Cheney vs Cheney

Vying for conservative vote in her bid for a Senate seat,the ex-US vice-president’s daughter finds herself in conflict with her lesbian sister.

Written by New York Times | Published: November 24, 2013 1:22:37 am

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 two sisters have not spoken since the summer now and the whole fuss threatens to get in the way of something former US vice-president Dick Cheney desperately wants — a Senate seat for Liz.

Things erupted on November 10 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 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’s wife Heather Poe went further,touching on Liz’s relocation from northern Virginia to Wyoming to seek office. “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,” Poe wrote on her Facebook page. “Yes,Liz,” she added,“in 15 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 energised,fervently conservative base.

Indeed,while Liz 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 Bush’s support for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

But Liz,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.

Liz 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 say she is irritated that her sister is making their dispute public and believes it is hypocritical for Mary to take such a hard line now,given that she worked for the re-election of Bush.

The relationship between the two sisters used to be quite different. They drew especially close when their father ran as Bush’s running mate in 2000 and eventually became a figure of great controversy and enormous power as vice-president.

After their father left office in 2009,politically bruised and physically ailing,the sisters,who lived 15 minutes apart in Washington’s 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 Poe.

Mary,44,said in a phone interview that she presumed her sister shared her father’s views on marriage,and that view was reinforced because Liz “was always very supportive” of her relationship with Poe and the couple’s two children.

She learned otherwise in August when Liz declared,shortly after announcing her Senate candidacy,that she was opposed to gay nuptials.

“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader,” Mary said,citing her 47-year-old sister’s slogan in her campaign against 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 said it was her wife’s idea for the couple to take to Facebook to respond to Liz’s televised remarks. “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,” Poe wrote. “To have her say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive.”

In the interview,Mary,who is a longtime political consultant,said she would continue to raise the matter.

The ugly family drama and questions about what Liz truly believes could reinforce questions about her authenticity in a place where many voters have met their politicians in person and are already sceptical of an outsider like Liz.

The former vice-president is active and visible in his daughter’s Senate bid. Early polls show Liz trailing Enzi.

As for the coming holidays,Mary said that her parents will come to her and 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 now lives. But Mary said of her sister,“I will not be seeing her.”

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