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Katy Burns

Katy Burns: Memo to the Cheneys: family values

Liz Cheney addresses reporters on Wednesday July 17, 2013, at the Little America Hotel in Cheyenne, Wyo. Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, announced this week she intends to challenge incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. (AP Photo/Ben Neary)

Liz Cheney addresses reporters on Wednesday July 17, 2013, at the Little America Hotel in Cheyenne, Wyo. Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, announced this week she intends to challenge incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. (AP Photo/Ben Neary)

Dear Dick and Lynne:

I trust you don’t mind my using the familiar address. After all, we’ve been listening to you both for so many years that I do feel we know you personally.

I have been following your little family psychodrama – you know, the kerfuffle between your girls, Liz and Mary – with a great deal of interest. And I’m a bit concerned about the way things have been going lately. And, specifically, how you are responding to things.

Which is . . . not well. May I suggest that you both just, uh, keep quiet?

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. You are of course familiar with the outlines of the contretemps, but some readers may not be. So let me recap.

You are blessed with two attractive daughters who have long been in the public eye, starting when, as tykes, they were charming campaigners for Daddy Dick. Time passed, as we all ruefully know, and those adorable towheads are now grown-up women. Women, I might add, who are every bit their conservative parents’ daughters. And who worked for the ideas that you, Dick and Lynne, instilled in them.

Along the way, both got married, both had children. But there was one teeny difference. Liz, the elder of the two, married a perfectly nice man. Mary, the younger, married a perfectly nice . . . woman.


Given the Republican Party’s fairly negative stance on all things gay – especially, for sure, no gay marriages! – this is a big issue for a rock-ribbed GOP family. But you, Dick and Lynne, behaved admirably, supporting Mary and speaking up for gay marriage, at least on a state-by-state basis.

Many of us who were not, by and large, followers of your political philosophy had to admit that you were really on the side of the angels with this one. We admired you.

But then Liz decided to run for the U.S. Senate from Wyoming, which is a very, very conservative state. Where, it’s worth noting, she hadn’t lived since she was a little blond pixie campaigning for her dad. And where she would have to challenge a very conservative Republican incumbent senator, Mike Enzi, who thought he was a Cheney family friend. And which is ticking off sharp-witted former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson, which – as all political connoisseurs know – is not a good idea. As you Cheneys are now learning, what with Simpson accusing you, Lynne, of telling “bald-faced lies.”

But I digress. Back to the main story. Liz, with a lot of encouragement from her parents, moved to Wyoming and started making like a favorite native daughter. Running for Senate in such a conservative place against such a conservative incumbent hasn’t been easy. You have to be sort of extra-conservative.

And that brings up gay marriage. You know, what Liz’s sister Mary is engaged in. Now in her pre-running-in-Wyoming days Liz had made sort of pro-gay statements, including favoring State Department benefits for same sex partners.

So a really, really conservative outfit started browbeating her, accusing her of being soft on gay marriage.

(By the way, the outfit that was beating up Liz about gay marriage is run by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and one-time very conservative candidate for the GOP nomination for president. Interesting footnote, eh?)

Liz presumably decided that gay marriage is not considered a good thing in Wyoming. So, well, she had no choice. Gay marriage? By golly, no! In a heart-to-heart with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace, Liz proclaimed herself a lover of tradition, as in marriage strictly between men and women.

And thus Liz threw Mary under the proverbial bus. Along with her wife, Heather, and her two really cute children.

This, not surprisingly, distressed Mary, who had thought Liz was okay with her family.

This even more distressed Heather. Both took to Facebook to express their hurt. Baring all on Facebook seems to be the norm these days, bizarre though it may be to us old fogies.

And as sad as all this was, it might have ended there, with hurt feelings and the prospect of a pretty miserable Thanksgiving Day gathering. And eventually, maybe, reconciliation.

Until, that is, you – Dick and Lynne – stepped in and issued a statement.

“This is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public,” you said. So why not leave it there? A dignified “no comment” works well in such circumstances – a position daughter Liz might well have adopted as well.

But you just had to go on. “Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage. She has also always treated her sister and her sister’s family with love and respect, exactly as she should have done. Compassion is called for, even when there is disagreement about such a fundamental matter and Liz’s many kindnesses shouldn’t be used to distort her position.”

“Compassion?” Compassion is something you might feel for homeless victims of tornados, perhaps, or for grievously wounded veterans. Certainly not for adult women openly leading full and happy lives.

And references to Liz Cheney’s “many kindnesses” are almost risible to anyone who has watched her in full attack mode on any number of Fox News broadcasts. Besides, since when is it “kindness” to treat one’s sister like the human being she is and not some sort of charity case, meant to be pitied?

Sorry, Dick and Lynne, but the next time you feel compelled to step into a family feud, just stifle that urge. You really aren’t helping. Not yourselves. Certainly not your daughters.

And most assuredly the cause of “family values” you profess to speak for.

(Monitor columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

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