Divide and Conquer?

Vice President Cheney commented yesterday on the divisive issue of same-sex marriage, reiterating his 2000 campaign statement that marriage should be defined by the states, not the federal government. This statement runs counter to the President’s push for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage at the federal level. While Cheney has always stated his support for the President with regard to the FMA, he has stopped short of supporting the amendment directly.

Cheney tempered his remarks by speculating on the President’s motives vis-à-vis the FMA: “I think his perception was that the courts, in effect, were beginning to change, without allowing the people to be involved.” His comments walk a fine line, neither defending nor endorsing Bush’s reasoning behind the FMA, but seemed to be aimed at softening the Bush Administration’s image on gay issues.

As the Republican Convention nears – an event that is clearly devised to put a moderate face on the party – the Bush camp seems to be acknowledging that their staunch anti-gay marriage stance isn’t exactly bringing in the moderate voters. With relatively pro-gay speakers like Mayors Bloomberg and Giuliani and Governor Schwarzenegger headlining the convention, Cheney’s comments seem to be a nod toward mainstream voters who may not support gay marriage, but also feel a Constitutional amendment is one step too far.

Cheney’s outreach, however, has already drawn fire from party conservatives who will accept nothing but full opposition to any recognition to committed gay couples. The overconfident Family Research Council released a statement criticizing the Vice President’s position, noting that “for many pro-family voters, protecting traditional marriage ranks ahead of the economy and job creation as a campaign issue.”

In an attempt to please both sides of the party, the Bush campaign seems to be pleasing neither; whether Cheney’s outreach will sway moderates to Bush is an unknown – but it will most certainly inflame an already slighted right-wing that knows no compromise.

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