Liz Cheney's Firm Ideological Consistency

Ah, family. The source of our greatest strength, and our greatest frustrations. Ask yourself: Is there anyone in the world who can more easily put you into a blinding, murderous rage than your siblings? Now what if one of those siblings was running for office, and you could stick it to them? If you had a fight—and not just a fight over something trivial like who should wash the dishes, but a real fundamental fight, like whom Mom loved best, or why he crashed your bike when you told him a hundred times that he could only ride it if he was super-careful, or whether you're worthy of equal rights under the law—would you be tempted to take that fight public?

I speak, of course, about Liz Cheney, vice-presidential progeny, proud daughter of the Virginia suburbs—I mean Wyoming, wonderful Wyoming, which has always been home!—and contender for the U.S. Senate from the aforementioned state. According to at least one poll, Cheney is trailing badly in her attempt to unseat conservative Republican Mike Enzi. Even though Cheney is trying to run to Enzi's right, she's been the target of blistering ads from an independent group charging not only that she is soft on gays, but that she has—cover the children's ears —appeared on MSNBC.

Before we get back to the sibling rivalry, a brief aside. Why is Cheney running? Well, a couple of years ago, few people had heard of her other than as one of those people waving in a large group at a GOP convention. But then she started popping up on television to say venomously partisan things in a calm, even voice, a talent I presume she learned from her father. She even got on the Sunday shows numerous times. Now, there are people in Washington who would give their left thumb to be asked to appear on one of the Sunday shows, but no doubt Cheney was chosen because producers were so impressed with her resume. After all, virtually every former deputy assistant secretary of State for near Eastern affairs—a position she totally got on her own merits and not because her father was vice president at the time—gets on those shows all the time, right? I mean, a deputy assistant secretary of State reports right to an assistant secretary of State, who reports right to an undersecretary of State, who reports right to the secretary of State himself! So she was a pretty big deal, and it seemed only natural that she should ascend to high office.

Anyhow, we return to today, when Liz and her sister Mary, who is gay, turn out to be at odds over same-sex marriage, something father Dick has supported for some time (like many Republicans, the elder Cheney came around to supporting equality once he realized it affected someone in his family). Apparently, Mary and her wife, Heather Poe, were gobsmacked when they saw Liz say on Fox News Sunday that she opposes marriage equality. "Oh, it is on" they said (or something like that), soon taking to Facebook. "Liz — this isn't just an issue on which we disagree you're just wrong — and on the wrong side of history," wrote Mary. "I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other," wrote Poe. Did you catch the carpetbagger dig there? Needless to say, a Senate candidate's sister and sister-in-law blasting her over social media is not something you see every day, so they surely knew it would attract attention. Here's some rather remarkable detail from The New York Times:

Mary Cheney, 44, said in a phone interview Sunday that she presumed her sister shared her father's views on marriage, and that view was reinforced because Liz Cheney "was always very supportive" of her relationship with Ms. Poe and the couple's two children. She learned otherwise in August when Liz Cheney declared, shortly after announcing her Senate candidacy, that she was opposed to same-sex marriage rights. Mary Cheney said it is now "impossible" for the sisters to reconcile as long as Liz Cheney maintains that position.

It's somewhat surprising to find out that they just didn't know that Liz was an opponent of marriage equality. Or maybe she wasn't, until she decided that being the Tea Party challenger to the very conservative Enzi would require it. None of us can understand what goes on in other people's families, I guess.

But if we assume that Liz Cheney always opposed marriage equality, we have to give her some credit for a certain kind of consistency. Back in March, when Republican senator Rob Portman came out in support of same-sex marriage, announcing that he had a change of heart after learning his son is gay, I and other people gave him some criticism for only deciding that discrimination was bad once it turned out someone he loved was among the class being discriminated against. Part of being a good person (and a good politician) should be having the ability to care about people's welfare even if you don't know them.

But here's Liz Cheney, willing to stick to her support of discrimination, even when it's her own sister! And by all reports, until recently they had a good relationship. I wonder if Wyoming primary voters will find that to be a demonstration of the kind of fortitude they need in a senator, what with all the filibustering that still needs doing.

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