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October 15, 2004



I was in love with a lesbian robot, remember rosie from the jetsons?

she was in the closet.


Think of the cyborg children!

Cyborg children would be cool.

Jacob T. Levy

I understand the urge to say that this is just self-enforcing poetic justice. "I have no problem with the fact that you're daughter's gay. If you or the voters you're trying to attract have a problem with the fact that your daughter's gay, then that's your problem, since, after all, your daughter's gay."

But it's a slimy pandering to prejudices nonetheless, and it was perfectly transparent that that's what Kerry was doing. (Marginally less transparent with Edwards, because he was smoother and because he was actually talking to Cheney at the time so it didn't seem so out of the blue.) In this case it's a slimy pandering to prejudices the speaker doesn't share. Good for him for not sharing them. Bad for him for seeking to get electoral mileage out of them.

It's directly comparable to the "John McCain has a black baby" campaign in South Carolina. Part of the problem with that campaign was that John McCain's adopted child was Bengali ("black" in British terms but not American terms). But most of the problem was that, *there's nothing wrong with having a black baby, and there is something wrong in pandering to other people's prejudices in an attempt to get electoral advantage.* Repeatedly bringing up one's opponent's black baby in an attempt to benefit from other people's racism is a bad thing to do even if one is not racist oneself. Indeed, along one dimension it's worse. One knows better.


Um. JTL, to move this into the theoretical realm, from a libertarian perspective, how is one person making a factual claim responsible for another person's malevolent interpretation? At first blush, I'd think that would be libertarian axiom number 1: "I am not responsible for what other people think."

Incidentally, the statements "John McCain has a black baby" and "John McCain has an adopted Bengali daughter" are not functionally equivalent.



"But most of the problem was that, *there's nothing wrong with having a black baby, and there is something wrong in pandering to other people's prejudices in an attempt to get electoral advantage.* Repeatedly bringing up one's opponent's black baby in an attempt to benefit from other people's racism is a bad thing to do even if one is not racist oneself. Indeed, along one dimension it's worse. One knows better."

Jacob, you're just wrong about this. Bringing up an opponent's black baby is an attempt to appeal to racists -- "Hey racists, I'm a racist just like you. My opponent isn't a racist, you can tell because he has a black baby. So if you want to vote racist, vote for me!"

Kerry hasn't done this. Do you think any bigot out there who votes on the basis of their anti-gay bigotry is now going to vote for Kerry because he believes that Kerry is less gay-friendly than Bush? If you're honest, you don't think that.

What may have happened as a result of the emphasis on Mary Chaney is that some bigots who previously thought that Bush was the anti-gay bigotry candidate, and planned to vote on that basis, have come to the uncomfortable realization that neither Bush nor Kerry can safely be regarded as the bigots' candidate. So now, after the open discussion of Mary Chaney, one-issue bigoted voters have two choices -- they can find another issue to base their votes on, or they can stay home, but they can no longer safely vote for the bigot.

I agree that Kerry was using some voters' bigotry to manipulate their voting behavior, but he was doing so in a way that did not encourage them to vote their bigotry, but instead made it impossible for them to do so. Isn't that a good thing?

Jacob T. Levy

[Notwithstanding the above, I want to stress that I think this was far from the most important event of the debate, and that Bush's bin Laden lie is what really needs to get talked about.]


I admit that I cringed when Kerry brought up Mary Cheney. It was his first true Al Gore moment of the debates. (Actually, second, if you count the Christopher Reeve name-drop from the second debate.) He was trying too hard to be clever, and came off as clumsy and a bit craven.

But there was absolutely nothing offensive about what Kerry said, even if it was an artless moment. Jacob is dead wrong here, and Lizardbreath is right. Kerry wasn't trying to exploit homophobic sentiments, as Bush was trying to exploit racist ones in going after McCain's daughter. Kerry was trying to inhibit his opponent's ability to exploit such sentiments. The relevant analogy would be to, for instance, a pro-civil rights candidate in the 1960s mentioning that his opponent, who is running on an anti-civil rights platform, has a history of donating money to the NAACP. The point of doing so isn't to tarnish your opponent as the pro-black candidate. Rather, it is to neutralize the potency of the race issue by revealing both candidates to be, in their hearts, racially tolerant.

(George H. W. Bush, when he first ran for office in Texas, ran against civil rights, despite having founded the New Haven chapter of the NAACP when he was in college.)


Here's another good reason for Kerry to have brought this up. The Republicans, when they're aiming their talk toward bigots, imply that there's some evil "gay agenda" that stems from rabidly gay people, probably most of them drag queens who live in San Francisco, and that this "gay agenda" is what must be stopped. Kerry pointed out what Democrats know is true, and some Republicans know is true but refuse to admit - that is, that there are plenty of gays and lesbians who are normal everyday people leading normal everyday lives, interacting with their families, etc., etc. This is what needs to be stressed in all of these discussions of gay rights.

Matt Weiner

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say no daughter of mine is going to marry a robot.

Yeah, why you hatin'? Robots are people too.

(This probably isn't really of general interest--but the magazine I linked looks at archetypes as categorizing people, and someone I know was the inspiration for the robot archetype.)

Gary Farber

I completely agree with your general sentiments, as I've said on my own here, here, and here, amongst other places. I disagree with Jacob Levy, and agree with what Lizardbreath and PJS said above; utterly.

But in fairness, I have to say that while I've an immense number of disagreements with Glenn Reynolds in the past year and a half, I don't recall ever seeing him be in the slightest way unsupportive of gay rights.

I've only been reading him for three years, or so, though. Do you have some links to posts I've missed regarding his being "Johnny-come-lately"? It's certainly true I've read him quite sporadically in the last year and a half, and never religiously before that, so it's more than possible that I missed them. What do you have in mind?

(When I started reading Glenn he had far more negative to say about Bush, and Republicans, than positive; that didn't swing dramatically the other way until at least two years ago, but I still don't recall a single anti-gay, or even luke-warm, comment; I do recall innumerable pro-gay-rights comments.)

(I gots no observation on Kaus on this, as I never read him religiously, and pretty much gave up on him as uninteresting some time back.)


I didn't watch the 3rd debate, but I don't think there was anything remotely awkward about dropping Christopher Reeve's name in the second debate. And I say this as an adamant Christopher Reeve fan. (Birthday parties 6,7, &,8--Superman I, II, and I & II together.) Why? Because I am sure 99%Christopher Reeve would have been quite happy to have his name dropped. That's what he wanted--people to think of him when they thought of the potential good coming out of stem cell research.

This in no way relates to the Mary Cheney comment. Slate does a good job of rounding that up, I think.

Gary Farber

So, um, Belle? I didn't want to be a nag, but I'm hoping three days is enough time for me to check back without so being to ask again what post or posts you have in mind in the past in which Glenn gave you grounds to say he is countable as one of the "johnnie-come-lately gay rights defenders."

For all that I find the guy's politics, and comment approaches to them, of the past year and a half or so largely annoying, we were friendly enough three years ago (and plenty of other people who have problems with the recent Glenn will tell you the same thing about how different and good Instapundit was three years ago) that I feel the guy is still basically decent enough that he should be treated fairly.

So I'm still left wondering if I've missed recent/modern posts in which he suddenly became less than enthused about supporting gay rights, rather than the staunch defender I saw him being for years. Can you help me out here, please?

belle waring

sorry not to have responded sooner; I've had a busy week (I accidentally let Violet overstay her visa...yes I am a space.) It's true Glenn Reynolds has always supported gay rights in principle. And I have no doubt that in private life he is a perfectly tolerant fellow. In practice, however, he is so wilfully blind in insisting that Bush is no worse than Kerry on the subject of gay rights, that I have a hard time taking him seriously. How much worse are the Republicans on this issue? A LOT worse. Like, mecha-godzilla worse. I also, like some people, truly felt that unless you thought homosexuality was something akin to addiction or adultery, there was no reason to take a bare mention of someone's sexuality as a slur. Thus I assumed he was either faking a huff for partisan reasons (lame) or just revealing some latent homophobia. But Johnny come lately is not really what we're looking for, here. I'll change it to soi-disant, how does that grab you?


Here's why Kerry was playing to homophobia with his remarks:


In brief, Kerry was making sure to tell religious blacks -- some of whom are in danger of defecting to the Republicans -- that Bush picked a running mate with a gay daughter. (Alternatively, Kerry was trying to send the same message to working class Reagan Democrats.) In both cases, the objective was the same: Use homophobia to keep swing voters from defecting to Bush.

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