The W stands alone?

Laura Bush is the latest member of the Bush/Cheney team to declare her ambiguousity on the issue of the Federal Marriage Amendment, according to National Journal’s Hotline. When pressed, the First Lady refused to endorse the amendment, saying instead that “it gives people the opportunity to talk about it,” and noting that “it is a very sensitive issue.” With three down and one who won’t ever go, the President remains the only member of the quartet that will publicly favor and push for the amendment to federally define marriage.

This isn’t the first time Mrs. Bush has used the “important debate” line, however; in the September 6 edition of TIME, she indicated that while she wouldn’t have a problem with a gay couple staying in the White House, she’s open to the idea of the FMA in order to spur the necessary debate.

The problem is, this isn’t a compassionate conservative debate. The discourse sparked by court action and spurred along by the FMA has produced some of the most vulgar statements from some of the most vitriolic groups in the America’s right wing, including characterizations of same-sex families as a “frat house with revolving bedroom doors,” and much, much worse.

It’s not a debate that middle America is overly eager to engage in, either; polls show that while the American public isn’t exactly warmed up to the idea of gay marriage, they’re not too keen on amending the constitution to stop it.

The strategy at work here is at least consistent with the moderation of the party’s sharper edge Americans saw at the GOP Convention. While the President appeases the right-wing by pushing for destructive (not to mention un-Republican) policies, the rest of the Bush/Cheney team attempt to soften it by hedging themselves on the divisive issue.

If it works, moderate groups like the Log Cabin Republicans will have their work cut out for them in 2005. If the President can win this year by playing politics with civil rights, moderates will have a hard time convincing anyone – themselves included – that their role within the GOP is anything beyond moderate window dressing on a radically controlled party structure.

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