Sibling squabbles are nothing new in American politics

Published: Friday, Sept. 6 2013 2:18 p.m. MDT

This photo taken July 17, 2013 shows Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, talking to the press at the Parkway Plaza in Casper, Wyo.

Dan Cepeda, Associated Press

Former Vice President Dick Cheney must be feeling ambivalent these days about his daughter Liz’s decision to run for the U.S. Senate.

On the one hand, Liz is in many ways the heir to her father’s political legacy — and nothing would permanently burnish her conservative bona fides like a seat in the Senate representing the family’s native Wyoming. However, in running for such a high-profile public office, Liz essentially lit the fuse for a very public intra-family rift over the legitimacy of gay marriage, which finally boiled over last week when her lesbian sister, Mary, posted on Facebook that Liz is “dead wrong” about same-sex marriage.

A Friday post on the Washington Post’s Reliable Source blog used the ongoing Cheney squabble as an entry point for revisiting some of the most prominent and visible political family tiffs in recent American history — including the simmering disagreements about gay marriage between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his sister Candace, as well as Ronald Reagan’s children Patti Davis and Michael Reagan.

“It’s always something — traditionally about money and/or the family legacy,” Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger reported for the Post. “… Tricia and Julie Nixon fought for control of their father’s presidential library: a five-year fight so serious they stopped speaking to each other. Their lawsuit was settled in 2002 through court-ordered mediation.”

High-profile families obviously don’t hold a monopoly on bickering adult siblings — far from it. Last year Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein wrote, “Adult sibling rivalry. Experts say it remains one of the most harmful and least addressed issues in a family. We know it when we see it. Often, we deeply regret it. But we have no idea what to do about it.”

Bernstein ended her column by conferring with psychologist Jeanne Safer to produce six practical tips for quelling spats between adult siblings, including practical measures like taking the initiative to change, considering your sibling’s point of view and perhaps even apologizing.

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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