Playing it Straight

Was John Kerry’s explicit reference in last night’s debate to Vice President Cheney’s gay daughter “fair game,” as Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill put it last night, or “a cheap and tawdry political stunt,” as Lynne Cheney would have it? Depends which blogger you ask.

Josh Marshall thinks it’s fine, since not only is Mary Cheney out, but “her professional life has been explicitly tied to her sexuality. She did outreach to the gay and lesbian communities when she worked at Coors.” Asks Marshall: “What’s the problem exactly unless you instinctively believe that homosexuality is something to be ashamed of?”

Mickey Kaus disagrees. He suspects Kerry’s camp made a calculation that reminding voters that Cheney has a gay daughter will cost the president support among homophobes and those “who just don’t want to have to think about it.” Kaus makes what he calls a “perilous” comparison: “What if Kerry were debating a conservative on affirmative action, and that conservative had a black wife, and Kerry gratuitously brought that up in an attempt to cost his opponent the racist vote?”

Other bloggers are going after the president’s answer to a question about what he’d say to someone who had lost their job to a foreign worker (Bush answered by talking about education and job re-training). Atrios points hopefully to that response as a reason why “last night’s debate just won Ohio for Kerry.” He ridicules the notion of “telling 50-year-olds that they’re supposed to go back to community college and start a new career,” and calls Bush’s answer “a slap in the face to all of those people.”

Matt Yglesias is thinking along similar lines: “[A]ll Bush said to people who are hurting is that they should go back to school.” He believes Kerry won the debate because although both candidates “won some rounds, Kerry won the important rounds … especially on jobs.” And, perhaps engaging in one of those ex-agg-er-at-ions we heard about last night, Yglesias argues that, “it’s pretty insulting for a president (especially this president) to suggest that the reason folks are struggling is that they’re too dumb.”

Finally, Stanley Kurtz, writing on National Review’s The Corner, sets his sights on the post-debate spin. Pointing out that Fox News thought Bush won, Kurtz calls the notion that Kerry prevailed — which some commentators on CNN, among other channels, advanced — “flat out crazy.” That sets him up to assert, “if the president loses, media bias will surely have been a key factor.” The problem, according to Kurtz, is that the media bury any news that could help Bush. As an example, he cites the recent election victory of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a Bush ally, which received little coverage here.

Yup, not enough coverage of Australian politics. Damn you, liberal media!

Zachary Roth

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Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.