Cheney's daughter makes a baby and political statement

February 11, 2007|By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Five words you will never hear from me again in life:

I agree with James Dobson.

Mr. Dobson is the founder of Focus on the Family, a conservative activist group, and ordinarily I couldn't see eye to eye with him on the day of the week. But I agree with him about Mary Cheney.

He wrote about the vice president's pregnant, lesbian daughter in a Time magazine essay in December. Here's part of what he said:

"With all due respect to Cheney and her partner, Heather Poe, the majority of more than 30 years of social-science evidence indicates that children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father. That is not to say Cheney and Poe will not love their child. But love alone is not enough to guarantee healthy growth and development. The two most loving women in the world cannot provide a daddy for a little boy - any more than the two most loving men can be complete role models for a little girl."

In other words, fathers matter, something we seem to have forgotten, so busy are we pretending that women and men are interchangeable. My problem with Ms. Cheney and Ms. Poe is the same problem I'd have with a heterosexual single mom who decided to make herself a baby without benefit of a man in her life. It seems part and parcel of the diminution of fatherhood.

Adopt a child? Sure. Are you gay? Fine. Forced to rear a child alone after you've been widowed or abandoned? God bless. But please don't make this tacit statement that fathers don't matter. They do.

That said, who among us believes the ongoing uproar over Mary Cheney's baby springs solely, or even primarily, from concerns about the need for fathers? What has people exercised isn't that no dad will be in the child's life, but that two moms will.

Ms. Cheney recently broke her silence on the subject. Speaking in New York on a panel sponsored by Glamour magazine, she gestured toward her stomach and said, "This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child."

She is wrong. What Mary Cheney has in her womb is both a child and a political statement. One is reminded of how a simple act such as drinking from a public fountain once became a political statement because some people said other people ought not have the right to do such things.

Similarly, although women all over America are carrying babies right now, Ms. Cheney and any other lesbian who does the same unavoidably makes a political statement. Because some people believe they ought not have the right to do such things.

And no small number of those people serve or support the administration her father represents. The week before Ms. Cheney spoke her piece, Vice President Dick Cheney had a testy exchange with Wolf Blitzer of CNN. When Mr. Blitzer asked whether he would like to respond to conservatives who have criticized his daughter, Mr. Cheney barked that Mr. Blitzer was "out of line."

He, too, is wrong. The Bush administration has used gays as Southern politicians once used (and often still do use) blacks - as scapegoats, bogeymen, distractions. Largely because of that, Heather Poe will have no legal parental rights to "her" child.

I feel for Mary Cheney. It can't be easy to have people impose their narratives upon your pregnancy. But this particular pregnancy has the effect of putting a face on the abstract. What many of us have discussed in theory, we must now contend with in fact.

And maybe the bottom line is that the baby will do what babies always do: It will change the dynamic. It will say: Here I am, world, ready or not.

Seems to me that's a political statement too.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His column appears Sundays in The Sun. His e-mail is lpitts@miamiherald.com.

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