Rove's diversionary tactic for the 2006 elections

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, Jun 3, 2006.

  1. June 3, 2006
    Bush to Press for U.S. Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
    By JIM RUTENBERG

    WASHINGTON, June 2 — President Bush is beginning a major push for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, part of a new campaign to appease cultural conservatives who say he and his party abandoned their issues after the 2004 elections.

    Mr. Bush plans to declare strong support for the amendment — scheduled for a vote in the Senate next week — in his radio address on Saturday, and at an event at the White House on Monday with conservative activists and religious leaders, White House officials said Friday.

    Taken together, the events will be the first time Mr. Bush has so strongly promoted his opposition to same-sex marriage since his re-election campaign nearly two years ago. Democrats accused the White House of trotting out a reliable hot-button issue to help soothe and re-energize disgruntled conservative voters five months before the midterm Congressional elections. "Everybody's going to see through it," said Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

    But, in a new twist this year, some conservative activists expressed similar cynicism. They said Mr. Bush and the Republicans in Congress had a long way to go to convince social conservatives that they viewed the issue as anything but a politically convenient tool that they picked up only when they needed to motivate their core voters.

    After the 2004 campaign, they say, Mr. Bush put his energies into domestic issues like Social Security and immigration rather than into the marriage amendment and other topics of interest to grass-roots conservatives.

    "It was so central in the 2004 election," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative research group, said of same-sex marriage. "And the day after, the president began a crusade to reform Social Security and it went nowhere. Why not put energy into something that's vital for our society and our country?"

    Mr. Perkins said he was encouraged by the White House plan to promote the amendment. But he said that as Washington's attention had been focused elsewhere, judges in several states had ruled against state laws banning same-sex marriage, including Georgia and Nebraska. And he and others said they were concerned by other court cases pending in states including New York, New Jersey and Washington.

    Washington Republicans and so-called values voters, Christian radio stations and Internet blogs have been on fire with discussions of moves by what they call activist judges to destroy the institution of marriage as the immigration debate and developments in Iraq have dominated the mainstream news media.

    Conservatives expressed still more alarm as Mary Cheney, the vice president's daughter, who is a lesbian, went on national television promoting her book this year and discussed her distaste for the president's opposition to same-sex marriage in 2004.

    Adding to what conservatives describe as the fuzziness of the White House's position, the president's wife, Laura, said of same-sex marriage last month, "I don't think it should be used as a campaign tool."

    Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Mrs. Bush added, "It requires a lot of sensitivity just to talk about the issue, a lot of sensitivity."

    The Senate debate on the marriage amendment is the first in what is expected to be a series of efforts by the White House and its allies to highlight social conservative causes in the run-up to the fall campaign.

    After having received widespread praise from conservatives for winning confirmation for two new Supreme Court justices last year, the White House has signaled that it intends to nominate another group of conservative federal judges. In addition, Congress is likely to vote on an amendment banning flag burning, and some Republicans hope to find ways to focus attention on efforts to restrict abortion further.

    There is no assurance that the White House effort to motivate social conservatives will be as effective in the election year as it was in 2002 and 2004. Conservative leaders have grown increasingly disenchanted with the administration's record, and at the grass-roots level Mr. Bush is under fire for his position on immigration.

    This week White House officials have emphasized that whatever the views of those around the president, his belief that marriage should be between a man and woman has never changed.

    Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, on Friday batted down suggestions that the president's involvement in the same-sex marriage debate was politically motivated. Rather, he said, with a number of court cases in the works and the Senate's move to vote on the constitutional amendment on Tuesday, the time "is ripe."

    The vote on the amendment is considered largely symbolic because it is not expected to pass by the required two-thirds majority in Congress, let alone the ratification by three-fourths of the states that a constitutional amendment requires. The amendment would not only define marriage as being between a man and a woman, but would also prevent courts from requiring that states allow civil unions.

    Opponents say the amendment could prohibit the legal equivalents of marriage, like civil unions; supporters say it would leave that up to states but take away the right of courts to impose civil unions on states that have voted to ban same-sex marriages.

    "Nobody thinks it's going anywhere," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, saying he believed the move was meant to divert attention from high gasoline prices and Iraq.

    Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, agreed that other issues sapping conservative enthusiasm — such as moves to open the way to citizenship for illegal immigrants — would overshadow any progress on gay marriage. But he said those most loudly complaining about the president's conservative agenda would never be appeased.

    Citing the president's successful nominations to the Supreme Court of John G. Roberts Jr., the new chief justice, and Samuel A. Alito Jr., Mr. Fabrizio said, "I'm trying to think of what he hasn't done for them — talk about fair-weather friends."

    Phil Burress, who organized the successful campaign against same-sex marriage in Ohio in 2004 that many credit with helping Mr. Bush there, said the president's involvement would call attention to the issue as several states moved on "defense of marriage" initiatives this election year.

    Mr. Burress said the Senate's amendment was already paying off for a Republican senator in his state, Mike DeWine, who faces a tough re-election fight. Mr. Burress said that he was displeased with Mr. DeWine as being too silent about same-sex marriage, but that his opinion changed when Mr. DeWine co-sponsored the proposed amendment.

    "It's going to send him back to Washington," Mr. Burress said.
     
  2. Now that Catwoman has gone gay, it is time to get the ditto heards worked up again. Hey, why worry about Iraq, the NFP numbers etc when we can blame the gays? Pathetic...
     
  3. I think the article nailed it. Social conservatives are not stupid. They know they've been used, and that Bush and the leading Republicans like Frist are not really pushing this amendment and other issues important to them. The party operatives think the social conservatives have no where else to go, and are so terrified of a president Hillary that they will work feverishly for Republicans. Personally, i doubt it. I think they will more or less sit out the election.
     
  4. Politics of the Altar
    GOP leaders are putting gay marriage back on the agenda. Will voters respond?
    By Debra Rosenberg
    Newsweek

    June 12, 2006 issue - Back in 2004, suburban Seattle pastor Alec Rowlands watched with dismay as gay couples in Massachusetts flocked to courthouses and churches, exchanged vows and walked away legally wed. Now he worries a similar scenario could unfold in his own backyard. Last year, the Washington State Supreme Court heard arguments in two gay-marriage cases of its own; a decision is expected soon. In Massachusetts, an obscure law allows only state residents to wed. But Washington has no residency requirements. So if the justices approve gay marriage—as many on both sides of the issue predict—courthouse doors would swing open to gay couples across the nation. "We will become the Las Vegas for same-sex marriage," frets Rowlands.

    Just two years ago, gay-marriage opponents like Rowlands were everywhere. Thirteen states passed constitutional amendments barring same-sex unions and, in Ohio, the marriage ban was widely credited with boosting turnout and propelling George W. Bush to a second term. But after Election Day, the issue faded. Now it's back, complete with all the activists, dire predictions and dueling poll numbers. But the landscape has changed since 2004. Democrats argue that gay marriage is just a diversion from rising gas prices, the ongoing struggle in Iraq and immigration reform. With so much else to worry about, will voters care?

    This week Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will again bring the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) up for a vote; the House could weigh in next month. Though it isn't expected to pass either House, supporters want to get pols on the record before November. "It's a way to build momentum," says FMA author Matt Daniels, president of the Alliance for Marriage. Bush himself had been mostly mum on gay marriage since his re-election. But now, with his poll numbers in a nose dive and even his most enthusiastic supporters grousing, Bush took up the cause in his radio address Saturday; an amendment is needed because "activist courts have left our nation with no other choice," he explained. The president also plans to address amendment supporters in the Old Executive Office Building on Monday.

    While the GOP leadership clearly hopes this tack can revive their sputtering election prospects this fall, some GOP strategists aren't so sure. Pew polls show a 10-point jump in support for gay marriage since 2004. And Bush pollster Matthew Dowd doubts it was decisive last time around. "It didn't drive turnout in 2004," he says. "That is urban legend." Turnout was the same in states with bans on the ballot and those without, Dowd says. GOP consultant Grover Norquist also questions how gay marriage plays as an electoral issue. Though social conservatives vote for marriage bans, it's not clear whether that will translate into votes for GOP candidates. "We don't have much to go on," he says. For their part, gay-rights leaders would be happy to leave the issue off the ballot. "We have to make sure [the initiatives] never see the light of day," says Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, who would prefer to press his case in court.

    Evangelical leaders insist they know how gay marriage affects their voters—they'll stay home if politicians don't push for the FMA. "It's the one issue I have seen that eclipses even the abortion issue among Southern Baptists," says Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Last month James Dobson, the influential founder of Focus on the Family, met privately with key Republicans, including Frist, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader John Boehner, to warn them about the political consequences of failing to promote issues like marriage. "If you forget us, we'll forget you," he said, according to a GOP House leadership aide who was briefed on the gatherings, but declined to be identified discussing private meetings.

    Though Bush himself has publicly embraced the amendment, he never seemed to care enough to press the matter. One of his old friends told NEWSWEEK that same-sex marriage barely registers on the president's moral radar. "I think it was purely political. I don't think he gives a s--t about it. He never talks about this stuff," said the friend, who requested anonymity to discuss his private conversations with Bush. White House aides, who also declined to be identified, insist that the president does care about banning gay marriage. They say Monday's events with amendment supporters—Bush will also meet privately with a small group—have been in the works "for weeks" and aren't just a sop to conservatives.

    Whatever Bush's motivation, his actions aren't likely to quiet his critics. Land says he's happy Bush is speaking out, but he'd like to see signs of real commitment to the issue. "We know what a full-court press looks like when we see one," Land says. A White House official, who declined to be identified discussing strategy, says Bush has not made calls on the amendment because "nobody has asked us."

    Whatever the political maneuvering, it's the courts that could make the next move. Last week New York's highest court heard arguments that the state must allow gay couples to wed. A similar case in New Jersey was argued in February. Decisions could come later this summer. At the same time, judges recently struck down 2004 bans from Georgia, Ohio and Nebraska. "It's just a matter of time before the other shoe falls," says Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. "This is not an issue you can take a pass on." For politicians and activists, that may be true. But average voters might do exactly that.