November, feircely protective mother bears who they firgured would identify with Lynn Chaney, super mom, more than either of the stiff's at the head of the ticket.

Lynn was ready and armed for the next prominant mention of her daughter. Someone coordinating for the VP's organization did a great job of advance work to make this "outrage" seem spontaneous. Could it be that we chould look at Mary Cheney as a Karl Rove protege? She is the operations director for the VP.

Nice job Mary.

Posted by: Mark Adams | Oct 16, 2004 1:54:43 AM

You're thinking too much again.

The GOP isn't targeting the christian right or gays and lesbians. They are trying to pull down Kerry's overall approval rating.

The story doesn't make sense, but since when does the average man on the street have time to get past the first layer of the onion. The story they want to get out is Kerry is mean, Kerry is dragging the family members of the opposing candidates through the mud, Kerry called Cheney's daughter a name that's not fit for mixed company.

Forget that most of he official titles in her short career have been something like "Gay and Lesbian Liason for X", forget the fact that she is out, forget the fact that Kerry only had compliments for Mary and Dick and Lynne, forget the fact that Dick has been talking about Mary in the campaign to take the edge off of his troll like personality.

It's a statement taken out of context, explained by the GOP through some convoluted negative filter, and bounced around by unthinking talking heads who look at Lynne and say "wow, she's angry -- Kerry must have really done something bad". It's the same as the "global test", it's the same as "terrorism as nuisance", it's the same as all of the flip flop bs.

Yes -- Kerry through the GOP filter likes to eat babies and is completely unintelligible. The only answer is to have Kerry get press time and reach the public himself. Unfortunately -- the media idiots will cut interviews to leave only parts that addresses the titillating GOP talking point of the week (remember the Dean is angry meme -- he got lot's of interviews in January and the only part that got shown were the "do you beat your wife" questions).

My advice is to hope Kerry is good at redirecting questions to things people care about and only accept live interviews.

Posted by: nwoknu snwoknu | Oct 16, 2004 1:55:06 AM

The 2000 "inevitability" strategy was indeed unbelievably stupid. Politics isn't football. I've never met a single person ever who changed his allegiance in an election because he wanted to vote for the winning side. I guess a few opposition voters could just get demoralized if they think their guy is going to lose in a landslide, but that's canceled out entirely by supporters who don't bother showing up at the polls because they think their guy is going to win in a landslide.

Posted by: JP | Oct 16, 2004 1:57:14 AM

And n.s. makes a good point. The press will pay more attention to this than, say, the bin Laden thing, because this sorta involves sex and gossip and therefore is easy to hype up, Access Hollywood-style. Which really sucks.

Posted by: JP | Oct 16, 2004 2:00:56 AM

I don't think the right is trying to portray themselves as a gay rights defender, I think they're asking - why do you bring this up twice? What's the goal, if not to embarass?

In terms of actual marriage, there's no difference between the candidates. Granted, civil unions are a different matter. Cheney himself is more progressive than these two on the marriage question, so how is it relevant that the VP's daughter is gay? Bush's position is well-known and established.

I thought it was sleazy.

Posted by: Chris K | Oct 16, 2004 2:24:19 AM

The point has been ably made by JP and others, but I'll make it again.

For the great American swing voter, l'affaire Mary is not a "gay tolerance" issue. It is a "that poor girl" and "her poor parents" issue. Fairly or not, Kerry comes across as an underhanded cad. That's poisonous when people are just getting used to the idea of someone as president.

So the whole thing is a pile of rancid shit for the Democrats, Karl Rove's many past blunders notwithstanding.

And it did indeed wipe off the screen one of the most beauteous gaffes in recent memory, namely (of course) the president's graphically changing attitudes toward the man everyone else in America hates the most.

So the whole thing just really makes me sick.

Posted by: Kyle | Oct 16, 2004 2:31:13 AM

OK -- read through your post again and was able to take my focus off of Mary.

Have to agree Rove is pretty much an idiot. They only thing they have been consistent about is trying to cater to big business. I'm thinking they were counting on outspending the Democrats 5 to 1 in order to completely dominate the message prior to the election. Thank you Dean and Trippi.

For the most part it looks like the administration got hijacked by a few neocons and several hicks from Texas. Their hearts (and minds) definitely seem absent in their domestic policy endeavors. Not paying attention to their best advisors in the CIA, NSA, Pentagon, Department of State, Treasury Department, Department of Energy, EPA, etc. -- looks, in retrospect, like a bad idea too.

However -- this on message, consistant "up is down" stuff is much more successful than I could have ever believed possible. Who ever came up with it is unbelievably cynical and apparently an astute student of the american citizenry.

My hope is that their imaginary sand castle collapses before election day. In order for that to happen, more than one media organization needs to stop doing this artificial balancing act where they equate a Kerry statement needing explanation with an outright Bush lie. They need to lay their reputation on the line and pass judgement on the GOP talking point of the week before they run around scheduling their interviews and choosing their pundits. They need to air stories they have researched regardless of the findings. They need to throw away the prewritten forms that they have been using to push out stories from the campaign trail. Thank god for Jon Stewart.

Posted by: nwoknu snwoknu | Oct 16, 2004 2:48:21 AM

The Mary Cheney thing did have the effect of blunting the impact of the Bin Laden gaffe in the initial days after the debate, but I have no doubt that we'll be hearing a lot more about it in the next few days. It's a goldmine and the Kerry folks are gonna run with it through November 3. In fact I'd say they're actually playing it smart, letting the Cheney silliness occupy the foaming fundies and press dolts for a few days until it plays itself out, as it has already more or less done. Then, when the air is clear, bang, here come the OBL ads.

Also, I can't really see the Cheney thing having too much of an impact--everybody knows, on both sides, that it's generic and empty political theater. It's all a lot of hoo-ha and I'd be stunned if there's a single voter out there whose vote changes one way or the other over this.

Posted by: WG | Oct 16, 2004 3:38:50 AM

They need to air stories they have researched regardless of the findings.

Sweet nwoknu snwoknu. That'll work. And the thing about catering to big business is cool too, let's not consider the money on the left involved here, just to make it more plausible.

It's just plain wrong - try again.

I wasn't particularly happy with Governor Bush, especially on border patrol and the appropriate spending that wasn't given to them, and I'm not happy now about the issue.

But, I haven't heard crap about how the Kerry camp is going to appropriate funds for this either. The money simply isn't there, or is it?

Posted by: Drew - Dallas, TX | Oct 16, 2004 3:57:49 AM

And n.s. makes a good point. The press will pay more attention to this than, say, the bin Laden thing, because this sorta involves sex and gossip and therefore is easy to hype up, Access Hollywood-style. Which really sucks.

Gee, I wonder if this will finally quiet talk of the liberal media conspiracy to elect Kerry? (rhetorical question)

Posted by: Charlie T. | Oct 16, 2004 4:05:35 AM

Charlie, the term liberal media is often used by my righty friends, but I still don't by it. After all, they must be listening to something that doesn't charm them, right?

All media in the form of live TV, radio and push breaking news is bent. It's poised to sell and be sensational - no matter the source. I try to look through that and determine what actually counts, however it's a difficult task.

Posted by: Drew - Dallas, TX | Oct 16, 2004 4:22:54 AM

"You're thinking too much again. The GOP isn't targeting the christian right or gays and lesbians. They are trying to pull down Kerry's overall approval rating."

Yup.

And let's not forget that everyday we're not talking about jobs, health care, or Iraq is a lost day for Kerry.

Posted by: Petey | Oct 16, 2004 4:25:26 AM

Drew --

Regardless of what you think -- much of the media is doing a lenthy bit of introspection right now. There are some serious journalists out there that are just going to get better and some news departments that are going to be more objective and spend more on research. You probably won't notice if your just watching CNN and FOX.

And yes -- Bush's poicies have pissed off a lot of dirt poor liberals, scientists, policy wonks, international studies majors, wealthy tycoons, fiscally conservative republicans, and trial lawyers. We are all giving as much as we can in this cycle. That's why Bush is going to get his ass kicked and we're going to retake the majority in the senate. I said Bush and Rove wanted a huge monetary advantage -- they sure as hell don't have one. I'm sure some of these folks listed above will see a direct personal advantage if Kerry wins -- but don't expect George Soros to get no bid contracts in Iraq (those will likely keep going to Haliburton like they did under Clinton) or trial lawyers to have secret health care policy writing meetings with Edwards.

As for money -- Bush's record deficits and a pending energy crisis will leave the next president's hands tied regardless of his identity. You'll likely see continued deficit spending, cuts in domestic programs, and an inability of our military to apply force outside of locations it is already occupying.

This terror thing that we are all worried about also runs headlong into this money issue. Because terror is an asymetric threat we have to spend $1,000 to $10,000 for every dollar the terrorists spend -- either fighting wars, inspecting container ships, tightening our border, buying russian nukes, translating arabic viagra spam, etc. No one has a solution that I've heard of.

Neither Bush nor Kerry are going to try to eliminate illegal immigration. Too much of our economy depends on it.

Posted by: unknown unknowns | Oct 16, 2004 6:04:05 AM

"The one thing the faux Cheney outrage has done is push the whole "not caring about Osama" line off of CNN. Insofar as it blunted a major gaffe, it was quite successful."

Yup, and off the fact that Bush giggled and foamed like a psychopath, and that thing on his back.

Posted by: MattB | Oct 16, 2004 8:10:19 AM

This has nothing to do with lesbians. This is just an excuse for them to start saying certain things they want to say, e.g.: "Kerry is not a good man" and "he'll say anything to win".

Isn't it obvious, am I missing something?

Posted by: abb1 | Oct 16, 2004 8:50:47 AM

You have to admit that Rove's tactics in this election have been . . . different. Conventional wisdom is that a presidential candidate needs to run toward the center, portraying himself as a moderate and the other side as extremist. Rove seems to think his candidate can win by energizing his base and discouraging the Democrats.

A lot of true believers in both parties think this is a viable election strategy--you can certainly find lefties who think Kerry would be doing better if only he were running farther to the left. I guess we're all going to find out wheter or not this works . . .

Posted by: rea | Oct 16, 2004 8:54:01 AM

"I've never met a single person ever who changed his allegiance in an election because he wanted to vote for the winning side."

You should hang around with ediiots more. These people are easy to find: the "centrist" fluff voters.

In terms of Rove being superhuman and unbeatable, OK, we shouldn't think that. But his willingness to game anything, total lack of scruples, and his inventiveness make him as formidable an oponent as we've ever seen.

One Republican scheme (Jesse Helms also did this) is to win close elections rather than landslides in order to free yourself to be extreme. I Bush ekes out a win this fall, he will be completely unconstrained by debts to anyone with a brain or to Republican moderates. The fact that he isn't winning by a landslide at the moment is the direct result of his deliberate extremism, but for Rove and Bush that's the payoff.

Bush's bottom line is tax cuts and a war policy. He's willing to sacrifice everything else for that.

I'm convinced that for the Republican strategists, a 55-45 win is not desirable because you can't get that without making significant concessions.

Posted by: Zizka | Oct 16, 2004 9:34:22 AM

We're forgetting Rove's biggest miscalculation since Bush got into the White House --handing the Democrats the Senate in 2001 by bullying poor ole' Jim Jeffords. Remember?
According to the May 14 issue of the conservative Weekly Standard, before Jeffords switched: "The White House and Senate sources say it [the social snub] was a taste of things to come for Jeffords. 'The White House is not giving specifics,' says a senior GOP source. 'But there's a one- or two-year plan to punish him for his behavior. And it's stuff that may hurt him, but stuff that's not going to draw a significant amount of attention. So they're going to get him.'" This fits so well with Rove's past patterns that the reaction to Jeffords's switch at the Texas capitol was unanimous--a Rove play that went bad.
Yep, genius at work.

Posted by: Yuval Rubinstein | Oct 16, 2004 9:47:56 AM

I'm not sure Rove ever intended Bush to be wildly popular, or to win a second term in a landslide. It looks more to me like the goal was a massive power consolidation (2002 sweep, billionaire-stimulus-tax-package, radical foreign policy, infusing Christianity into government, combining industry and state (energy barons Bush and Cheney as P & VP), and so on. Rove surely knows that radicalism comes at a price. In other words, the strategy appears to have been to leverage the 90% approval ratings -- let's call it political capital -- and knowingly bleed down that capital with each increment of power gain. The idea, of course, would be to optimize the power gained against the degree unpopularity, while still retaining enough votes to win the election. I would call this a highly leveraged strategy rather than a bad one. Of course, if they don't win the election, it will have failed at one level, but on other hand, the damage they've done will last a long a time. I want to call it 'making hay while the sun shines' but maybe 'abuse all you can while you hold the power' is more appropriate. Win or lose, I'm sure Rove will be ingratiatingly tickled as he looks back on his feats.

Posted by: poputonian | Oct 16, 2004 10:15:38 AM

If the Bush folks have succeeded, yet again, at distracting people with a minor issue (Cheney) to distract from a larger one (the Osama quote), they've done it at a high price. As convoluted as the American psyche is, one of the clear undercurrents of criticizing Kerry's statement is there's nothing wrong with being a lesbian. And now the right is making that point for the left - since that was Kerry's point anyway.

It's true it may not hit them til after the election - and four years more is a high price, in my estimation - but either turn of events makes clear that the FMA is dead. And with it, much of the chance that you can stop gay marriage. And with that, I suspect, goes much of the power of the religious right.

I think Karl Rove has shown the logical, absolute limits of trying to mine every American disagreement for disharmony and controversy. We're supposed to be set old against young, urban against rural, black against white, gay against straight, war against peace. The worst thing for his strategy is the discovery, however accidental, that we are not, in fact, so far apart, or so very different one from another. Because the discovery that we can agree, and can work out some differences while tolerating others, is, I think, a fundamentally liberal peremise.

The thing about the "Mary Cheney controversy" is that, and I think may not be alone, it's win-win for gay people either way. And how often does that haoppen? Really. I'm serious. Either Bush loses, which is what most gay people want, apparently; or he wins by making an issue out of being mean to a lesbian and her oarents. When you take victory any way you can get it, you open yourself up to setting things in motion way beyond your control. Win or lose, I think Karl Rove will, eventually, pay for his success. And so will his party, by fracturing the only coalition they know they can use to win.

Posted by: weboy | Oct 16, 2004 10:17:37 AM

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