What is going on with one Richard B. Cheney?
The former vice president held his own with the sitting president of the United States in an argument over Guantanamo Bay detention and torture, uh, "enhanced interrogation techniques." In so doing, he basically became the de facto leader of the Republican Party. The Democrats had made jokes about this fact for sometime. But then the Obama administration started adopting some Bush-Cheney tactics and arguments on national security -- military tribunals, rendition, heck, even indefinite detention! Finally, the U.S. Congress even refused to make available funds for Obama's plan to close down Gitmo.
Sure looked like Cheney was winning the argument.
So, the GOP must be pretty stoked to -- finally -- have a leader who neatly sums up party positions, making the case for a coherent conservative Republican Party, right? Sure.
That leadership was on display Monday as the former vice president spoke at the National Press Club. While primarily focusing on national security, he also made an eloquent, clearly stated case for -- gay marriage. Whaaat!?!?!? Yep, sure enough, when asked about the hot-button issue he said:
"I think that freedom means freedom for everyone. As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay, and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family.
"I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish -- any kind of arrangement they wish,'' Cheney said. "The question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don't support. I do believe that, historically, the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. It has always been a state issue, and I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis...
"But I don't have any problem with that,'' he said of the same-sex marriages that most of the states in New England, Iowa and the District of Columbia have authorized. "People ought to get a shot at that."
This, of course, invites the question, is there room for torture and gay marriage in the Republican Party? (Please, no jokes about, "Only in San Francisco!")
In fairness to Cheney, this is not a new position. In other situations, he's been fully candid about his gay daughter Mary and how he accepts and loves her. In debates in 2000 with Joe Lieberman and 2004 with John Edwards. Of course, then, he was the vice-presidential candidate (or incumbent). The policy of the top of the ticket -- from George W, Bush -- was that marriage was between a man and a woman. Indeed, the administration supported the state amendments that codified that language. That was the one issue where Cheney said that he differed with the president on it.
Ironically, now that Cheney is no longer in office he is arguably more influential within and without his own party than ever. And he is still more "progressive" on the issue of gay marriage than the sitting president (Obama says that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman). Conservatives rushing to embrace Cheney because of his full-throated defense of Bush administration policies on national security must now recoil on this latest development. Meanwhile, the man that the Left loves to hate more than anyone in the GOP has the most "liberal" position on arguably the most critical social issue of the current Democratic base.
That sound you just heard were the brains of ideologues in both parties exploding!
This is the same Dick Cheney who, just a few weeks ago declared that 1) the GOP didn't need to become more moderate and 2) that Rush Limbaugh reflected the Republican Party moreso than did Colin Powell. In fact, he added that he thought "Colin had already left the party." Funny thing though, if both men decided to run for the Republican nomination in 2012 -- they'd both be in their 70s -- who would be the "social conservative" candidate?
Powell forced Bill Clinton to accept gays in the military in 1993 -- arguably a conservative position. Meanwhile, Cheney would be fine leaving gay marriage to the states. Who's the conservative? Who's the moderate?
Again, exploding brains all around!
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.