Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Thoughts before the State of the Union 2005

This article on National Review got me really thinking, both about the platform the President ran on and the source and extent of his "mandate". Ms. Campbell urges GWB not to forget the plurality of exit poll respondents who said "moral values" were what determined their vote, nor his own Christian base, as he has seemed to do of late, downplaying his support of the marriage amendment and abortion reform:
Yet he has said precious little about the moral issues that voters ranked as their chief concern on Election Day, and what he has said has not inspired their confidence. The president told the Washington Post last month that he would not lobby senators for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage because so many senators consider it unnecessary — a caveat not mentioned on the campaign trail. "Senators have made it clear that so long as [the Defense of Marriage Act] is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen," Bush said. "I'd take their admonition seriously. . . . Until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate." Conservatives had barely begun to complain before Bush suggested to the New York Times last week that he plans to use his bully pulpit, not his political capital, to reduce abortions: "I think the goal ought to be to convince people to value life. But I fully understand our society is divided on the issue and that there will be abortions. That's reality. It seems like to me my job is to convince people to make right choices in life, to understand there are alternatives to abortion, like adoption, and I will continue to do so."
I may not have voted for Bush but I certainly approve of his approach regarding these issues. In my view, Social Security and tax reform are national issues, therefore need to be dealt with at the national level - hence his energy towards those ends. Gay marriage and abortion on the other hand, should not be nationalized any more than straight marriage and murder are nationalized (and they aren't, with the horrific exception of federal authorities having the power to bring federal charges against someone already acquitted of breaching a state law against murder). Campbell's own reasoning supports this:
Why would a leader brave enough to push a divisive Social Security reform plan and bold enough to pledge an end to tyranny around the world appear to be backing down on the very issues that sealed his reelection? After all, the political winds are blowing in his favor: A 2004 poll from Zogby International found that 56 percent of Americans support more restrictions on abortion and believe that abortion should never be legal or legal only in cases of rape, incest, or a direct threat to the life of the mother. A majority of Americans also oppose same-sex marriage, and overwhelming majorities of red- and blue-state voters approved state bans on same-sex marriage last November. Given such strong support for the president's positions — not to mention his own campaign promises on these issues, which accounted for much of the support he received from traditionally Democratic Catholic, Hispanic, African-American, and union voters — Bush's sudden apparent loss of nerve is odd and unsettling.
I don't see Bush as losing his nerve - I see him as taking the hint from those 12 states that overwhelmingly passed gay marriage bans last fall (and the 27 that already had them on the books, like California) and 1996's Defense of Marriage Act (allows states to recognize or refuse to recognize marriages from other states as they see fit) that federalism is working as intended in the area of marriage and no enlargement of federal power is necessary. So here we have a surprise that Bush is actually acting like a limited-government conservative - and not so much of a surprise that the big-government conservatives are crying foul.

What exactly the President is supposed to do concerning the already nationalized issue of abortion (with or without the ~3/4 majority who don't think it should be available "on-demand" as it currently is) other than nominate justices to the Supreme Court who believe in federalism and original intent, I have yet to hear from those same folks. So far, Bush has his priorities in the right places, focusing on Social Security and tax reform, leaving marriage to the states, and nominating the same judges he would anyway. Now if we can just get him to drop that awful "illegal alien amnesty that's not amnesty" plan that no one likes but him...


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