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October 19, 2004

Quod Erat Demonstrandum

It's of dubious sagacity to take anything Andrew Sullivan writes as being more sincere than an activist's rhetoric. However, something that he wrote about the name-drop heard 'round the world raises an interesting point:

In many speeches on marriage rights, I cite Mary Cheney. Why? Because it exposes the rank hypocrisy of people like president Bush and Dick and Lynne Cheney who don't believe gays are anti-family demons but want to win the votes of people who do. I'm not outing any gay person. I'm outing the double standards of straight ones.

Note the false dilemma: one must either support same-sex marriage, or one must believe that "gays are anti-family demons." With a single logical fallacy, Sullivan sweeps away any possibility that a person can have principled reasons for taking the President's position on the issue. Swept away, too, must be any comprehensible description of the Christian "respect for the person" approach.

There's simply no use engaging such people as Sullivan in discussion — which, I increasingly suspect, is sort of the point of what they're doing.

Posted by Justin Katz at October 19, 2004 12:01 AM
Sullivanalia
Comments

Andrew Sullivan is an @$$h0le with a peni$ and sees all of life's issues in that context. It's 'I want what I want and if you don't let me have it, then you're the (fill in the blank)'.

Posted by: pandora at October 19, 2004 1:18 AM

What pandora said.

Posted by: ELC at October 19, 2004 3:16 PM

Actually, Justin, you've over-intepretted the statement. Mary Cheney is an example of being used by people (Bush and Cheney) who DO NOT think that gays are anti-family demons (but obviously don't approve of same-sex marriage) in order to appeal to a bigotted group of people who DO think they are anti-family demons. As Sullivan rightly points out, Cheney was "outraged" when Kerry complimented him on the dignity with which he treats his gay daughter but stayed completely mum when Alan Keyes called that same daughter a "selfish hedonist". I have no idea where you are getting the "either-or" from...

Posted by: Michael at October 19, 2004 5:05 PM

I dont think pro-ssm gays are anti-family demons. I think pro-ssm gays are being used by anti-family demons who have baited them into this guilt-laden and emotional bit of demagoguery that -- if they dont get their way -- then they'll always (and suddenly!) be "second class citizens".

Posted by: Marty at October 19, 2004 5:38 PM

Sorry, Michael, but you've overlapped separate incidents. Kerry didn't compliment Cheney "on the dignity with which he treats his gay daughter"; Edwards did that, and Cheney wasn't outraged. Kerry (you know, the one who would be President if his ticket won) said:

We're all God's children, Bob. 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.

Second, you're stealing the same base as the one I'm complaining about in your rephrasing. You are assuming that (1) the Bush administration supports the FMA out of political pandering, rather than actual principle, and (2) that the only reason to oppose SSM is from a belief that homosexuals are "anti-family demons."

Third, you've mashed some of the context with the Keyes aspect. Kathryn Lopez had some good comments on that. Be sure to read account on the link that she provides; one important difference from Kerry is that Keyes didn't raise her, he was offered her name from the interviewer.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 19, 2004 6:45 PM

You are assuming that (1) the Bush administration supports the FMA out of political pandering, rather than actual principle, and (2) that the only reason to oppose SSM is from a belief that homosexuals are "anti-family demons."

I am (1) assuming no such thing and (2) I am assuming no such thing. And now you're conflating issues. The question that was posed had nothing to do with the FMA. It had to do with homosexuality being a choice. Kerry answered it by pointing to a public member of the Bush/Cheney campaign, who happened to have had a history of championing gay rights, who happened to be a lesbian and who happened to be the Vice-President's daughter. Was it political? Of course.

But that's not the point. Anyone who respects the rights of gay individuals and values them as human beings but still supports the FMA would not have balked at something like that. Why? Because they don't see being gay as a stigma. Dick and Lynne Cheney had one of two reasons to voice public outrage: either they are actually ashamed of their daughter's sexuality or they are pandering to a group of people who are ashamed for them, not the people who don't stigmatize gays to begin with.

Either way I have personally lost respect for Cheney, the only person in the entire administration (except maybe Rummy and Condy, and they might not be back next time) that would have kept me voting Republican this year. And I've always voted Republican.

Posted by: Michael at October 20, 2004 10:56 AM

"Was it political? Of course.

But that's not the point."

Yes, that is completely the point. The fact that the issue concerned is homosexuality is beside the point - the thing that people are angry at Kerry for doing is bringing his opponent's child into the political arena. That has always been an unwritten rule in politics. You know, "you can attack me or my record all you want, but don't go after my family."

There was zero need to bring up her name to answer the question - the only reason for doing so is to gay-bait. Imagine the same type of scenario where a politician brings up the fact (unbidden) that his opponent's wife is black while he is white, simply because he knows there are bigoted people who will not vote for a man who married someone from a different race. (Someone mentioned that something akin to this happened in the 2000 primaries, with reference to John McCain having a 'black' (actually, Bangladeshi) child.) Nobody is saying that the bigots are to be commended for their views - but it's the politician who brings it up who is cynically exploiting those views for his own political ends. Which is precisely what Kedwards did.

What do you think Kerry's campaign manager was referring to when she said Mary Cheney was 'fair game'?

Posted by: Mike S. at October 20, 2004 11:49 AM

Michael: "Anyone who respects the rights of gay individuals and values them as human beings but still supports the FMA would not have balked at something like that. Why? Because they don't see being gay as a stigma."

Please explain your reasoning here. The syllogism seems to be:
1. Person A respects the rights of individuals in group X and values them as human beings.
2. Therefore, Person A cannot see X as a stigma.

Maybe people on the left subscribe to this kind of logic, but very few on the right do, and virtually none on the religious right. Anyone who thinks seriously about theology or moral philosophy understands that everyone is imperfect, so we can’t deny people rights or cease valuing them as human beings simply because they do something bad. Though it draws a sneer from the left, “Hate the sin but love the sinner,” is a very serious cornerstone of Christian morality.

The above syllogism really says more about the accuser than the accused. It assumes a shared morality in which all good people must meet a detailed list of specifications. A single flaw identifies someone as tainted and no longer among the moral elite.

We don’t have a good term for this type of morality. The Soviets were big on it: Reading a forbidden book or uttering a single discordant view could jeopardize your career. They called it ‘political reliability.’ IIRC, the Democrats cannot tolerate anyone who openly opposes abortion: They vote en banc against judicial nominees on that basis, and they refuse to let pro-life Democrats speak at their national convention. I would guess that most closed or totalitarian societies need this kind of morality to maintain political stability.

We need a term for this idea that a single wrong view or act can disqualify someone from enjoying rights or being valued as a human being. In essence, it’s that anyone who doesn’t conform to viewpoint and behavioral requirements doesn’t deserve to be treated as human. Any ideas for a word or phrase?

Posted by: Ben Bateman at October 20, 2004 2:51 PM

Michael,

The question that was posed had nothing to do with the FMA. It had to do with homosexuality being a choice.

I guess I misread what "use" you meant by this, from your previous comment, thinking the effort to "appeal to a bigotted group of people" was the stance on same-sex marriage:

people (Bush and Cheney) who DO NOT think that gays are anti-family demons (but obviously don't approve of same-sex marriage) in order to appeal to a bigotted group of people who DO think they are anti-family demons.

I'd recently read something along those lines, elsewhere, so I thought that was the angle you were taking. Whatever the case, I wasn't responding to Kerry's context, but to what I thought you'd meant by the administration's "use" of Mary Cheney.

Regarding the matter of respecting "the rights of gay individuals and [valuing] them as human beings," I'd only echo Ben's comment above. However, I think my response to the following expands on that aspect of the discussion, as well:

Dick and Lynne Cheney had one of two reasons to voice public outrage: either they are actually ashamed of their daughter's sexuality or they are pandering to a group of people who are ashamed for them, not the people who don't stigmatize gays to begin with.

You simply can't know, and neither could John Kerry, what the internal discussion in the Cheney household is about homosexuality. For example, although I've sometimes wondered whether this is true, it isn't exactly unlikely that the elder Cheneys take some version of the "love the sinner, hate the sin" position; maybe they argue about whether respect for their daughter requires support of SSM. The point (as I described in a subsequent post) is that John Kerry inserted Mary Cheney's name as the very first part of an answer (after the base-covering reference to God) that, unless he's her personal confidant, had no real relevance. And he did so to enlist her, by implication, on his side, against her father's running mate.

What I find somewhat ironic about this whole kerfuffle — a kerfuffle that has led you to lose respect for the VP — is that it was none other than John Kerry who reduced Mary Cheney to her sexuality such that he felt free to speak on her behalf about a question that is much more involved than a 90 second rebuttal will allow.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 20, 2004 3:42 PM

You know, I thought somebody else would bring this up before I did, but I haven't seen anybody mention anything about what I picked up on from that debate question. Kerry didn't even answer the question that was put to him. He dodged it totally by "channeling" Mary Cheney. He didn't even have the decency to tell the public whether or not HE thought homosexuality was a choice! Was he so afraid of turning any potential voters off that he wouldn't even commit to a response that let anybody know where he definitely stood?

Posted by: smmtheory at October 20, 2004 4:05 PM

smmtheory, you are talking about the guy who will be at the sox/yankees game wearing a sox hat and a yankees shirt!

I think a huge part of the Mary Cheney debacle was Kerry's compulsion to mention names and name drop. He can't help himself. The other thing is the liberal penchant for basing a 'great' idea on the fact that you know one person for whom this 'great' idea would benefit. Like an out of work guy you know, he has no benefits so you tout gov't healthcare to the detriment of the greater society in favor of the few who would benefit.

Posted by: Colleen at October 20, 2004 7:09 PM

Justin: "it was none other than John Kerry who reduced Mary Cheney to her sexuality"

Great turn of phrase there: Reduced her to her sexuality.

Posted by: Ben Bateman at October 20, 2004 7:35 PM

What I find somewhat ironic about this whole kerfuffle — a kerfuffle that has led you to lose respect for the VP — is that it was none other than John Kerry who reduced Mary Cheney to her sexuality such that he felt free to speak on her behalf about a question that is much more involved than a 90 second rebuttal will allow.

Well, I don't necessarily agree that Kerry was entirely in the right. I guess that my point for jumping into this was that I felt as though you took Sullivan out of context. You might not be as avid a reader of his blog as a I am, but sometimes you cannot read one short post and understand fully the reasoning behind it.

The kerfuffle, in my opinion, shows the "double standards" (which might not be a fair term in its negative connotation) that gay people have to go through. Sullivan began that post by criticizing a pundits comment that Kerry "victimized" Mary Cheney. You also cut out the last line, which said "[Straight people have] had it every which way for decades, when gay people were invisible. Now they have to choose." From a gay perspective, it is extremely disappointing that this kerfuffle even exists. You can take what Sullivan said in context by examining the post right below, where he talks about a conversation he had with a woman on a book tour:

"We talked about my book, and she averred, after chatting all day, that she had nothing against gay people, she just wished they wouldn't "bring it up" all the time. I responded: "But you've been talking about your heterosexuality ever since I got in the car." She said: "I haven't. I've never once discussed sex." My response: "Within two minutes, you mentioned your children and your husband. You talked about your son's work at high school. You mentioned your husband's line of work. And on and on. You wear your heterosexuality on your sleeve all the time. And that's fine. But if I so much as mention the fact that I'm gay, I'm told it's all I care about, and that I should pipe down. Don't you see the double standard?""

If Kerry had mentioned Bush's daughters in any context, nothing would have been said. Candidates talk about their families and their opponents families all the time. But if we mention that one of those family members is gay, well then all hell breaks loose. In my opinion the Cheney's could have done only one respectable thing; not say anything about what Kerry said.

Look, this debate, if you listen to the anti-SSM rhetoric, is about "families." Specifically it is about gay people and their place in these families. And the vice-president, who is running with a party who's platform is about how America must protect its families from gay people, has a gay person as a member of his family. But somehow that fact is interdict? I don't think so.

And that is what I get upset about. The fact that people get upset, that Mary Cheney's father got upset, about a statement of a fact. If Bush had said the exact same thing, would there be any outrage whatsoever? No. Kerry may have opened up the door to play politics with Mary Cheney's sexuality, but Dick and Lynne kept the ball rolling.

Posted by: Michael at October 21, 2004 12:28 PM
And that is what I get upset about. The fact that people get upset, that Mary Cheney's father got upset, about a statement of a fact.

But it wasn't just a statement of fact. Without any evidence beyond speculation, Kerry attributed an opinion about that fact's basis to his opponent's running mate's daughter in such a way as to pit her implicitly against her father.

If Kerry had mentioned Bush's daughters in any context, nothing would have been said. Candidates talk about their families and their opponents families all the time. But if we mention that one of those family members is gay, well then all hell breaks loose.

Bush's daughters "in any context"? Oh? How about, "my opponent's daughters are living proof that money, not merit, determines college placement"? Now perhaps you'll point to my comparison and say it proves that I'm treating a statement about homosexuality (ostensibly neutral) like a statement about intelligence (obviously offensive), but that leads to the point I explored in the subsequent post.

As for Sullivan, well, I've read his work from the past 15 years extensively and have written about him extensively. Consequently, I tend to place his little quips and sleights in a larger context than his rhetorical emphasis of the moment.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 21, 2004 1:16 PM

I think Andrew Sullivan has a tendency to reduce everybody to their sexuality. He seems to look for any excuse to take offense at whatever anybody else says in what might be everyday stuff (talking about family, children, partner) as rubbing his nose in their sexual preference. I'd be willing to bet that he even led the conversation around to the subject just so he could take offense at it.

Michael, it wasn't the statement of a fact that people were getting upset about. That particular fact had been stated before the debates from what I understand, but instead of Kerry using gay people in general to answer the question, he had to use her name specifically. Why was it even necessary to use ANYBODY'S name in his (non)answer? Have you got any idea about that?

Posted by: smmtheory at October 21, 2004 11:07 PM

The problem here is that Kerry was mingling into Mary Cheney's PRIVATE LIFE. Ok? Her sexual behavior has nothing to do with it, at least for any open-minded person. What was dirty and lowly of Kerry was using her privacy to further his idiotic agenda. Has anybody asked Kerry how often he has intimate relations with Mrs. Ketchup? Has anybody ask him if he uses coitus interruptus, or vibrators or whatever? THAT would be lowly and debasing, but nobody has done such a thing...except Mr. Waffles himself. What a despicable attitud.

Posted by: Miguel at October 22, 2004 4:28 AM

This is mildly astonishing. To accuse Sullivan of reducing people to their sexuality and making any excuse to take offense at people is to completely and massively miss the point he was making.
At work, I have a picture of myself, my husband and our son on my desk. When someone asks me Monday morning how my weekend went, I'll often say something about what family activities we engaged in. Sullivan's point is roughly this - there are people who would consider this 'flaunting my sexuality' because I'm a man married to another man. If I were a woman, these same people would see it as normal and unobjectionable. That's what he meant as a double standard - I can explain further if it's necessary.

Just as a guess - I think the big problem some people have with this sort of thing is that my life with my husband (ten years together this year) is assumed to be all about SEX, whereas if I were married to a woman, our life together would be all about LOVE. To be frank, after ten years, there's still plenty of love. 'Nuff said.

Posted by: Robert at October 25, 2004 3:52 PM