Hunting the wrong type of game

By Barney Keller

Thanksgiving is closing in on us, bringing with it the image of those turkeys being hunted down and killed for our dinners. Now, I am all for this. I happen to like turkey. I have no qualms about those annoying sounding birds being butchered and then stuffed and sloshed with gravy. Especially when it is eaten with the stuffing that my mother used to make.

You see, turkeys are fair game for us to eat. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term “fair game” as “a legitimate target for attack. For example, On his talk show, authors are considered fair game. This expression alludes to hunting.”

This makes sense to me. Turkeys are big and fat and taste good when I consume them.

However, I do not believe that family members of politicians are really “fair game.” During Bill Clinton’s political career, no one went after Chelsea Clinton for anything she did at college, nor does anyone even think of hinting that it was George W. Bush’s fault that his daughters got caught with fake ID’s at a bar. That’s because they really aren’t a legitimate target for a political attack. There is no reason to hunt down the Bush daughters to hurt the president. It’s just stupid. Besides, I bet they wouldn’t taste very good.

Apparently, Mary Beth Cahill, John Kerry’s campaign manager, has taken up John Kerry’s love of hunting. She described Mary Cheney, daughter of the vice president, as “fair game” after Kerry gratuitously mentioned that she was a lesbian to make a point about gay marriage during his last debate with Bush.

What a cheap political jab. Blogger Hugh Hewitt makes the point this way: “If Candidate A’s child had juvenile diabetes or was obese, and Candidate B used that child as a springboard to discuss the need for stem cell research or early intervention exercise programs, the disgust would be the same. If Candidate A’s child won the World Championship of Poker and Candidate B denounced Candidate A for arguing for limits on Native American gaming, Candidate B would get smacked. If Candidate A’s son lived with his girlfriend, and Candidate B brought that up as an example of why partnership benefits should be widespread, the public would rightly hoot at the boorish ass that was Candidate B.”

I have no explanation for why Kerry said this. Kerry himself doesn’t support allowing homosexuals to marry. Some political analysts have theorized that he said it to frantically try and drive down religious right turnout in battleground states, which is an absolutely ridiculous strategy if that was the motivation behind the comment. If John Kerry believes that the religious right would stay home because Dick Cheney has a gay daughter, then he has a complete misunderstanding of human nature and a narrow-minded view of people of faith. Neither of these things is a quality that anyone wants in a president or at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Justifiably, Kerry’s interpretation of the political hunting laws provoked a bitter backlash. Lynne Cheney, Mary’s mother, said that Kerry was “not a good man,” and called the stunt a “cheap and tawdry political trick.” Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Kerry’s running mate, then compounded the damage by claiming that Ms. Cheney’s anger reflected “a certain degree of shame” about Mary’s sexual orientation. To any voter who understands how angry his or her own mother would get if someone tried to exploit her child, this once again reflects how John Kerry simply does not understand you or me. If a presidential candidate fails to understand how to relate to people, just as John Kerry has, then he is not fit to be anybody’s leader, or even the guy who kills my turkey.

The most recent CNN/Gallup poll has Bush up by eight points, even after a string of debates that voters scored as Kerry wins. The same poll has Bush leading Kerry on character traits like “honesty and trustworthiness” by five points. This comes with barely two weeks left in a campaign where the Democrats and their allies have pulled out all the stops to label Bush as dishonest and untrustworthy. It seems voters prefer turkeys on their plate at Thanksgiving, not on their ballot. Let the slow roast begin.