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Dear Leader makes his Senate walk the amendment tightrope

Winger Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard reports that Dear Leader will be stepping out in a Rose Garden ceremony to call for the Senate to vote in favor of the Marriage Protection Amendment the day before the June 6 vote, despite Laura’s disapproval.

Clearly that’s the signal of what’s really important to the president, with Iraq in full meltdown — he’s got his priorities straight, as it were (latest: At least 37 dead in 2 Iraq car bombings).

What Barnes also says is that many Rethug senators are queasy about this vote — and the debate that will come before it. This is all about Bill Frist and his fealty to the AmTaliban.

Much of the conventional wisdom about the amendment and the marriage issue turns out to be wrong. For instance, the amendment is not being pushed by Republicans as a wedge issue aimed at dividing Democratic voters. Republican senators regard the issue as touchy and awkward. In fact, they agree with First Lady Laura Bush, who said on Fox News Sunday that the subject of gay marriage “requires a lot of sensitivity” and shouldn’t “be used as a campaign tool.” They’d prefer the issue–and the amendment–go away.

When Majority Leader Bill Frist asked Senate Republican committee chairmen in 2004 if they wanted him to schedule a vote on the amendment, none urged him to. Frist did anyway. This year, the same was true. He received no pressure from Republican senators for a vote. Instead, his talks with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council led Frist to put at least a day of debate on the amendment, then a vote, on the Senate schedule.

Barnes correctly notes that same-sex marriage will be one of the foundation blocks of the 2008 race (since the Rethugs can’t run on their record, of course). This vote is going to separate the men from the boys who want to make a run for the White House in the eyes of The Base, like The Tool.

A second misconception is that it’s sufficient for an elected official merely to declare his opposition to gay marriage. It’s not anymore. The question now is whether an official will support efforts to block gay marriage from being imposed by judges at the federal or state level. And the way to do that in the Senate is to vote for the amendment.

…This is a huge problem for Senator John McCain, the Republican frontrunner in 2008. McCain has moved to the right on taxes and abortion and recently reconciled with Jerry Falwell, the prominent conservative Christian. He drew sharp criticism for the Falwell overture and is leery of shifting again and being accused of pandering to the Christian Right.

McCain voted against the amendment in 2004. And he repeated his opposition on Fox News Sunday last month. “I will vote against it because I believe very strongly, first of all, in the sanctity of union between man and woman, but I also believe that the states should make these decisions.” Many religious conservatives regard this as an unacceptable dodge.

Here we are, with the same problem on the other side of the political spectrum. It is a dodge, both for Dems and Republicans who have been hiding behind the federal amendment while states have passed their amendments.

These cowards trying to walk the tightrope with a middle ground stance are now finding that their bases are tired of the bobbing and weaving and are ready to cut the wire. They should be sweating.

HRC’s response just hit my inbox:

“It’s a national disgrace that President Bush has yet again bowed to the far-right extremists. Instead of addressing the real challenges facing American families — from record high gas prices, bankrupting health care costs and an endless and costly war in Iraq — the President will further divide this country and put the far-right extremist’s interests ahead of the American people’s well-being,â€? said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding