Based on the title alone we’re led to believe that Mary Cheney has been constrained somehow, that she’s long had a message but has been kept from sharing it until now.
And by page three of a memoir that spans only five years of her life, the topic of her sexuality—the seed of the entire marketing campaign for the book—is laid out. In August of 2000, Dick Cheney asked his family for input regarding a potential run for the vice presidency.
“He was concerned that people would target me and my sexual orientation in an attempt to attack him,” she writes. “He wanted to make sure I understood exactly what this decision [to run] could mean.”
Notably absent from the limelight during the 2004 Presidential campaign, the one that at times directly asked for her presence, Cheney has a lot to answer for, as far as America’s GLBT community is concerned.
And somehow, amid all 239 pages of this book, she doesn’t quite do it.
What’s important to understand, I suppose, is that this was very determinedly intended to be a memoir of Cheney’s direct (but not personal) experience on the campaign trail with her father in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. As well, “Now It’s My Turn” is published by a brand new politically conservative imprint at Simon & Schuster, called Threshold Editions. Its publisher is Mary Matalin, who worked with the Cheneys on both campaigns and who, based on Mary Cheney’s acknowledgements that preface the book, should be considered an honorary member of the Cheney clan.
Any assumption or reason to assume that Mary is genuinely taking her “turn” to speak out now is rendered a bit moot. With all these familiar talking points, we’re left to wonder just what has been holding her back, and why.
Republican or not (on top of repeated references that she was interested only in helping her father to win the race, Cheney says she endorsed Bush over Kerry for many reasons two years ago), Mary is a member of this community, so for her to entirely ignore whatever response she may have had to the calls from GLBT America to speak out is, at least, surprising.
There is no mention in “Now It’s My Turn” of those in the gay community who called for her voice during the election campaign. She states unequivocally that she was by no means closeted during that time (she worked with Coors Brewing Company as a corporate relations manager for the “gay and lesbian market” before joining the campaign in 2000) so “outing” her wasn’t an option.
Writer Michelangelo Signorile penned a column in the New York Press back in 2004, called “Dear Mary,” asking for Cheney’s vocal presence in the presidential race. It prompted a website, called DearMary.com, which posted letters to Cheney from virtually anyone who had one to share. Articles referencing the website were published everywhere from the Advocate newsmagazine to the Washington Post and broadcast on CNN.
Cheney mentions none of it in her book. Did she feel any need, or have an interest, in engaging the GLBT community, then or now? To apologize? To help us understand what she was thinking and feeling when she learned that so many gay Americans were calling for her? Guess not.
Mary Cheney makes it clear in “Now It’s My Turn” that she does not support the Constitutional amendment President Bush endorsed in March 2004. She has said in many an interview these past few weeks that she believes it would “write discrimination into the Constitution.”
What she does not make clear is her opinion of all those Republicans who baited ignorant Americans with anti-gay rhetoric in order to get their vote. There is not one mention of Rick Santorum or Marilyn Musgrave, the primary legislators—the faces—of the proposed amendment that, in the end, had no chance to pass.
Did she endorse it only as a campaign ploy (which it proved to be)? You get the feeling reading the book that President Bush, and the entire Cheney family, has no issue with gay people. The fact that Bush would fight as hard as he did for Social Security reform early last year, an idea that was itself dead in the water, all the while ignoring plans for any gay-related legislation, seems to prove that.
The representatives from the Religious Right who’ve been coming out of the woodwork these past couple weeks demanding accountability seems to underline it.
So did she implicitly sign off on it because she knew there was no chance that a Constitutional amendment would ever pass? If so, isn’t “now” her “turn” to acknowledge that? Apparently not.
She does lash out at both John Kerry and John Edwards for referencing her during the debates. In detail, she describes her shock to hear her name called by Kerry in the last debate with President Bush and chides him for feeling it important to say her name and uses as evidence, correctly, the twisted question that brought him to say it.
She does not justify her implied assertion that a politician speaking about a family member is offensive. Political candidates talk about their families all the time. Yes, Kerry did it in an incredibly sloppy way, but does she truly believe it unjustifiable to draw attention to the Cheneys on the way they’d ignored the identity of their daughter while the Republican leadership used exactly that identification to serve its own purposes everywhere else on the campaign trail?
She doesn’t explain why her family—and in particular, she—voiced no response when Alan Keyes directly insulted her during the campaign, nor that they felt any great need to acknowledge the blatantly anti-gay fliers that were distributed in Arkansas and West Virginia.
But we are asked to believe that she—and more poignantly, her mother—could not contain her rage when Kerry simply acknowledged that she’s a lesbian? Isn’t this hypersensitivity the kind that conservatives laugh at liberals for trying to make relevant?
Having said all this, “Now It’s My Turn” is a surprisingly engaging book. In describing her experience in the 2000 and 2004 elections, there is a naturally developing crescendo to the narrative. Of course, we all know the outcome; to hear the experience from someone so much on the inside is, if not fascinating, certainly interesting. To this day, I would not be able to identify Lynne Cheney in a lineup of vice presidents’ wives but I think I like her. I feel like I know her now.
For those gay Americans whose families are not so unconditionally loving, to read this book may seem to underline the privilege that Mary Cheney has enjoyed (beyond all that Halliburton money).
It would also seem strange to learn that while Cheney feels so much mutually unconditional love and respect for her family, she doesn’t seem to comprehend that the success of her family’s efforts (or lack of effort) in 2000 and 2004 depended on the continued division that exists between many gay Americans and their own families.