It’s Dick Cheney Versus CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: Who Is “Out Of Line?”

joe_cheney_angels_small.jpgAnd here we all thought Vice President Dick Cheney was the Vice President of the United States…when his REAL job is editor and media critic.

(Attention Jay Rosen: has the Veep approached you yet to be a coblogger on your GREAT media blog Press Think?)

It seems that Mr. Cheney was on CNN’s The Situation Room with veteran journalist Wolf Blitzer when Blitzer dared to ask Cheney about some negative comments that Focus on the Family — a religious right group that has generally supported the Bush administration and its various campaigns — made about Cheney’s gay daughter’s pregnancy.

Cheney considered the CNN host’s question “out of line” and let Blitzer know that in no uncertain terms several times. Watch it on Crooks And Liars HERE.

Was Blitzer out of line?

There is indeed a privacy issue. However, the story about his daughter Mary’s pregnancy has not exactly been a state secret. It has been all over the airwaves, linked to or written about on many weblogs, covered in the print media. So it is a LEGITIMATE topic — one that Blitzer has not broken in the news media. He isn’t revealing a big secret uncovered by any CNN investigation. You can Google Mary Cheney and find lots of things on Google News and on Google Web.

And there is a LEGITIMATE journalistic question to be asked if Focus on the Family — which is against gay marriage, usually supports the administration, and enjoys warm ties to an administration and a Republican party that has studiously cultivated it — takes a swipe that’s clearly sparked by daughter Mary.

Cheney was using a political form of ju jitsu: by calling Blitzer “out of line” he was suggesting that Blitzer is somehow bigoted against his daughter or the story is somehow off limits.

Is Blitzer the bad guy?

He’s doing his job as a journalist. When he interviews Cheney — or Hillary Clinton or any Democrat, for that matter — his job is to ask a host of questions, some of them tough, and some of them touching on controversies already out there in the news.

If Cheney wanted softball questions, then why didn’t he do what he usually does: why not just give another exclusive interview to Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh?

The issue isn’t Wolf Blitzer being a mean, old, partially-unshaven journalist who’s picking on poor Dick Cheney or his daughter by raising the “l” issue out of the blue. The issue is journalists asking the tough questions journalism schools for years have taught reporters to ask and editors have EXPECTED reporters who’ve paid their dues to ask. The big issue is attemped news management via intimidation of reporters.

Blitzer and other reporters should make sure they ask these kinds of questions…to all of them: Republicans and Democrats and Independents (and Independent Democrats).

There’s a difference between a hack question based on supposition or a “push poll” type question planted by a political operative to smear a politico, and a legitimate question about a widely-covered, ongoing news story. Blitzer asked a question based on an ongoing news story and for a comment on a statement isssued by a group that usually supports Cheney and the Republicans.

SOME OTHER VIEWS ON THIS MINI-CONTROVERSY:

Andrew Sullivan:

The vice-president really does believe that he can somehow champion a party that declares that his daughter must be barred from any legal protections for her child and marriage and never be confronted with the contradiction. Sorry, Mr vice-president, but one day you will have to address how you can front a party dedicated to smearing, marginalizing and disenfranchising a member of your own family. Wolf Blitzer’s question is not out of line. Your hypocrisy is.

Right Voices: “Bring up Cheney’s daughter and you get what you deserve.”

The Agonist:

What really bothers me is that Blitzer was so apologetic about asking a question about Cheney’s gay daughter. Cheney supports Bush who opposes gay marriage and gays having children. So, Wolf’s question is completely in line. Cheney’s a hypocrite, period. But here’s what is going to happen: Cheney and the usual suspects will use this interview as another cudgel to beat up on all them libruls and the librul media and then go do the rest of his interviews with Faux News. I wish Blitzer had just stayed away from the question because it’s a loser. Period.

Digby: “Right. He’s out of line for asking about it. James Dobson, on the other hand, is treated like royalty. These Cheneys are clearly the ones who invented conservative upside-downism, which shouldn’t be surprising since Lynn wrote the book on liberal moral relativism. Black is white — evil is good — conservatives are moral.”

Jersey Is For Lovers:

I find it painfully obvious the Wolf would never of brought this subject up if he were interviewing a gay celebrity. It’s only at times when his morals will not be called to judgment.

Instead of falling into Blitzer’s trap, Dick Cheney replies in a simple “No, I don’t�, when asked if he would like to speak on the subject, followed by a death stare that would scare away a hungry wolf (haha and it did! Mmmm…puns). Was his passive-aggressive outburst called for? Probobly not. Cheney goes on to say how happy he is to have a 6th grandchild, nearly one for each coronary. Wolf sits bumbling until the tension clears. Funny stuff.

Wizbang: “I love how Cheney stares down Blitzer until he left a stammering blob of jello.”

America Wants To Know:

Actors who want to do a character study of anger should get a copy of that tape. Dick Cheney has been in politics and public life a long, long time, and he said all the things that politicians say when confronted with nasty quotes and questions. It wasn’t so much what he said. It was the way he said it. Words were coming out of him like bullets. Interesting. Something’s coming.

UPDATE: Watch it yourself here via You Tube and make your own decision. Most noteworthy: Cheney’s withering look and Blitzer feeling uncomfortable that he is asking the question (which does not mean it’s an inappropriate one since oftentimes journalists have a tough question on their list that is one they wish they didn’t have to ask but feel they must since it is a valid question that’s out there):
YouTube Preview Image

  • Lynx

    The insinuation is that “that’s personal, it has nothing do do with the issues”. Well, besides the fact that it is a curious little contradiction to belong and wholeheartedly support a party that thinks your daughter is “unnatural” or that they should have their future baby taken away from them, there is a sharp stench of hypocrisy.

    Can you imagine a right wing pundit’s reaction if Clinton had said “you’re out of line” or something similar one of the, oh say 1.000 times he was asked about Lewinsky? And this was a blowjob, it had no actual relation to policy, while the contradiction of being a central part of a party that would undermine the person closest to you does.

    Was it a nice question? No. Since when are reporters supposed to be nice to politicians? If it has a relationship to policy, then it can be asked. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be some limits; Wolfe shouldn’t ask “Mr. Cheney, do you agree that you’re daughter is a selfish hedonist, as stated by Alan Keyes?”. There should be limits for good taste and manners, but in such a way so that these issues are not off limits.

  • http://www.bloggledygook.com Daniel Berczik

    Yeah, so Dick Cheney was asked a question he didn’t like and took it out on Wolf and some are complaining. Reminds me of Bill Clinton being asked a question he didn’t like and taking it out on Chris Wallace and some are complaining.

    I suppose that it all depends on whose hero is being embarrassed so as to predict who will be outraged at the question or the answer.

  • http://www.dylankissane.com Dylan Kissane

    Lynx: “Can you imagine a right wing pundit’s reaction if Clinton had said “you’re out of lineâ€? or something similar one of the, oh say 1.000 times he was asked about Lewinsky?”

    That analogy is misleading. The correct analogy would be Al Gore (Clinton’s VP) being asked about his daughter refusing to give blow-jobs to a superior at her place of work.

    Gore was supportive of a President who was happy to engage in such behaviour – just as Cheney is supportive of a party that is anti-gay.

    Would it be out of line for a journalist to ask Gore about how his daughter’s stance on oral sex is out of line with his boss’s position on the same? I think so.

  • Lynx

    Dylan, can you explain what blowjobs have to do with policy? If Clinton gets a blowjob, does that affect the blowjob of millions all over the US. Does he support a “blowjob ban” in the constitution that would hurt millions of blowjobers and blowjobees?

    Something that doesn’t affect the general workings of the country and is personal I think should be off limits. Something that affect the rest of the country and has a personal component should be allowed. Naturally since you’re mixing the personal with the policy I think it should be done gently and with taste, but it shouldn’t be banned.

  • gal

    Wolf didn’t handle it well — why didn’t he put it in the context of the fact that James Dobson and FotF are the base of the administration’s supporters? He really did seem to crumble in the face of Cheney’s response.

    Dylan, your analogy makes no sense at all to me.

  • CStanley

    Lynx,
    Actually I do recall liberals complaining every time Clinton’s sexual behavior was brought up (and, to an extent, rightly so: I think it was a legitimate issue but I think the impeachment was ridiculous). But your argument doesn’t hold water because Democrats DID think it was out of line when the Lewinsky affair was made into an issue, and many said for example that Starr shouldn’t have been delving into this at all.

    And as to the issue of fair questions in journalism? Well, it’s fair to ask questions but also fair for people to decline to answer them, as Cheney did. Note that Cheney didn’t make the “out of line” statement until after Wolf pressed. Wolf asked if he had any comment on the Focus on the Family statement and Cheney answered “No.” That should have been the end of it, but Wolf didn’t let it go. What was out of line was not the initial question but Wolf’s persistence in trying to get Cheney to say something that he clearly was not going to say. Yes, Cheney’s daughter’s gay relationship and the birth of her child are common knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that the family feelings about it should be aired in public beyond what Cheney has already offered about his love for Mary and her child.

    The idea that Cheney can’t simultaneously believe that gay marriage/parenthood is not ideal but also love his daughter and granddaughter is patently absurd. I know many people (including famiy members) who’ve had children via in vitro fertilization, for example. I personally believe that this procedure is immoral and unethical, but I still love these friends and family members and their children. What is actually a practice of utmost tolerance for some is being twisted into an act of hypocrisy. Tolerance dictates that we might disapprove of the actions of others but we still respect that they should make their own judgements. It isn’t wrong for me to have a value judgement in a generic way about a certain practice, but it would be wrong for me to judge the people who engage in it.

  • CStanley

    Lynx,
    Our last two posts crossed so I see now the distinction you are making between private issues that are related to public policy and those that are not. But I still say that people always have a right to decline to answer personal questions. Cheney has a right to disallow his daughter and grandchild’s personal lives to be politicized. If reporters continue to try to politicize a private family matter, then there is likely to be backlash on both sides.

  • Pug

    That analogy is misleading. The correct analogy would be Al Gore (Clinton’s VP) being asked about his daughter refusing to give blow-jobs to a superior at her place of work.

    Nice try, but really, really off the mark. Lewinski wasn’t asked, by the way, to give a blow job. She was a volunteer. “Refusing” had nothing to do with it.

    Please note, too, that Cheney wasn’t man enough to defend his own daughter against the clown from Colorado, Dobson. The way both Cheney and McCain suck up to Dobson is a sad commentary on the Republican Party.

  • Upinsmoke

    Joe Ill only say this once. Its been and should continue to be the unwritten word of law in policics.

    FAMILIES are OUT OF BOUNDS and are no touch subjects.

    Chennys daughter did not ask to be in the spotlight and neither did Chelsea Clinton or any of the other families. So Unless the family members start breaking the law then they should continue to remain off radar. PERIOD.

    A gay woman thats Pregnant is not asking to be in the spotlight. Dick Chenny is Anti Gay. His daughter is GAY. His administration enjoys support from a special interest that is antigay. Fine. ASk those questions but:

    LEAVE FAMILY OUT OF IT………..PERIOD. Because sir if you started bad mouthing my family there are many people in the everyday world that would kick your arse. (Im talking to Wolf Blitzer here now) Wolf is being a pompous ASS right now for this line of questioning.

    Dont belive me? Go into a bar find a nice strapping young man and tell him you dont like his gay sister.

  • Upinsmoke

    Lynx. This blog is for you.

    So lets take a trip down lifes lane.

    You are a politician Lynx. You campaign on No drugs. Your daughter is busted for taking drugs. Now there you go you are endorsing a position that is opposed to your daughters beliefs.

    You are a politician Lynx. You Camapign against the war in Iraq. Your son joins the Army and is shipped off to Iraq. There you go again. You are endorsing a position that is opposed to your sons beliefs.

    You are a politician Lynx. You Campaign against Do not drink and drive. Your daughter gets picked up not driving drunk but being in a car DRUNK with someone else who is driving drunk. There you go again. You are endorsing a position that is opposed to what your daughter considers OK.

    See this is called LIFE. LIFE is a journey that we do NOT take alone. Many go with us on this journey. During that journey we hit lots of potholes, snags, boobie traps(pun intended)and obstacles that try to steer us off course and make things genuinely difficult.

    We form a set of rules that lead us thru life. Many times these rules are met with challenges on the way. (((Is what I belive really the way it is or is it just that I perceive it to be the way it is.)))Here is Dick Chenny cruising along life’s highway into his golden years happy in his beliefs and ready for social security when suddenly a huge pothole in his life shakes the wagon. His daughter is GAY.

    I’m not sure how old you are. But what you belive today will be different then what you believe 20 years from now. Trust me. ITS CALLED LIFE. Life does that to people.

  • CStanley

    Although I often disagree with your tone and presentation of arguments, upinsmoke, I do think that you make good points in comment #10.

    To get back to Lynx’s argument about issues being on the table if they concern public policy, I guess I’d agree if this was about Cheney himself (if he were found to be having a homosexual affair, for example.) But to somehow imply that he should have any control over his adult daughter’s life choices, or that he should condemn her if he doesn’t agree with them, is preposterous IMO.

  • Jason Shapiro

    When Bush, Cheney, Senators, and Congressman make official pronouncements, such as offering support for Constitutional amendments, that go beyond mere expressions of opinion but actively seek to discriminate against certain citizens, then the issue becomes political. When Dobson and his minions not only demonize selected segments of the population but also spend millions of dollars to actively lobby Congress to codify such demonizations, then the issue becomes political. I have seen precious little “tolerance� by the religious right and their political allies regarding any issues involving reproductive rights or human sexuality. Indeed, it would be refreshing for these people to adopt CStanley’s phrase “Tolerance dictates that we might disapprove of the actions of others but we still respect that they should make their own judgements (sic).� The fact remains that Cheney is a ultimately a civil servant in a highly politicized position and questions that involve politics and public policy, even when they touch on personal matters, are not out of bounds.

    As far as Cheney is concerned, a simple statement that “I love my daughter irrespective of her choices. Now let’s move on,� would have answered Blitzer’s inquiry and ended the matter. Instead, Cheney goes back to the same response that he always gives about questions that displease him. Questions concerning our actions in Iraq, his “secret� energy meetings, the Valerie Plame case, etc. are always met with a variation of “It’s none of your business,� or as he so colorfully told Senator Leahy “Go **** yourself.� This entire exchange tells us much more about Cheney than Blitzer.

  • CStanley

    Jason,
    Cheney has repeatedly been asked about how he reconciles his public policy position and his family’s experience. Here’s an account of an exchange that took place during a campaign, for example. He’s also stated almost verbatim what you said he should have said, “I love my daughter irrespective of her choices, now let’s move on.” Maybe he should have used that exact wording again with Blitzer, but Blitzer knew very well that this is Cheney’s position, he just refused to move on.

  • Rudi

    The Cheney family has used it’s position for personal gain. I don’t recall the Ford children or Chelsea Cliton using their position like the Cheney daughter. Mary Cheney used her name to ‘hawk’ Coors beer to the gay/lesbian community. She also worked on her father campaign.

    The other daughter takes nepotism to another level. From the DoS webpage:
    Dept of Cheney

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today announced the selection of Elizabeth Cheney as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and Coordinator for Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives.

    Can anyone say Office of Special Plans.

  • Marlowecan

    Comrade Rudi…Mary Cheney was effectively anonymous in the public eye before the Democrats and Gay activists used her as a weapon.

    My partner is a crazed liberal who can’t even mention Bush’s name without spitting. I imagine in even among your Limousine Liberal friends in Hollywood and Berkeley there might be some who are closet conservatives. Would we hold that against you.

    We all know “BOLDFACED” names get preferential treatment. There was some scepticism regarding Chelsea’s application to University College, Oxford. That is life.

    Clearly, the Cheney’s don’t approve of homosexuality. But they also love their daughter. I don’t see that as hypocritical.

    Blitzer was being political. Pure and simple.

    Recall both Edwards AND Kerry mentioning her in the 04 debates in an utterly unctuous and slimy way. To paraphrase: “Yes, that question on Iraq is interesting, but before I get to that I just want to mention my admiration for my opponent’s running mate’s daughter who is a LESBIAN. As a Democrat I support diversity, particularly for LESBIANS.”

    Blitzer echoed Kerry/Edwards eeriely: “We all love your daughter and her baby…but….”

    Darth Cheney knows false sincerity when he hears it, and would have choked Blitzer with his Dark Side powers had not they been on camera.

    It was a political hit, and Cheney hit back.

  • http://www.rising-hegemon.blogspot.com/ attaturk

    I remember being deluged with about 400 straight days of discussions about cum-stains on blue dresses and the distinguishing characteristics of Bill Clinton’s penis being discussed openly among every journalist in D.C.

    And yet THIS is somehow personal?

  • Rudi

    Komrad Marlow – You didn’t address the Ford family, where is their nepotism? What about Liz Cheney’s(daughter) qualifications? Dick Cheney has used government as a fiefdom and has the arrogance of royalty. Even the Bush twins don’t work in the DoD or try to make things better for Mobil amogst the 20-something crowd. Chelsea used her name to go to good schools, then she joined the private sector. Liz Cheney was in the DoS as her fathers mole, I don’t recall Susan Ford working for the Reagan administration.

  • uncle joe mccarthy

    the entire interview had darth cheney attacking blitzer for his questions, and the spineless one almost apologizing for asking them.

    the question was not out of line.

    here we have a vp that only came to power thx to his party cowtowing to the religious right.

    but blitzer formed the question wrong…he should have not left it open ended and should have asked darth if he agreed with the statement, and if not why…and he should have kept pressing

    no more duck and cover for the vp

    come on dick…tell us how proud you are of your rug munching brat

    tell us that you are proud to be the grandfather of a bastard.

  • Lynx

    Upinsmoke, in any of those cases I would simply state that I do not agree with my family on everything, but keep the fact that they are my family before any political belief. I might also mention that one of the sacrifices a politician has to make is to sometimes make decisions that negatively affect you or your loved ones but that you know are good for the country as a whole. Note that all your examples are also about choices, while being gay is not a choice. I’m not saying that Cheney should be expected to control his daughters gayness (never mind it would be impossible) or that any questions on the matter shouldn’t be done without proper respect and consideration, just that when politics and personal mix, they mix. If Obama’s wife were muslim, would you be outraged if he were asked about that?

    Gotta run for a meeting now, bye!

  • Sam

    Blitzer was out of line. He’s hitting Cheney on an issue the is just about meaningless in light of a botched war and incompetent national policies that have set this country back at least 10 years. Blitzer is trying to score some cheap political points. Btw, I hate Cheney’s guts, but lets talk about some real issues.

  • Rudi

    Mrs. Dick Cheney goes on CNN and Fox to help with the spin. I don’t recall Pat Nixon or Betty Ford hawking their administration policies. The Cheney family act as is they are ROYALTY, let the masses ‘eat cake’.

  • Marlowecan

    Rudi the Red observed: “Komrad Marlow – You didn’t address the Ford family, where is their nepotism?”

    No, you be right. The Ford family, from what I know, have been a class act.

    But man, you are shocked at neopostism in Washington? What about Reid’s five sons…all lobbyists (and dependent on their father)? What about the Pelosi family’s fiefdom in San Fran? They are all an elite, who would set the dogs on us plebes faster than you can say Montgomery Burns.

    Outraged at nepotism in Washington? I can only conclude you are echoing Claude Rains in “Casablanca”. Shocked, shocked…

  • Rudi

    Komrad Marlow – I only address the Cheney nepotism. Dick and Liz have taken it to a new level. JFK had Bobby, but he was his brother and a adviser. Please explain how Liz Cheney the Younger is in a senior level position at DoS. I don’t recall Colin Powell setting up his children with government jobs in DoS. Limpy Bob Dole is another example you fail to mention. I think any family member working as a lobbyist is wrong.

    While I admire Murtha, he is in the Old School Nepotism crowd. His brother works as a lobbyist to Murthas own comittee, something smells like dead fish.

    Mary Cheney works for Coors and Daddy Darth, big Republican contributor, she is fair game due to her public exposure in her career choices. She is also now a director or exec at AOL. If she stayed in the private sector or did consulting work at the state level – Leave her alone. You got Mary Mail – LOL. I wonder if she knows what an ini or dll files is?

  • Kevin H

    I’d say my views coincide pretty closely to CS’s comment #6, but I would add that I think it is really “Families First” who is out of line. I don’t really want to get into an argument about which side of the debate exploited Marry Cheney first, but the statement that was read by Blizter was twice as aggressive as anything Blizter said himself.

    On an interesting psychological note, Cheney could very well be passing on the emotions that were felt when that statement was read onto Blitzer. Maybe the contempt heard in his “out of line” comment was aimed more at Families First for saying those things rather than Blitzer for repeating them.

  • CStanley

    I’d say my views coincide pretty closely to CS’s comment #6, but I would add that I think it is really “Families First� who is out of line. I don’t really want to get into an argument about which side of the debate exploited Marry Cheney first, but the statement that was read by Blizter was twice as aggressive as anything Blizter said himself.

    I agree with you about Families First being out of line with that statement. They certainly shouldn’t be politicizing Mary Cheney’s child either. Not sure I agree that Wolf wasn’t being as aggressive though, he knew exactly what he was doing when he quoted it to Cheney and then he later tried to hide behind the lame claim that he only wanted to congratulate Cheney.

    I sort of agree with your psych analysis too, that Cheney probably was p*ssed at FOF for issuing that statement; but then again, Cheney did direct his comment squarely at Blitzer, so even if the emotion was partly directed at FOF he declined to stir up any problems in his political base. I think a more admirable (less politically expedient) response would have been “I think it’s out of line when anyone tries to bring private family issues into the political arena.”

  • joec

    Cheney’s aggressive remarks to Blitzer are nothing more than a bashing of the media designed to appeal to the true believers. Remember Lynn Cheney’s outburst against Blitzer re CNN’s (questionable) use of the terrorist videos? Saying that Blitzer is “out-of-line” when he’s only asking a question about a clearly public issue puts all the smarty-pants reporters in their place. Nothing but red meat for the liberals in the media crowd.

  • Upinsmoke

    Lynx as a politician whose every word is waiting to be pounced upon by people…….well LIKE YOU, anything you say must carefully be weighted and calculated. For Chenny the best thing he can do is to abstain from answering the question.

    For you in your ideal world you can say oh I disagree with my son but he can do what he wants. The problem with this is that any response will be used by your opponents as…Look at Lynx he thinks his son is a jerk. He has no control over his own family, how can he rule if he cant control his own family. For your supporters you have to take their situation in hand as well……..Gee Lynx we really dont want to get into defending this, you need to keep quiet so we dont have an uproar. We dont need this kind of publicity right now when we have this important vote coming up.

    Now none of this is prolly true, but you said something…..when you speak you become fair game.

    Dont you understand that you cannot comment on something NOT said. WEll you can I guess but you will only be guessing.

    If Chenny says Oh I love my daughter and respect her……

    Then Why dont you respect Gays!!!!!!!!!!! They will jump up and down and the blogs with be filled with those questions and he will be beat to death with those few words. Its what you want him to say and it makes you furious that he wont say that….sorry but thats politics. Hes not going to give you what you want so you can beat him over the head with it from now till 2008.

  • Lynx

    Well, this thread is just two posts away from being buried, but what the hell.

    Upinsmoke, now we’re talking about a different subject. Before we were talking about the morality of asking such questions, but now you’re arguing the political expediency of answering such questions. It could well be true that it’s not in Cheney’s best interest to answer as I mentioned, even if something like what I said would be close to the truth. Actually I believe that Cheney has personally nothing at all against gays or their wishes for rights, I think his public stances on the subject are based purely on what’s best for his party. It may well be that it’s better for him, politically, to answer like he did. But that he needed to answer like that because of politics doesn’t make the question out of line. They are two separate issues.