Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Divide and Conquer the Voters

The New York Times
Divide and Conquer the Voters

President Bush devoted his Saturday radio speech to a cynical boost for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It was depressing in the extreme to hear the chief executive trying to pretend, at this moment in American history, that this was a critical priority.

Mr. Bush's central point was that the nation is under siege from "activist judges" who are striking down anti-gay-marriage laws that conflict with their own state constitutions. That's their job, just as it is the job of state legislators to either fix the laws or change their constitutions.

If there's anything the country should have learned over the past five years, it is that Mr. Bush and his supporters have no problem with judicial decisions, no matter how cutting edge, that endorse their political positions. They trot out the "activist judge" threat only when they're worried about getting out their base on Election Day.

The aim of the president's radio address — which darkly warned that Massachusetts and San Francisco (nudge, nudge) are going to destroy marriage — is the same as the Republican leadership's plans to trot out one cultural hot button after another in the coming weeks. After gay marriage comes the push for a constitutional ban on flag burning, a solution in search of a problem if there ever was one.

All this effort to divert the nation's attention to issues that divide and distract would be bad enough if the country were not facing real, disastrous problems at home and abroad. But then, if that weren't the case, Mr. Bush probably wouldn't feel moved to stoop so low.