Mr. Bush v. Mrs. Reagan

Mr. Bush v. Mrs. Reagan

It has become commonplace in this year’s political prognostications that Pres. George W. Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry are battling it out for a narrow slice of the electorate who are undecided and generally in the middle of the political spectrum.

Some recent studies of this “swing” vote have suggested that these undecideds may be political moderates not out of any deep conviction but rather because their relative detachment from the political system, their lack of perceived personal investment in the outcome of elections keeps them from either extreme in the current public dialogue.

Be that as it may, pundits seem to agree nearly universally that the November election will come down to a small number of states that are neither clearly red nor clearly blue and that the candidates will as a result inevitably move toward the political center as the autumn approaches in order to garner the broadest appeal.

Partisans on both the left and the right, in contrast, argue that their preferred party must stay true to its base in order to gin up turnout in a contest where there are few other levers available to the candidates to alter the outcome. Thus, Democrats are urged to remember the loyalty of union members, communities of color, the gay and lesbian vote, and women in general. Republicans are reminded that Christian fundamentalists and other traditionalist elements in society form a core vote for them.

Pres. Bush and other Republicans are presumably listening more closely to this second type of argument, in the case coming from the right, than to the more conventional analysis being repeated by most ostensibly neutral political watchers.

This is the only conclusion that can reasonably drawn from a series of actions on the part of the president and his allies in Congress reported during the past week.

First, as The New York Times reported, based initially on a story in The National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper, Bush used the occasion of his state visit to Italy to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Allies entry into that nation to lobby the Vatican’s secretary of state to put greater pressure on American bishops to speak up against same-sex marriage. The effort by a U.S. president to lobby the head of a worldwide church to take political steps aimed not only at disenfranchising gay and lesbian Americans but also to stymie his election opponent, who is Roman Catholic, is a reprehensible blurring of the line between church and state.

The Democrats should name it for what it is.

Meanwhile, Roll Call, the respected chronicler of events of Capitol Hill, is reporting that Republican Senate leaders are actively exploring the possibility of bringing the federal marriage amendment to a vote in the days just prior to the Democratic National Convention in Boston. The aim, presumably, would be to put a spotlight on Kerry and other Democrats who are on the record as opposing the initiative, and allow G.O.P. pundits on the air during the convention to repeat over and over a mantra about the gay marriage-loving Massachusetts liberals.

The fact that the amendment has no chance of securing the required two thirds vote in the Senate, which should paint the measure for the extremist overreaction it is, apparently has not yet discouraged the Republicans from their plan.

Finally, in a satellite speech to the annual Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday, Bush rejected appeals to broaden the scope of permissible stem cell research that have gained significant traction since the death of former Pres. Ronald Reagan, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, saying, “Life is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man.”

Reagan’s widow, Nancy, has made advocacy for stem cell research a centerpiece of her public life in recent years, in the belief that advances could spare others suffering from Alzheimer’s from the fate her husband suffered. It has been reported that she has privately lobbied Bush on the issue.

Apparently not interested in the political benefits Mrs. Regan could hand him in the form of an appearance at the August Republican Convention in New York, Bush has instead given the former first lady the back of his hand.

Just who are this man’s friends?


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