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Sibling Rivalry

Dispute Over Gay Marriage Erupts in Cheney Family

FacebEd Reinke/Associated PressDick Cheney with his daughters, Mary Cheney, left, and Liz, at the Republican National Convention in 2000.

Updated, 10:09 p.m. | WASHINGTON — They were the towheaded sisters who tagged along on campaigns, polite and smiling, as their father rose through Wyoming and then Washington politics to become one of the most powerful men in the country.

“We were as close as sisters can be,” recalled Mary Cheney of her relationship with her older sister, Liz.

But now, a feud between the two has spilled into public view, involving social media, an angry same-sex spouse, a high-profile election and a father who feels uncomfortably caught between his two children.

The situation has deteriorated so much that the two sisters have not spoken since the summer, and the quarrel threatens to get in the way of something former Vice President Dick Cheney desperately wants — a United States Senate seat for Liz.

Things erupted on Sunday when Mary Cheney, a lesbian, and her wife were at home watching “Fox News Sunday” — their usual weekend ritual. Liz Cheney appeared on the show and said that she opposed same-sex marriage, describing it as “just an area where we disagree,” referring to her sister. Taken aback and hurt, Mary Cheney took to her Facebook page to blast back: “Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.”

But then Mary Cheney’s wife, Heather Poe, went further, touching on Liz Cheney’s relocation from Northern Virginia to Wyoming to seek office. (Liz Cheney is already battling accusations of carpetbagging in the race.)

“I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other,” Ms. Poe wrote on her Facebook page. “Yes, Liz,” she added, “in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law.”

The feud reveals tensions not just within the family but in the Republican Party more broadly as it seeks to respond to both a changing America and an energized, fervently conservative base.

Indeed, while Liz Cheney seeks to make clear her opposition to same-sex marriage, her father more than a decade ago was able to embrace fairly moderate views on the subject, breaking publicly with President George W. Bush over Mr. Bush’s support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He has gone further still since then, telling Barbara Walters in 2011, “I certainly don’t have any problem with” same-sex marriage.

But Ms. Cheney, in her bid to defeat Republican Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, is running to his right and seeking to capture conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts.

Matt Young/Associated PressLiz Cheney at a campaign appearance in July.

Liz Cheney on Sunday declined to directly address the remarks from her sister and sister-in-law, but said in an email: “I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them. I believe that is the Christian way to behave.”

People who have spoken to Liz Cheney say she is irritated that her sister is making their dispute public and believes it is hypocritical for Mary Cheney to take such a hard line now, given that she worked for the re-election of President Bush, an opponent of same-sex marriage.

The relationship between the two sisters used to be quite different. The daughters drew especially close when their father ran as Mr. Bush’s running mate in 2000 and eventually became a figure of great controversy and enormous power as vice president. After Mr. Cheney left office in 2009, politically bruised and physically ailing, the sisters, who lived 15 minutes apart in Washington’s tony Northern Virginia suburbs, would join their parents for a standing Sunday dinner at Liz’s house in McLean each week, along with their families, including Ms. Poe.

Mary Cheney, 44, said in a phone interview Sunday that she presumed her sister shared her father’s views on marriage, and that view was reinforced because Liz Cheney “was always very supportive” of her relationship with Ms. Poe and the couple’s two children. She learned otherwise in August when Liz Cheney declared, shortly after announcing her Senate candidacy, that she was opposed to same-sex marriage rights. Mary Cheney said it is now “impossible” for the sisters to reconcile as long as Liz Cheney maintains that position.

“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader,” Mary Cheney said, citing her 47-year-old sister’s slogan in her campaign against Mr. Enzi, 69. “I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that.”

Mary Cheney said it was her wife’s idea for the couple to take to Facebook to respond to Liz’s televised remarks. Ms. Poe seemed especially hurt that her sister-in-law had acted so embracing toward them in private, and then took this public position.

“Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 — she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us,” Ms. Poe wrote. “To have her say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”

In the interview, Mary Cheney, who is a longtime political consultant, said she would continue to raise the matter. Reminded by a reporter that such criticism could complicate her sister’s Senate campaign, Mary Cheney offered a clipped answer reminiscent of her father’s terse style. “O.K.,” she said, before letting silence fill the air.

It is not the substance of the issue that could hurt Liz Cheney in Wyoming — her opponent also opposes same-sex marriage. But the ugly family drama and questions about what Liz Cheney truly believes could reinforce questions about her authenticity in a place where many voters have met their politicians in person and are already skeptical of an outsider like Ms. Cheney, who has lived elsewhere for much of her life. Ms. Cheney’s first ad, which she released last week, was devoted entirely to emphasizing her family’s Wyoming roots.

Wyoming, a sprawling but sparsely populated state, has rarely seen such high-profile primaries, and this one has already featured an ugly Cheney family episode: After former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, a longtime friend of the family who served with Mr. Cheney in the state’s congressional delegation, fretted to The New York Times this summer about how Liz Cheney’s challenge of Mr. Enzi would be divisive among the state’s Republicans, Lynne Cheney, the sisters’ mother and Mr. Cheney’s wife, confronted him at a charity event and told him to “just shut up” — three times, Mr. Simpson claimed. When Lynne Cheney later said that the exchange never happened, Mr. Simpson called her denial “a damn baldfaced lie.”

The former vice president is active and visible in his daughter’s Senate bid and this Wednesday, he will join her in Denver for a fund-raiser to benefit her campaign. Early polls show Liz Cheney trailing Mr. Enzi, but her fund-raising since declaring her candidacy has been robust.

As for Mary Cheney, she said that when she gets together with her parents these days, they know which subjects not to bring up. “They come over for dinner and we don’t talk about Liz or the race,” she said. “There is so much more to talk about.”

The Cheneys have tried to be “as neutral as they can,” added Mary Cheney, who just returned from a pheasant hunting trip with her father in South Dakota. “My parents are stuck in an awful position.”

As for the coming holidays, Mary Cheney said that her parents will come to her and Ms. Poe’s Northern Virginia home for Thanksgiving and that she assumed her older sister would be in Wyoming.

At Christmas, the whole Cheney clan will head to the Jackson Hole area in Wyoming, where Liz Cheney now lives. But Mary Cheney said of her sister, “I will not be seeing her.”

A version of this article appears in print on 11/18/2013, on page A1 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Cheney Sisters In Public Feud Over Marriage.

When all else Fails, Bring in the Gals!


Women in Senate Urge Compromise: As talks to reopen the federal government continue, three Republican senators have emerged as the leading voices for compromise and are illuminating the growing power of women in the Senate.


By  and 
Published: October 14, 2013

WASHINGTON — As the government shutdown dragged on, Senator Susan Collins of Maine was spending another weekend on Capitol Hill, staring at C-Span on her Senate office television as one colleague after another came to the floor to rail about the shuttered government.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, center, on Friday with fellow Senate Republicans, from left, Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte (back to camera), Lisa Murkowski and John McCain.

Frustrated with the lack of progress, Ms. Collins, a Republican, two Saturdays ago quickly zipped out a three-point plan that she thought both parties could live with, marched to the Senate floor and dared her colleagues to come up with something better. A few days later, two other Republican female senators eagerly signed on — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who overcame theTea Party to win re-election in 2010, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who benefited from the Tea Party wave.

Together the three women started a bipartisan group whose negotiating framework formed the centerpiece of a tentative Senate deal nearing completion Monday to reopen the federal government and avert a disastrous default.

“Before I went to the Senate floor, no one was presenting any way out,” Ms. Collins said. “I think what our group did was pave the way, and I’m really happy about that.”

In a Senate still dominated by men, women on both sides of the partisan divide proved to be the driving forces that shaped a negotiated settlement. The three Republican women put aside threats from the right to advance the interests of their shutdown-weary states and asserted their own political independence.

“I probably will have retribution in my state,” Ms. Murkowski said. “That’s fine. That doesn’t bother me at all. If there is backlash, hey, that’s what goes on in D.C., but in the meantime there is a government that is shut down. There are people who are really hurting.”

Two powerful women on the Democratic side of the aisle — Senators Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and Patty Murray of Washington — took a hard line and pressed their Republican counterparts to temper their demands, but they also offered crucial points of compromise.

Together, the five senators starkly showed off the increasing power of women — even those who are not on the relevant committees — as their numbers grow in the upper chamber. Of the 13 senators on a bipartisan committee who worked on the deal framework, about half were women, even though women make up only 20 percent of the Senate. Senator John McCain of Arizona joked at several points in their meetings, “The women are taking over.”

Senator Joe Manchin III, Ms. Collins’s first Democratic collaborator, said: “That gender mix was great. It helped tremendously.” He added: “Would it have worked as well if it had been 12 women or 12 men? I can’t say for sure, but it worked pretty well with what we had.”

The women are hardly in lock step politically. But their practice of meeting regularly and working on smaller bills together, even in a highly polarized Congress, set the stage for more significant legislation. Ms. Ayotte and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, hosted an informal get-together for women in the Senate last Monday evening.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that women were so heavily involved in trying to end this stalemate,” Ms. Collins said. “Although we span the ideological spectrum, we are used to working together in a collaborative way.”

More than two weeks into a government shutdown, Washington is now two short days from a possible default on federal obligations. The women showed pragmatism as negotiators in the midst of fierce partisanship and a level of frustration with the leaders of both parties that reflect their constituents and the nation.

“Where we find ourselves right now is unacceptable for America,” Ms. Ayotte said on the Senate floor. “It’s unacceptable as leaders that have been elected by the people of this country. We owe it to our constituents to resolve this now.”

The Republican women involved in the compromise represented three of their party’s four female members. (Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska did not participate.) The bipartisan negotiating group included three Democratic senators as well, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Ms. Shaheen. The strongest Democratic voices counseling a hard line were also women.

Ms. Murray is chairwoman of the Budget Committee and would have primary responsibility for turning any broad agreement into a detailed plan for tax and spending policy over the next decade. Ms. Mikulski, who leads the powerful Appropriations Committee, has been the most forceful voice in efforts to blunt the impact of future budget cuts.

“Patty and I were e-mailing all weekend,” Ms. Collins said. “I was not off the phone for longer than 20 minutes yesterday.”

It was Ms. Murray who suggested language ordering an immediate start to budget talks. That language tempered Democratic concerns that the emerging deal would lock in across-the-board spending cuts for next year.

In contrast, Ms. Mikulski’s Republican counterpart on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, and the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, were notably absent from the talks. Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, complained over the weekend that the Collins negotiations had excluded House Republicans.

The leader of the Republican trio, Ms. Collins, has emerged as the most powerful moderate in the Senate, and like her fellow Mainer and now-retired Senator Olympia J. Snowe, often shows her own flair for the dramatic — the only Republican vote on several high-profile Democratic bills and the must-have Republican.

Ms. Ayotte, best known in the Senate for her hawkish foreign policy associations with fellow Republican Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is using the moment to pursue an issue she has mostly paid lip service to: finding money for a military with its wings clipped by automatic spending cuts.

Brimming with frustration, Ms. Ayotte went to the Senate floor earlier this month to deliver what her own staff now calls “the reality check” speech. Members of her own party had embraced “an ill-conceived strategy” to tie further financing of the government to gutting the president’s health care law, she said. The government shut down, yet the health care law is moving forward.

“I would say to my Republican colleagues in the House and to some in this chamber, it’s time for a reality check,” she said.

Ms. Murkowski has been nursing wounds since the Republican establishment abandoned her in the wake of her defeat by a Tea Party candidate in the 2010 primary. She won as a write-in candidate and has seized the chance to assert her independence.

“Politics be damned,” she said Monday.






A Season of Conciliation

If you look at the headlines out of Washington, DC right now, it isn’t hard to see why Sen. Harry Reid is saying that Washington is broken. After all, Congress is even fighting over how to fight (that’s what the question of filibuster reform is about) and for the first time in two terms, Americans are saying they do not believe President Barack Obama is honest. I disagree with a lot of this administration’s policies, particularly around Obamacare, but the person? That’s a little harsh. No wonder so many reasonable people are either getting out of Congress or opting not to run. 

In story after story, we can see how this moment is being shaped, not by what Americans want or need from their government but from the iron triangle of Congress, Special Interests and the Media. 

Except in one story. Whose significance should not be undervalued. President George H.W. Bush and President Barack Obama held a press conference at the White House to present an award to an Iowa couple who created a non-profit that feeds hungry children in 15 countries. President Obama paid tribute to the elder Bush for “how bright a light you shine” and marveled at the fact that the elder Bush parachuted out of a plane at 85.   There is no mistaking that these two Presidents are rising above the partisanship that is turning so many voters off to politics altogether. And that is leadership. 

The senior Bush said it clearly when he went on ABC’s “This Week” recently, “I think it’s very important to fix a broken system and to treat people with respect and to have confidence in our ability to assimilate people.” 

The middle, that reasonable ground in the center, where we parse through legislation and compromise, is missing in action. And when 90% of Americans say they want a federal ban on assault weapons only to watch it get shot down by the NRA, no wonder they’re losing faith in their government. What about the rollout right now on Obamacare and how hard it is to find objective information? This article is one writer’s attempt to explain the program but even this article, while well-intentioned, claims Medicaid will be “free.”  And just a couple of paragraphs later says it’s going to cost the government a lot of money. We are our government. And that disconnect is not only expensive in a financial sense; it’s bankrupting us spiritually. That’s why we need both sides to start working together with an eye to what the American people want from them. Because the cost of all this partisan gridlock and spin is about more than dollars and cents. 



Bi-Partisanship is breaking out on Capitol Hill

 WASHINGTON (AP) — A filibuster averted. A likely accord on immigration reform. A former Republican presidential candidate thanked — publicly! — by the Senate’s top Democrat. Lawmakers of both parties lunched together for the first time many could remember, agreeing to agree on the heroism of Sen. John McCain and the tragedy of the Newtown, Conn., massacre.

Bipartisanship broke out on Capitol Hill on Thursday, a newsy development after years of polarization that infuriated the public, brought Congress to a near-halt and the country to the brink of economic disaster. It could all blow to pieces by the time you read this article — fierce disputes remain on gun control and immigration, among others issues. And looming over it all is a midterm election next year with big implications for the divided government and President Barack Obama’s legacy.

But let history record that for a full day in battle-scarred Washington there it was: legislative progress, bipartisan bread-breaking and the emotional stuff of human relationships long-mourned and little-seen in recent years.

Obama helped set the harmonic tone in his budget Wednesday, calling for cuts in benefit programsRepublicans have been seeking for years, a gesture widely seen as an effort to preserve the prospects of immigration and gun control legislation.

But at the center of all of the civility was McCain, the president’s vanquished GOP opponent from the 2008 presidential election. The gruff Washington veteran, Vietnam war hero and, lately, scolder of would-be obstructionists in his own party threw cold water on a filibuster threat by 13 conservative senators who oppose gun control.

“What are we afraid of?” the Arizona senator said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”Why not take it up and amend it and debate?”

A bipartisan gun control deal by freshman Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., inspired Senate conservatives to drop their filibuster plans, even though many Republicans who allowed the legislation to advance said they were unlikely to vote for its passage. Also helping to remove the obstruction were the family members of some of the 20 children and six adults murdered by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School who had spent days lobbying lawmakers for strictergun control laws. Several lawmakers said they were brought to tears in those meetings.

On Thursday, the Senate departed from its streak of legislating by filibuster. Under the grim gaze of Sandy Hook victims’ relatives, 16 Republicans voted with 50 Democrats and two independents to begin debate on tightening the nation’s gun laws. In the gallery over the chamber, some in the delegation wiped away tears, held hands and appeared to pray as each senator cast a vote.

Much emotional debate lay ahead and the Toomey-Manchin bill’s fate was far from certain. But after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave Republicans — “especially John McCain” — some rare, nationally televised credit for the progress.

“There have been many things written in the last several months about how the Senate cannot operate,” Reid, who frequently decries congressional dysfunction, said on the Senate floor. “John McCain has been a leader in this country for 31 years. People respect his opinion.”

Senators then adjourned to spend time together at a lunch for McCain to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his release from captivity in Vietnam. In a gilded room named for John, Robert and Edward Kennedy, surrounded by black-and-white photos of a young McCain returning on crutches, Republicans, Democrats and independents dined on enchiladas and tilapia as McCain revealed harrowing details of his captivity and torture.

The account of McCain’s five years as a POW was new to some in attendance. Several said they were moved to tears by it, reminded again of bigger matters than how this or that vote would go over with certain constituents back home.

“It makes you think about the human condition,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

Even Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican tea partyer whose 12-hour filibuster delaying the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director inspired a rebuke from McCain, emerged reporting good times.

“He got a standing ovation from both parties,” Paul said. “The idea of defending the country brings everybody together.”

Late in the day, there was even more apparent progress: Four Democratic and four Republican senators reached agreement on all the major elements of sweeping legislation to remake the nation’s immigration laws, and expect to unveil the bill next week.

Don’t get used to all this civility and forward motion, Reid warned.

“The hard work,” he said, “starts now.”

What Ashley Judd and Todd Akin are doing in the same sentence

What Ashley Judd and Todd Akin are doing in the same sentence

Bill Lambrecht, Post-Dispatch

WASHINGTON • It’s unclear where it started, probably in blogging land.

But it stuck, and across the internet the actor and U.S. Senate candidate-in-waiting is being compared to the former Missouri congressman in this shorthand: Is Ashley Judd the Democrats’ Todd Akin?

Her supporters rebut the analogy vigorously, but it’s a certainty that if Judd continues on her path to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., in 2014, her past remarks would put her under Akin-like scrutiny.

National Journal’s headline on a story yesterday read thusly: Is Ashley Judd a 30-second ad waiting to happen?

The piece by Jill Lawrence observes that Judd, an activist on women’s issues and other matters, has uttered incendiary things like: “The era of the coal plant is over.”

That might not be the most prudent campaign platform in the state that ranks third in coal production.

Judd, 44, has no qualms about talking publicly about rape. She has spoken of being a three-time rape survivor, and offered comments that some might find inspiring but others in a red state like Kentucky could find hard to digest.

Akin enters the picture again in the recounting of her response to his fateful remarks last August about “legitimate rape” and the female capacity to ward off rape from pregnancy.

“At any time, in any relationship, at any age, and in any place, rape is rape,” CNN reported her saying at the Democratic National Convention last year.

“If we make medically accurate sex education available to boys and girls and women and men, and we make modern family planning available to them, (then) we prevent unintended pregnancy,” she said.

Another account said she recalled her work on behalf of women in Congo, remarking that “most of them conceived in rape” — and then made a “gesture” regarding Akin.”

Judd’s supporters contend that women especially would appreciate her straight talk. And rather than a Hollywood loose cannon as cast by her detractors, they see her as a thoughtful, committed professional who took the time recently to get an M.A. from Harvard.

Provocative or not, Judd surely likely would elevate the Kentucky contest to the marquee Senate race in 2014.


The Color of our Cultural Riff: Grey / Christine Doyle

The Color of our Cultural Riff: Grey / Christine Doyle

If our cultural riff had a color right now, it would be grey.

Do you know one of the most popular baby names in the last couple of years was, “Gray?” And did you know it means, “Kind King or Ruler.”

Did you also know that the Mayor of Washington, DC, a city where half of its city council has either been indicted or investigated by the feds for crimes ranging from tax evasion to drug possession, is named Mayor Vincent Gray? And that, in spite of this spotty record, Mayor Gray doesn’t believe his city council has a problem with corruption.

How about the fact that one of the most popular books last year was a book called, “50 Shades of Grey.” That WOMEN loved. How can women love a story about a mysoginst?  Well,  according to Psychologist Paul Hockmeyer from Dr.,  once you got past a book full of fairly risque stuff, the story was really about trust and growth.

Grey has traditionally been associated with men when it comes to marketing. Think Grey Goose Vodka, Grey Flannel or Grey Vetiver cologne. Or the kind of wisdom that used to keep you in Congress, not put you at risk for getting booted out of it. Or with the weather, as in “grey skies.”

The other day I was out walking in a local park. It was a damp, muted, typical late winter day. And there were church bells ringing at 2 in the afternoon. Must have been a funeral.

I thought, “Something has died in this country, too.” When innocent children are shot at school. When a Dad testifying about the son he lost in the Sandy Hook shootings is heckled. When a talented, non-violent 15 year old from Chicago is killed in a shooting less than two weeks after singing at the President’s inauguration.

What needs to die is the black and white thinking that has blocked progress and stymied Washington. Grey matters. And right now, we need to address why this concept of “grey” is sweeping our country by storm.

I can think of no better example of someone to bust up the deadlock on guns and safety in our country than Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who is both the victim of a deranged gunman and a staunch advocate for the second amendment or the right to bear arms and defend one’s home.

ModerateMoms pulled together a group of interesting women the other day to talk about where our site goes in the next year. We all agree the conversations around politics are changing. People can predict where the line in the sand will be drawn and they are turning away as a result. If we want to pull them back, we need to challenge the status quo and to come up with a third way of looking at things. That is where the solutions will lie, in the grey matter, in the zone where perceptions and emotions, create connections. And black and white thinking destroys them.

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