Mary Cheney, Liz Cheney, And When Family And Politics Collide

When worlds collide.

Liz and Mary Cheney

As I noted on Sunday, Liz Cheney’s efforts to unseat Mike Enzi as Wyoming’s Senator ran headlong into a dispute with her older sister Mary on Sunday when she once again made clear her position on same-sex marriage. Given the public nature of the whole dispute, and the fact that their father is the former Vice-President of the United States, Dick and Lynne Cheney ended up releasing a statement the next day that attempted to paper over the dispute between their daughters, but did so in a way that many people interpreted as favoring Liz Cheney and her political efforts. Since then, the whole Cheney family dispute, which on some level probably ought to have remained private, has become a national political issue involving the wider issue of acceptable of homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular. It’s also led to something of an interesting debate on the conservative side of the political aisle over the issues of family, politics, and when it’s appropriate for personal disagreements over political issues between family members to become public.

On one side, Matt Lewis seems to place a lot of blame on Mary Cheney:

Let’s begin with loyalty to one’s blood relatives — and the fact that Mary Cheney apparently has none. Let’s all let Mary in on a little secret here: YOUR SISTER IS PANDERING. That’s right, once safely ensconced in the U.S. Senate, Liz Cheney will probably “evolve” on the issue.

But Liz is also attempting to actually win a U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming. And to make that happen, Mary, Liz may have to say some things you won’t like. This is a short-term inconvenience. (When you run, Mary, maybe Liz will similarly bite her tongue?) But she needs you now. And you, Mary, are messing that up.

When people talk about the breakdown of the traditional family unit, I suppose this what they mean. It has nothing to do with gay marriage — but everything to do about putting selfishness and individualism ahead of the collective good of the family name.

Putting personal political views ahead of blood relatives (I get that Mary is now married — and this constitutes her new family) seems like a relatively new phenomenon. This is partly because of social media (all Mary Cheney had to do was get angry and sign on to Facebook), but, my guess is this has something to do with our new individualistic world — and the fact that expectations of familial loyalty are diminished.

Can you imagine RFK speaking out publicly against JFK during his Senate campaign? What would Joe Kennedy have done?

Obviously, no I can’t imagine Bobby Kennedy speaking out publicly against Jack Kennedy.

But then again, Jack Kennedy never made a public statement questioning the validity of Bobby’s marriage to Ethel, or the integrity of his family, which is essentially what Liz Cheney did in her response to Chris Wallace’s question on Fox News Sunday. To put the issue in it’s proper context, let’s imagine that Bobby Kennedy had fallen in love with and married an African-American woman. In the America of 1960 when Jack was running for President, seven years before the Supreme Court’s landmark decision inLoving v. Virginia, that would have been headline making news to say the very least, and perhaps something that would’ve made some members of the Kennedy family not very happy. This was in the era when the South was still part of the Democratic Party’s Electoral College bloc. Is it at all inconceivable that some journalist would have asked Senator Kennedy about his views on interracial marriage given the fact that his brother was married to an African-American woman? How would he have answered that question, and how would have Bobby reacted to that answer? We’ll never know, obviously, but if we’re going to make an analogy between JFK and RFK, that’s the only appropriate analogy we can make.

Liz Mair has a different perspective on the issue:

I don’t think your family or friends have to uniformly support you, agree with you, or at least stay silent about important issues to them just because you disagree, or even because one believes the other is entirely wrong. Obviously, it’s best to avoid surprises where policy stances are going to become evident that perhaps might not have been before– this avoids hurt feelings to the maximum degree and also optimally ensures that any ensuing back-and-forth falls more into the category of legitimate airing of differences on an issue rather than public sniping. But frankly, on any important policy issue, emotionally-charged debate is something that a) a prospective public official had better be prepared for, because a lot more of it will happen if elected to serve and b) can be enlightening, and is rather at the core of democracy and a free society (whereas “loyalty” is not).

Would it be nicer if the debate that now exists between Liz Cheney and her sister had been more sanitized and less personal, like the debates we typically see about same-sex marriage in presidential debates? Perhaps. But I’m not sure that’s really possible, nor is it necessarily desirable. On both sides of this issue, people have strong feelings and deeply personal reasons for feeling the way they do that no matter how much they may be cloaked in philosophical argumentation I think in some way, to some degree, always come down to personal experiences, gut instincts and the like.

The rest of the country is involved in this particular debate, and it will probably come up at thousands of dinner tables this Thanksgiving (not least due to Liz and Mary’s own comments). The only real reason I think the Cheneys should be different is that it seems implausible that Liz’s views on this matter are what she said they were this weekend– which, if I’m right on that, means there isn’t really a debate or a disagreement, just some conjured-up political theater.

I tend to agree with Liz here.

For one thing, I’ve never expected either family or friends to agree with me when it comes to my political beliefs. Indeed, I know that there are several cases where there are strong disagreements, which is why I’ve always generally adhered to an old rule that one of my late Uncle’s set for family gatherings that there should be no discussions about politics or religion. In my particular case, the extended family is large enough that there are plenty of potential disagreements on these issues and it simply isn’t worth needlessly offending anyone during what are supposed to be happy occasions and, moreover, I’ve always thought that family and friendship is something that can and should extend beyond political or religious disagreements. For another, as I noted above, Liz Cheney’s comments can’t just stand on their own. In the end, she was questioning the validity of her sister’s relationship with her wife Heather Poe and the family that the two of them have created. Did she really think that this would not elicit some anger from one or both of them? I’d suggest you’d be naive if you think otherwise.

The interesting thing about the comments from both Lewis and Mair, though, is that they both seem to assume that Liz Cheney is being completely disingenuous  in her comments about same-sex marriage for political purposes. As I’ve noted before, she’s running for political office in one of the most conservative states in the country and the presumption (although I’m not sure how true it is) is that you have to be strongly against marriage equality in order to succeed with Wyoming Republicans. She’s also been the target of attacks that she is both an opportunistic carpetbagger and someone who is tailoring her publicly stated views on marriage equality in her efforts to unseat what seems like an incredibly popular Senator. This entire dispute with her sister plays into that attack. If they are right in their hypothesis, then it strikes me that calling her out for her hypocrisy is entirely appropriate.

Not being a Betazoid, I cannot read Liz Cheney’s mind so I do not know what her real opinion on same-sex marriage is, but I can’t help but think that she’s throwing her sister under the bus in her seemingly Quixotic effort to win a Senate seat. In the end, that’s kind of sad.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Gender Issues, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    The Cheney’s give new meaning to the term “Nuclear Family.”

    I wish Mary well.

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    For one thing, I’ve never expected either family or friends to agree with me when it comes to my political beliefs. Indeed, I know that there are several cases where there are strong disagreements, which is why I’ve always generally adhered to an old rule that one of my late Uncle’s set for family gatherings that there should be no discussions about politics or religion.

    My father had 10 brothers and sisters. Our family reunions usually ended just short of physical violence. The amazing thing was they all agreed on nearly everything – the arguments were for the most part recreational. It did get more interesting in 1964 when my father switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party because of his opposition to the Vietnam war.

  3. Pinky says:

    I don’t get this. Liz has an obligation to voters to state her positions on the current issues. Mary has every right to disagree with her sister. Unless there was more to this dust-up than I’m aware of, no one made any mistakes. Me, I talk about religion or politics when the subject heads in that direction. I don’t agree with every family member, and we all pretty well know where each of us stands. I’m not going to treat them like 5-year-olds and avoid saying anything that they might disagree with, and I’m not going to goad them into an argument. It sounds like Mary and Liz are adults who disagree. Where’s the problem?

  4. gVOR08 says:

    I can’t help but think that she’s throwing her sister under the bus in her seemingly Quixotic effort to win a Senate seat. In the end, that’s kind of sad.

    Exactly. If she did it to win one could sort of understand. But she’s polling in the high teens, so she’s doing it for nothing. And I’ve been seeing claims that WY isn’t that socially conservative, so this isn’t even effective.

    However, the bigger picture is that Liz C is a complete raging asshat, so why worry about the details.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    Nice post.
    I am not a Betazoid either. But in the final analysis there are really only two possibilities.
    One – Liz Cheney is lying about her position vis-a-vis Same Sex Marriage. You called it disingenuous. Other words would be: dishonest, untruthful, false, deceitful, duplicitous, mendacious…
    Two – Liz Cheney does in fact believes that Gay Couples should be treated as lesser citizens, with their rights abridged and their dignity impugned.
    Neither of these possibilities recommend her as a Senator, much less a Sister, or for that matter a Human Being. But the real issue is not if she has thrown her sister under the bus…or ruined the family holidays…or reveled herself to be a hypocrite (all true by the way).
    The real issue here is Right v. Wrong and people like Liz Cheney, and most Republicans, are simply wrong.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    This is not about a disagreement…should we have big marshmallows or small marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole.
    This is about the rights and dignity of real people.
    Rob Portman finally figured that out.
    Someday you might, too.

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    When people talk about the breakdown of the traditional family unit, I suppose this what they mean. It has nothing to do with gay marriage — but everything to do about putting selfishness and individualism ahead of the collective good of the family name.

    This sounds remarkably like blaming the rape victim for being out late at night.

  8. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: Every political disagreement is about people.

  9. grumpy realist says:

    I think the impression Liz is given is exactly the opposite she wants. I wonder how many of the potential voters are saying to themselves: “wow, I don’t really like SSM, but this woman is throwing her very own sister out under the bus. If she’s that greedy for power, what is she going to do to the average human being, who isn’t even a member of her own family.”

    It’s like Allen Keyes throwing his daughter out of the house when he found out she was gay. I don’t think the average person thought anything else than:”what a jerk!”

  10. Gavrilo says:

    “I love Mary very much. I love her family very much. This is just an issue on which we disagree,” Liz Cheney said.

    What a horrifying statement! You can just feel the venom in Cheney’s heart when you read it. Clearly, she is a despicable homophobe. She may as well join the Westboro Baptist Church. I feel terrible for Mary Cheney and her wife. To experience such dehumanization from your own sister! Outrageous!!!

  11. legion says:

    But Liz is also attempting to actually win a U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming. And to make that happen, Mary, Liz may have to say some things you won’t like. This is a short-term inconvenience. (When you run, Mary, maybe Liz will similarly bite her tongue?) But she needs you now. And you, Mary, are messing that up.

    Matt, you’re a despicable cad. Mary Cheney didn’t broach this subject – it came up from Liz answering political questions about what she thought and how she would act as a potential Senator. So let’s look at the possibilities:
    (a) Liz really believes that gay marriage is wrong and that, by extension, gays are simply Not Right With God. This means she’s been keeping her mouth zipped in private family gatherings for years – even unto congratulating Mary & her partner on their marriage – and has decided to chuck all that politeness to better connect with her future constituents. Rather soulless, but not unheard-of in politics.
    (b) Liz is saying what she thinks the voters want to hear, regardless of the fact that she is both deeply offending and insulting her own sister _and_ flat-out lying (assuming she does actually consider her sister to be human).

    Either way, Liz Cheney is a spineless scumbag. _Mary_ didn’t drag this into the public spotlight, Liz did. And she did so by saying things that are inherently offensive and insulting to gay people in general, and personally betraying to her sister in particular. Whether she actually believes what she said is irrelevant. She’s filth.

  12. Mikey says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    It did get more interesting in 1964 when my father switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party because of his opposition to the Vietnam war.

    Someone switched from D to R because of opposition to a war? How quaint…

  13. legion says:

    @Pinky:

    It sounds like Mary and Liz are adults who disagree. Where’s the problem?

    It’s not so much a problem as it is a demonstration of character. Liz is either lying about basic moral positions to get elected, or she’s been lying about basic moral positions to be polite to her sister all these years. Either way, her standing in the polls becomes less surprising with everything she says & does…

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Let’s begin with loyalty to one’s blood relatives — and the fact that Mary Cheney apparently has none. Let’s all let Mary in on a little secret here: YOUR SISTER IS PANDERING. That’s right, once safely ensconced in the U.S. Senate, Liz Cheney will probably “evolve” on the issue.

    I love how Matt Lewis thinks it is incumbent upon Mary to show loyalty to Liz but that Liz is free to call her sister a sodomite, to say that Mary is less than human and Mary’s wife Heather is no better than a whore, that together they have no right to dreams and family and security.

    Matt Lewis is a prime example of everything that is wrong with today’s Republican and he and his ilk disgust me to no end.

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    @Mikey: It wasn’t back then, LBJ a Democrat, was expanding the war and what we now know as neocons were Democrats.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Pinky:

    It sounds like Mary and Liz are adults who disagree. Where’s the problem?

    The problem is that you don’t see the problem.

  17. Pinky says:

    We don’t know every conversation that Mary and Liz had. We can’t even guess. The relationship between sisters is always more complicated than it looks.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    This is not a political disagreement…it’s a self-evident fact.

    “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

    Even though you apparently hate the very basis of United States…it’s still just a very simple question of Right v. Wrong. You only want to think it is a political question if you are on the wrong side of that equation.

  19. Franklin says:

    Whether or not Liz is serious or pandering, and whether or not Mary’s response was serious or planned with Liz from the start … what would anybody expect Mary to say in response? If somebody (especially a sibling) announced my marriage was invalid, I would most certainly have something to say about it.

  20. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    OK, so the Cheney family is fair game, but Obama’s aunt (illegal alien living in public housing), uncle (convicted drunk driver), and half-brother (living in a hovel) are off limits?

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    DM:

    the presumption (although I’m not sure how true it is) is that you have to be strongly against marriage equality in order to succeed with Wyoming Republicans.

    Can’t say about WY Republicans but via Freedom to Marry:

    POLLING DATA: Support for the freedom to marry has increased sharply in the past 8 years, with 41% of the state’s residents now supporting marriage. In 2004, just 26% were supportive. (Williams Institute, 2012)

    I saw this some where yesterday and can not now recall where but support for marriage and civil unions combined was over 50% in the general populace.

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Evidently you can’t tell the difference between the “games.” Here’s a clue: One is a political game in which one party tries to smear the other candidate for things he has nothing to do with, and the other is not a game at all.

  23. Rafer Janders says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Oh, why even bother responding to that weak sauce trolling? It was nothing other than a pretty flagrant bid for attention, and not a good one at that. He seems off his game — must be because of what’s been happening to his hero George Zimmerman, who’s just been the victim of yet another unprovoked attack, this time by his live-in girlfriend. Teenagers, young women, the police — it seems he can’t go anywhere without people like that getting all up in his grill and all and fronting.

  24. Argon says:

    Sigh. I’m less concerned about what Liz says and more bewildered why it’s only a 50 point gap.

  25. PJ says:

    @Argon:

    Sigh. I’m less concerned about what Liz says and more bewildered why it’s only a 50 point gap.

    There isn’t a 50 point gap. The 50 point gap is from an internal poll released by a SuperPAC opposing the spawn of Cheney.
    Until a pollster without ulterior motives releases a poll with a 50 point gap, there’s a 30-35 point gap.

  26. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Matt Lewis thinks *MARY* has a problem with family loyalty?!?!?! Dirty political games are apparently more important than family, what a shining example of modern conservative values.

  27. C. Clavin says:

    @Franklin:
    Even if it was a hearty thanks and adios!!!!

  28. MM2 says:

    Let’s begin with loyalty to one’s blood relatives — and the fact that Mary Cheney apparently has none. Let’s all let Mary in on a little secret here: YOUR SISTER IS PANDERING. That’s right, once safely ensconced in the U.S. Senate, Liz Cheney will probably “evolve” on the issue.

    But Liz is also attempting to actually win a U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming. And to make that happen, Mary, Liz may have to say some things you won’t like. This is a short-term inconvenience. (When you run, Mary, maybe Liz will similarly bite her tongue?) But she needs you now. And you, Mary, are messing that up.

    Well, if this isn’t the most insulting thing to the voters of Wyoming ever.

    “Hey Mary, your sister is trying to dupe the backwater rubes so we can get rid of Mike Enzi, so just be quiet for a bit while we go through this huckster bit”.

    THAT’s the type of thing that wins you votes!

  29. humanoid.panda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Did Obama’s uncle, aunt, second cousin and/or any childhood friend ever ran for office and/or made any statements to the media about any topic whatsoever? If they did, they are fit topic for public discussion. If not, then not. See how easy it is?

  30. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    OK, so the Cheney family is fair game, but Obama’s aunt (illegal alien living in public housing), uncle (convicted drunk driver), and half-brother (living in a hovel) are off limits?

    You seem disappointed that this is not about Barack Obama’s extended family – why?

  31. wr says:

    Forget the Cheney’s for a moment. Here we have a “writer” from the Daily Caller, which seems to believe that lying is an impeachable offense when they can accuse Obama of doing it, blasting Mary Cheney for telling the truth about her sister’s lie.

    And these are the people who think they should be running the country.

  32. Ben says:

    @Gavrilo:

    What a horrifying statement! You can just feel the venom in Cheney’s heart when you read it. Clearly, she is a despicable homophobe. She may as well join the Westboro Baptist Church. I feel terrible for Mary Cheney and her wife. To experience such dehumanization from your own sister! Outrageous!!!

    And yet Liz has also stated that she believes in the “traditional definition of marriage”. Which means that Mary’s family isn’t a family at all, and that Liz doesn’t believe that Mary and her wife have a right to start a family at all. Seems pretty damned hateful to me. I’m not sure you can claim to love someone if you want to deny them the ability to start a family.

  33. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Jesus-Gawd you are stupid.

  34. Neil Hudelson says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Yeah. That’s pretty much all his comment deserves.

  35. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @humanoid.panda: Aunt Zeituni talked about donating to his campaign — which was illegal. Uncle Omar’s arrest was public record, and was mentioned in Obama’s book (under a pseudonym). And half-brother George was in the news after Obama made a comment about how we all should be our brothers’ keepers, including making statements.

    So yeah, there’s that.

  36. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Um, may I point out that the POTUS election has already happened? And that Barack Obama won again?

    I’ve figured out your problem. You’re a toothless 141 year old with dementia who keeps forgetting what year it is.

  37. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @grumpy realist: I’m not a day over 139, and get the hell off my lawn.

  38. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @grumpy realist: Um, may I point out that the POTUS election has already happened? And that Barack Obama won again?

    And so? How many people still want to re-argue the 2000 Bush-Gore elections? Bush has been out of office for almost 6 years now.

  39. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Intent on proving your ignorance?

  40. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Bush has been out of office for almost 6 years now.

    We’re still recovering from his 2007-2008 crash of the housing and financial markets. I can see why you want to talk about Obama’s extended family.
    By the way, would you like a Billy Beer?

  41. C. Clavin says:

    Meantime the 16th state signs SSM into law…and the Cheney’s and other Republicans like them fall further into the abyss called the wrong side of history.
    And oh yeah… Jenos wants you to know that somebody somewhere got a DUI.

  42. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Two thumbs up, sir.

  43. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    @grumpy realist: Um, may I point out that the POTUS election has already happened? And that Barack Obama won again?

    And so? How many people still want to re-argue the 2000 Bush-Gore elections? Bush has been out of office for almost 6 years now.

    You know, one man won both his elections, the other only the 2nd (which, without being given the 1st….). We are STILL dealing with what the one who was not fairly elected the first time around inflicted upon us, while you complain about what MIGHT come about do to the other.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, health care spending continues to slow.

  44. jib10 says:

    @al-Ameda: I get this from people in my family too. “Bush was 6 years ago, when are you going to let it go?”. I reminded them that in the last election there was at least one PAC that ran ads comparing Obama to Carter (that works for them, Carter is their icon for a bad prez). Carter was elected 36 years before 2012. Since Bush was elected in 2000, that means I will let it go in 2036.

    Which, if I live that long, will still be better than my Grandmother, she never did forgive Hoover.

  45. C. Clavin says:

    @jib10:
    It’s more than that… Bush policies continue to have impacts today.
    They continue to contribute to the deficit. Continuing obligations can’t just be ignored. They didn’t just end on Jan 20, 2009. I wish they had…but they didn’t.

  46. rudderpedals says:

    When worlds collide

    When Cheneys collide
    it’s a question of honor

  47. humanoid.panda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: So, 2 of them actually didn’t make any statements, but were talked about by others, while the third said something that may imply that she had done something illegal, maybe. In terms of public impact, no doubt that this is the exact equivalent of running for the Senate. Well played, sir.

    PS. Given that us liberals are supposed to be smitten with “THE ONE”, I kinda find it amusing that people like Jenos have such a deep knowledge of the Obama family tree, while most of his supporters couldn’t care less. Speaking strictly for myself, all that I know about his family is the marriage of his parents, the fact that Michelle’s brother is a college basketball coach, and that there is a Orthodox Rabbi in her family. Jenos. however. seems to harbor quite a genealogy fetish.

  48. al-Ameda says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Jenos. however. seems to harbor quite a genealogy fetish.

    Given his obsession with the extended Obama (Kenyan, Indonesian, Marxist and/or Socialist) family I’d say it was a Messiah Complex.

  49. KM says:

    putting selfishness and individualism ahead of the collective good of the family name.

    Screw the “family name”. You owe no love or loyalty to those who would beat, hurt, oppress or belittle you. Do you owe loyalty to an abusive parent? Do you loyalty to a sibling who steals from you? Blood is thicker then water, but the stains aren’t always worth it.

    And why is the loyalty seemingly one-sided? What about the loyalty Liz owes Mary – doesn’t that count?

  50. KM says:

    This reminds me of the pressures society puts on family members who try to talk about abuses or dysfunctions in their family. When they try to bring grievances to light (or if some outsider questions them), they get shut down and shamed for “airing dirty laundry”. For some reason, you are supposed to keep this negativity to yourself and let it poison you rather then address it or the behaviors causing it. Just take on for the team. Again and again. Certain people sacrifice so others can gain but it never reverses – it’s always the same individuals expected to bend over and take it.

    Liz started this with her quite frankly offensive to voters stance. All politicians lie but this one is just so blatant, its disgusting. Mary was just supposed to sit there and let herself be smeared for the “good of the family (Liz)” and some nebulous gain. She won’t win – fairly obvious to most observers. So why should Mary take in on the chin for Liz to build up her rep?

  51. C. Clavin says:

    @KM:
    And why should Mary’s wife have her dignity impugned…just to benefit Liz’s political career?

  52. KM says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Exactly! Just because your in-law is a jerk doesn’t mean you deserve to be smeared in public or have the validity of your love or marriage challenged. Few people deserve their in-laws’ crap but this seems more egregious then most….

  53. C. Clavin says:

    I imagine this thread has pretty much dropped off the radar of most commenters by now…but via Sullivan…here is the Conservative argument for Marriage Equality. The Cheney’s are NOT Conservatives by any stretch.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Owi0H62g5Q8