The Corner

“Why Gay Marriage Is a Loser For Bush”

Noam Scheiber has an interesting take (as does Nick Confessore, to whom he links). His argument is that the social Right never just takes half a loaf, so it will be constantly pressing Bush to do more than is prudent. He also says that Bush had to be dragged by the social Right to endorse the amendment–witness the complaints from its activists about the delay–which shows the White House knows this is a loser but is tied down by its base.

Maybe the underlying point, that this is a political loser, is correct. But I’m not convinced by these arguments for three reasons. 1) While it is true that social-conservative activists often take an all-or-nothing approach, it’s not always true. Social conservatives have been willing to fight on partial-birth abortion rather than demanding immediate action on a Human Life Amendment, for example–although it took a while to get them on board for that strategy. 2) Maybe the president’s public delay in coming out for the amendment stemmed from an perception that he is better off looking as though he were reluctant to amend the Constitution and forced to do so by events (Mass., S.F., etc.) have forced him. (I believe this perception to be accurate, and also believe the president does feel forced by events.) 3) It’s not clear to me that the demands for the president to discuss the issue more constitute bad advice, for reasons I’ve already discussed.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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