I don't think I really have anything to add to what Andrew Sullivan said with great eloquence and fury
this morning about the president's decision to put the full weight of his office
behind a constitutional amendment banning not only gay marriage but even the right of states to allow their citizens to enter into civil unions which would provide the legal benefits, protections and obligations of marriage.
(Scott McClellan seems to have fudged a bit on the civil unions issue. But my understanding is that the specific amendment the president is backing clearly rules out
civil unions too.)
I'm a pretty big small-'c' conservative on all matters of amending the constitution. In almost all cases it should be reserved for structural revisions to the architecture of the state, not as a means to hardwire policy changes or litter it with silliness about congressional pay raises. But it really is a sad day when we consider using the amendment process to turn back the widening gyre of equality and emancipation which has always been this document's role in the American state.
(The White House will try to say that this is in response to what is happening in San Francisco. But I don't think that will pass close scrutiny since, if recollection serves, they started signalling this
before that happened.)
We should also note a few things about what this means about the president.
The White House didn't want to have the president out last night making a slashing campaign speech
in late February. They also didn't want to start hitting the airwaves this early with their campaign commercials. And they definitely did not want the president jumping off the high dive into a gay rights culture war.
The strategy was to bank the president's rock solid support from Republicans and spend the year above the political fray with soft sounding proposals aimed at the political middle.
But it hasn't worked out that way.
The support among conservatives has taken some real hits. The White House has decided that the long-predicted rising economy won't float them through this election. The situation in Iraq looks wobbly and likely to get worse before it gets better. So deprived of the ability to run on his record he's decided to save his political hide by trying to tear the country apart over a charged and divisive social issue which is being hashed out through the political process in the states.
It's his dad and the flag burning amendment all over again. Is there really anything that tells you more about a man's character than this?
A couple weeks ago I said we should be on the look out
for stuff like this -- not just the move on gay marriage, but the whole descent into scurrilous attacks and divisive wedge politics as the president's popularity drifts downward. (Isn't the White House a bit worried that their line about the Democrats being negative and haters will be a little undermined by these tactics on their part?)
One might suggest that the idea we should have in mind here is that old line about judging a man's character and mettle by what he does when the seas get stormy rather than what he does when they're calm. But I think the real metaphor to keep in mind is how dangerous and unpredictable an animal becomes when he's cornered.