Friday, October 15, 2004

John Kerry's Regression to the Mean

The press room groaned. The audience shifted in their seats. This blogger cringed. And the electorate began expressing its disapproval. John Kerry had just deliberately turned a question about the nature of homosexuality into a shameless exploitation of his opponent's family member:

''We're all God's children . . . And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."

Gratuitous. Condescending. Calculated. Smug. Ruthless. Inappropriate. And entirely consistent with our gut instincts regarding Kerry's underlying character. His comment wasn't an "outlier" but Regression to the Mean.

No, being offended by Kerry's gambit is not a sign of one's intolerance towards gays. It is the appropriate reaction to a cynical politician's efforts to co-opt the ethos of his opponent's family.

And Security Moms aren't likely to reward this roadside bomb on the road to the White House.

Gratuitous Insincerity isn't a winning campaign slogan. And when Mary's mother Lynne expressed her outrage, Elizabeth Edwards decided to pile on the condescension like only a trial lawyer's portly wife could:

"She's (Lynne Cheney) overreacted to this and treated it as if it's shameful to have this discussion. I think that's a very sad state of affairs. ... I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences. ... It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response."

A Boston Brahmin outing an opponent's gay daughter. A frumpy running mate's wife presuming to tell her counterparts how to love their daughter. A campaign manager's description of spotlighting an opponents daughter as "fair game." Methinks this is the inflection point where policy positions and debate performance (outliers) are trumped by voter perceptions coalescing around the true nature of Mr. Kerry - mean.