The more moderate conservatives... they took umbrage at any mention of the subject. Kathryn Jean Lopez, an enthusiastic supporter of the FMA and editor of National Review Online, wrote on the site's group blog, The Corner: "Unless Mary Cheney asks to be part of a political debate about this, there is no need to have a public discussion about her life. The New York Times raises the question of how/who, etc. That just seems outrageous to me. She is not the vice president. She is not the president. That's just uncalled for from anyone in the media/commentariat."Jonah Goldberg responds:
But the news of the pregnancy was confirmed by Mary Cheney, who did not object to any invasion of privacy. She is a public figure who has written a book about her private life. She ran a national Republican campaign. And her pregnancy is the kind of news that simply cannot be ignored or covered up--because it comes in the form of an actual human being, a child, who, thanks in part to Lopez, will be denied the legal security of two parents. And Lopez now wants it not to be personal. Sorry, but it is already personal.
Lopez's colleague, Jonah Goldberg, is a nimbler enabler of anti-gay discrimination. He rightly surmised that any discussion of this issue could only expose the incoherence or cruelty of the right's position on gay families, and so he advised saying nothing. He commented a day after the news about the absence of any mention of the pregnancy on The Corner: "I did like the radio silence around here." In a subsequent post, he wrote that, whatever the merits of the Virginia amendment definitively stripping Poe of any legal rights over her child, the question was moot once gay adoption had been conceded as a principle: "It's very difficult to make the lynchpin of your opposition to gay marriage 'the children' when gays have been allowed to either adopt, have, or otherwise maintain custody of children for a long time now. We are currently in a weird situation in that gay couples get kids all the time without the benefit of being 'married' while gay marriage opponents claim that gay couples shouldn't get married because it would be bad for kids. That horse left the barn."
This pragmatic, if somewhat callous, point is then accompanied by an actual stance: Goldberg says he now supports civil unions for gay couples. So why his complete indifference to something like the Virginia amendment? Here is his response: "What seems to bother a lot of pro-gay marriage obsessives is that I don't think it's the signature civil rights issue of our day. I just don't get that worked up about it, at least not anymore, and this lack of passion is interpreted by zealots as cowardice, strategic silence or bigotry. It's really none of the above."
It is not, he avers, "strategic silence"; and yet, only a day before, he actually congratulated his peers for their silence. Goldberg's final position, it appears, is that he simply doesn't give a damn. He can't be bothered to take a position. But then he splutters, hearing a rising protest from the social right: "I do agree with, or am intellectually sympathetic to, many of their principled arguments on this stuff (depending on which social conservatives and which arguments we're talking about)." Is that all clear now? Goldberg then approvingly quotes a reader who "gets my drift." The reader writes: "You take a reasonable stance on this Mary Cheney thing: none at all." And, yes, that is indeed Goldberg's position.
In fact, it is now the only coherent conservative position on a matter made impossible to avoid by the living, breathing reality of a mother and her child. Their position is nothing at all. Neither for amending the constitution to bar gay marriage nor against it. Neither for gay marriage nor against it. Neither supportive of Mary Cheney nor hostile. After two decades of debate, discussion, state initiatives, lawsuits, protests, custody battles, and on and on, the last coherent conservative position is nothing. On Mary Cheney, they are forced to take a stand. But any stand either attacks the base of the party or attacks someone they know and love. So they have no alternative but to stand very still, say nothing, and hope that someone changes the subject. It is as close to intellectual and moral bankruptcy as one can imagine...
One day, this will be the real conservative position on homosexuals as well as transgendered people: pro-family, pro-integration, pro-equality, and humane. One day, Mary Cheney's pregnancy may even come to be seen as a pivotal moment in that evolution. Derided by some gay activists, Cheney and her partner and their child may one day be seen as the real pioneers of a new world. Yes, this may be naïvely optimistic. But with a new life comes new hope--for Mary, Heather, and the rest of us. In the battle between ideology and reality, reality always wins. Eventually.
Sullivan makes it sound like I actually addressed Poe or Virginia law. I did no such thing. I didn't mention or really even allude to them either. He makes it sound that I've suddenly endorsed civil unions ("Goldberg says he now supports...") when he well knows that this has been my position for years and I've taken heat from social conservatives for it. See here , here , here , here or Robert Knight's attack on me here. He treats my postings to the Corner as if I've set out to lay out my grand vision on gay marriage and then criticizes me for my lack of coherence (a variety of complaints the zig-zagging Party of Andrew should be permanently banned from ever offering). And he treats my whimsical, parenthetical aside about "radio silence" as some incredibly, absurdly, significant fatwah to the troops. My blog posts are not debated sections to some party platform of the Third International, each syllable pregnant with tactical and ideological import. The old Andrew would recognize this.Sullivan taunts. It's a political -- and bloggerly -- strategy. Mary Cheney's pregnancy is an occasion. He uses it. That's what bloggers do. There's an event. You note it, and then you play off of it, springing all your usual opinions, making them exquisitely timely all over again. Tagging other bloggers in the course of your writing is a good way to get them to link to you and boost your visibility. It isn't bad -- it's good -- if they are antagonized and they lash back the way Jonah did. This is the kind of writing keeps the political blogosphere going. (I realize Andrew's piece is in a magazine, but it's linked through his blog, and it operates by the bloggerly method.)
But the new Andrew has a fevered and extremist mind. He takes the positions of zealots of all stripes that if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. There's no space for not caring as much as he does, for not picking sides, for believing that the little platoons of life will fix problems without dragging the state into it or politicizing everything. So, even though I favor gay unions, shun the demonization of gays, ground my arguments against gay marriage firmly in small-c, skeptical conservative, Burkean arguments about the pace of change, and — as he knows — personally treat gays with nothing but respect, I am now nothing more than a nimble enabler of gay bigotry. Despite the plain and obvious meaning of my radio silence comment staring all fair-minded people in the face, he chooses to read my mind and paint me as some sort of Trotskyite strategist, terrified of exposing the internal contradictions of the "Christianist" movement. And, at the same time, he sees nothing wrong with demonizing me as morally stunted for taking a humane, rational, centrist position. Indeed, to the extent I have some grand strategy on the issue of homosexuality (though it is neither grand nor really a strategy so much as a sentiment) it is simply this: to vent some of the heat from the issue on both sides. But, yes, yes I am the extremist, cynically doing the bidding of other extremists.
I'm in a rush this morning because I'm about to record a Bloggingheads.tv episode with Jonah Goldberg. Perhaps this subject will come up, but in any case I'll have more to say about it later. Meanwhile, talk amongst yourselves.
(And toss me another vote here, please.)