In a brief segment on the September 3 edition of Now with Alex Wagner, the MSNBC program's host revel in how Republican Wyoming Senate candidate Liz Cheney has supposedly "contort[ed]" herself into an "ideological pretzel." But if you listen closely to the 2009 soundbite that Wagner thinks illustrates that Cheney has flip-flopped on the issue of same-sex marriage, it actually underscores no change in position on her views.
What's more, as I explain towards the end of this post, it seems MSNBC is once again guilty of selectively editing, with the target this time being former Vice President Dick Cheney. [listen to MP3 of segment here; video embed follows page break]
"Sibling rivalry is playing out on the national stage," Wagner noted with glee, pointing out that a year after her lesbian sister Mary Cheney married her longtime partner Heather Poe, Liz Cheney, who is challenging Sen. Mike Enzi in the 2014 senatorial race in Wyoming, posted "a statement [to her campaign website] on Friday reading, 'I am not pro-gay marriage. I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states and by the people in the states.'" Wagner then noted that Mary Cheney took to Facebook to criticize her sister:
For the record, I love my sister, but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage. Freedom means freedom for everyone.
Of course, Liz Cheney posted her original statement in response to an anonymous "push poll" which was asking Wyoming residents, "Are you aware that Liz Cheney supports abortion and aggressively promotes gay marriage?"
Here's the statement in full:
The Cheney for Senate campaign has received reports that there is a “push poll” underway in the state in which those conducting the poll are lying about Liz Cheney’s views on two important issues. Wyoming citizens who have received the calls have reported that the callers ask, “Are you aware that Liz Cheney supports abortion and aggressively promotes gay marriage?”
“This is dirty tricks politics at its worst,” said Celeste Colgan, Cheney campaign spokesperson, “It is sad and completely out of character with the way we run campaigns here in Wyoming to see the Enzi camp stoop to this level.”
Liz Cheney said, “I am strongly pro-life and I am not pro-gay marriage. I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves. The people of Wyoming deserve an honest campaign. They should not be subject to the kind of dirty tricks this push poll represents. I call on Senator Enzi to denounce this poll and to tell the National Republican Senatorial Committee, or anyone else promoting untruths on his behalf, to stop.”
So Liz Cheney didn't just wade into the same-sex marriage debate to set about, in Wagner's terms "squaring off against her own sister" but to address mischaracterizations of her stand on same-sex marriage as a policy issue. Never mind a little thing like the facts, which is why Wagner also insisted that four years ago, Liz Cheney was wholeheartedly pro-same-sex marriage.
To prove it, Wagner played a sound bite from May 28, 2009:
My family has been very clear about this, that we think freedom means freedom for everybody and that this is an issue that states have to decide for themselves. I certainly would not like to see a constitutional amendment, you know, as was suggested in the last administration banning it.
Immediately after playing that clip, Wagner giddily squealed:
Oh, the power of a Republican primary and its uncanny ability to contort candidates into ideological pretzels!
Of course, in that May 2009 soundbite, Cheney's position was the same as it is in 2013, that "states have to decide for themselves," which is where she stands today. In May 2009, she noted she disagreed with the notion of a federal constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriage. Nothing in her August 30 website statement suggests she's changed her mind to support such a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Additionally, it bears noting that Wagner opened her segment with a July 1, 2009, soundbite of Dick Cheney saying that he felt that "people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish. Any kind of arrangement they wish."
This was proof, Wagner insisted, that Cheney was pro-same-sex marriage, although she left out what followed in that very same statement, which is the former vice president's belief that the issue was fundamentally one for state-by-state resolution, not a federal one-size-fits-all one, as Ben Smith, then of Politico quoted Dick Cheney adding:
The question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don't support. I do believe that ... historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. It has always been a state issue and I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis
So when it comes to a Cheney family feud, as the media would have it, it seems that Liz and Dick Cheney are in agreement, with Mary Cheney disagreeing, holding the view that courts should step in to decide the issue.
Far from Liz Cheney twisting herself into a pretzel, it is Wagner and her selective-edit happy buddies in the control room twisting themselves in knots to further an easily discreditable meme.
P.S.: Onscreen graphics tagged Liz Cheney as "Liz Cheney Perry," throughout the segment, Perry being her husband's surname. Ms. Cheney is campaigning as "Liz Cheney," however, so it seems that she wishes to go by her maiden, not married last name. One would think the "war on women" network would give Cheney the courtesy of respecting the Republican candidate's wish to be known by her maiden name.