For a feminist party, Democrats have a problem with women, or rather, with one certain type: young and/or youngish, cute and/or stunning, with good hair, many children and outspoken center-right views.
Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman (dark hair, with five children) first roused the beast, and misogynist instincts. Now there’s Liz Cheney, (blond, with five children), whom they themselves have made into a star.
There she was, working away with her father on his memoir when they began to attack him, and she turned up on cable defending his record. She became a sensation, and they started to growl.
Now she’s founded a Web site — Keep America Safe — with Bill Kristol and Debra Burlingame (sister of the pilot whose plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11) — to critique Obama on security issues. People began talking of “Sen. Cheney.” And then it hit the fan.
At Vanity Fair, Michael Wolff pawed through the adjective bin and came up with a handful, calling her “pernicious” and “venomous,” and that was just the beginning. She was also “sour, wounded, aggrieved, graceless, paranoid … self-pitying, doubtless, extreme, aggressive and defensive, she might literally kill you and your kind if she could.”
On the other hand, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, while calling her a “front” for Bill Kristol, found her enchanting. “A very delightful young woman,” he said on his program. “She’s great. You can chat with her … nothing strange about her at all.”
This freaked out Michelle Cottle, alarmed at this and at an another appearance on “Morning Joe,” where the interviewers talked as if she and her father were real human beings, the sin of all sins on the left.
“Gag,” she wrote on the Web site, The Plank, and advised them to find the “right blend of non-brutish ruthlessness” to eviscerate her without seeming to do so. “Liz Cheney is a particularly dangerous combination of sweet-as-sugar looks and savage instincts,” she warned.
“Going at her roughly and directly as she does her opponents could backfire. But cutting her any slack — or sitting by as media types coo, gurgle, and make … goo-goo eyes at her is a good way to wind up stuck in the undercarriage of her SUV.”
Actually, there is a real way to refute her, but it seems to be hard to deploy. It’s to say politely, “Your ideas are mistaken,” and then calmly explain how and why. In practice, however, this hasn’t worked out.
In March, when Obama was still very popular, she and her father opposed him on “torture,” Guantanamo Bay and other security issues, and sent The One packing. By summer, she was on so many news shows that liberal bloggers attacked the programmers who gave her exposure. This is the sign she was being effective. If she were hurting her cause (or her father) they’d want her on air all the time.
Wolff (and Maureen Dowd) try to damn her by saying she’s part of some dark Cheney enterprise, but the reason they loathe her isn’t dear dad. She’s what they fear most, a rock star with outreach, a feminine woman who isn’t a feminist, a conviction politician who crosses culture lines easily, and isn’t easily set up or mocked.
She’s Palin-plus (Palin, plus pedigree), who Palin would be if she had been marinated from birth in the Beltway political culture plus a top-ranking school and a mother who was one of the first stars of “Crossfire,” minus the embarrassing ex-almost-son-in-law, the moose and the family drama.
“Saturday Night Live” would have a hard time getting her number. She has conservative cred, but expressed in a Beltway-type patois that Blue State independents do not find threatening.
She’s a Palin who could tie Katie Couric in knots, a mom from McLean who could be Cottle’s neighbor. Moms from McLean could be her constituents. Cottle couldn’t easily explain to a non-left-wing neighbor why Cheney is “dangerous.” That’s why Cottle hates her and wants her destroyed.
That’s why Liz, and those like her, bring out the witch-hunting bloodlust in liberals; why “gutsy” and “tough” in a Hillary Clinton become “savage” and “rough” in a female conservative. They ought to get over this fear of strong women. It’s what they told us to do.
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”