Another part of Bush’s interview with the Washington Post the other day that was fascinating was this exchange on the Federal Marriage Amendment:
The Post: Do you plan to expend any political capital to aggressively lobby senators for a gay marriage amendment?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I think that the situation in the last session — well, first of all, I do believe it’s necessary; many in the Senate didn’t, because they believe DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act] will — is in place, but — they know DOMA is in place, and they’re waiting to see whether or not DOMA will withstand a constitutional challenge.
The Post: Do you plan on trying to — using the White House, using the bully pulpit, and trying to –
THE PRESIDENT: The point is, is that senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I’d take their admonition seriously.
The Post: But until that changes, you want it?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate. Do you see what I’m saying?
Some religious right leaders are seeing this as Bush using gay marriage to court their vote during an election campaign, then abandoning it after the election. As the Boston Globe is reporting:
With the reelection of a president they considered a soul mate, and last year’s overwhelming voter approval of 13 amendments banning gay marriage to state constitutions, social conservatives were ready to celebrate. But President Bush dampened the mood early in the week by signaling that he did not intend to press Congress to approve an amendment banning gay marriage to the US Constitution.
“We’re deeply concerned,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council and the host to the open house. “This amendment is not going to walk its way through the Senate. His leadership is needed.”…
The restive mood of the Republican Party’s religious activists contrasts with their heady postelection attitude. Then, they were certain their strong get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Bush, coupled with demonstrated voter support for laws banning gay marriage, would propel a socially conservative agenda inside the White House and on Capitol Hill.
But President Bush, who supported an amendment to the US Constitution barring gay marriage during last year’s presidential campaign, said in a newspaper interview last weekend that he will not press the Senate to pass the measure because the votes are not there. Bush suffered a defeat last summer when his conservative allies failed to muster a majority of senators to support moving the proposal forward.
The president’s latest comments provoked an immediate outcry from the right, forcing his spokesman Scott McClellan on Tuesday to offer salve to the wounded.
You know what? They’re right. Bush IS abandoning them because all he really wanted was their votes in November. Bush’s arguments for why he pushed for an amendment before but won’t now are silly and contradictory. The votes were not there to pass the amendment last summer and fall either. In fact, if it was brought up for a vote, it would get more votes now than it did then because the Republicans have picked up 5 more seats. And the DOMA was at just as much risk of being overturned then as it is now, which is to say very little.
His arguments for why he’s not pushing for the FMA at this point applied even more strongly last year, the So Con leadership knows it and they’re not buying this shallow excuse. Personally, I’m glad he’s not going to push it as part of his agenda, but I also think it points out what I’ve been saying all along – the anti-gay rights agenda is primarily about demagoguery, not principle. Both the White House and the Republican leadership knew that the FMA had no chance of passing the Senate last year with the 67 votes necessary to send it to the states. So why did they bother with it? To court the religious right vote both in the Presidential election and in congressional elections around the country. They brought it up and kept it in the spotlight so they could say, “see, those God-hating, fag-loving liberals won’t let this through. Don’t you hate them? We hate them too. Vote for us so we can stop them from destroying your family.” And of course, it worked.
Just like abortion, though, it only worked to achieve the party’s political goals, not to achieve the legislative goals of the voters themselves. Just like on abortion, the Republican leadership – the political leadership, not the ideological leadership – doesn’t really want to achieve those goals. If a Federal Marriage Amendment or an overturning of Roe v. Wade actually passed, they would have nothing to run against. They’d have nothing left on which to point the finger at those godless evil pagan usurpers, no way to exploit the issue and make people afraid. And fear, ladies and gentlemen, is the lifeblood of politics. You get out the vote by exploiting people’s fear of Them.