Monday, June 05, 2006

Bush and gay marriage, the love whose name he dares not speak

Bush gave his anti-gay marriage speech today, oddly enough while wearing his flight suit. It turned out to be only ten minutes long, much of it identical to his radio address Saturday, which I’ve already analyzed.

Acting on a precept he certainly didn’t learn from his mother, Barbara “Rhymes with socksucker” Bush, he decided that if he couldn’t say anything nice about gays and lesbians, he wouldn’t say anything about them at all, even as he advocated permanently restricting their rights. He again said that “As this debate goes forward, every American deserves to be treated with tolerance and respect and dignity,” but failed to see the difference between that and ignoring them completely, refusing to acknowledge their existence like a fart at a cocktail party. He not only has nothing to say about gays and lesbians and their families, he has nothing to say to them. (Update: In fact, there were, according to Tony Snow, no gay people invited to the meeting at which he gave this speech.) (But there were some “ex-gays.” Has anyone seen the full list of participants?)

Again, he fails to make much a case for going the literally extra-ordinary route of amending the Constitution. Here’s a bit of the speech which is structured as if it were a logical argument:
marriage is critical to the well-being of families. And because families pass along values and shape character [Just ask Jenna!], marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure.
Undermine it how? He does not say.

I suppose his recognition that engaging in rhetorical gay-bashing is no longer acceptable is encouraging, a sign of progress. But this is Bush, and Bush needs an enemy to excoriate, so it’s back to the activist judges, who are described as “over-reaching” (insert your own “reach-around” joke here) and “imposing their arbitrary will on the people,” leaving “no other choice” but to amend the Constitution. This is odd and contradictory as legal theory: he is claiming the decisions were arbitrary, i.e., not correct interpretations of the Constitution, but he proposes to change the Constitution anyway.

But then political theory has never been his long suit (by the way, when I referred to his arguments as sub-Federalist Papers on Saturday, I refrained from making a pun based on “Publius,” and I think I deserve some credit for that). In the days of this most imperial of presidencies, it’s interesting to see Bush make an assertion about power that doesn’t involve concentrating it in the executive branch. But what he does assert is horribly muddled: “A constitutional amendment would not take this issue away from the states, as some have argued. It would take the issue away from the courts and put it directly before the American people.” In fact it would ban the states from enacting same-sex marriage, and earlier in the speech he said that marriage was a “national question [which] requires a national solution,” so of course he wants to take the issue away from the states. And putting something “directly” before the American people would involve a national referendum, which he is not suggesting.

In today’s Gaggle, there was a tug of war over nomenclature:
Q So at what point is -- that’s what I’m trying to -- why on gay marriage is it not that important?

MR. SNOW: You mean, why on traditional marriage?

Q On the issue of gay marriage, yes.

MR. SNOW: It’s the issue of traditional marriage. This is the Family Marriage Amendment.

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