Bush Is Told: Now It’s OUR TURN (Or Else)
The religious right has begun to send a firm message to the White House that it wants to cash in its political chips — and wants its payment NOW:
A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush’s plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
So these two issues are now being linked. But it makes you wonder: if the White House suddenly moves heaven and earth to press for a gay marriage ban, can these groups be BELIEVED if they sing later strongly sing the praises of a Social Security revamping plan? It could clearly be argued that their subsequent support was due to a quite public political payoff.
Another danger for the White House: if they agree to do a full-court press for the ban because it’s linked to them getting support on Social Security, the linkeage of these two events will likely cost them votes that they might have gotten for Social Security privatization — votes perhaps from moderate Republicans. And it would likely mobilize gay voters and/or voters against a gay marriage ban against the Social Security plan. More:
The move came as Senate Republicans vowed on Monday to reintroduce the proposed amendment, which failed in the Senate last year by a substantial margin. Party leaders, who left it off their list of priorities for the legislative year, said they had no immediate plans to bring it to the floor because they still lacked the votes for passage.
But the coalition that wrote the letter, known as the Arlington Group, is increasingly impatient.
In a confidential letter to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s top political adviser, the group said it was disappointed with the White House’s decision to put Social Security and other economic issues ahead of its paramount interest: opposition to same-sex marriage.
The letter, dated Jan. 18, pointed out that many social conservatives who voted for Mr. Bush because of his stance on social issues lack equivalent enthusiasm for changing the retirement system or other tax issues. And to pass to pass any sweeping changes, members of the group argue, Mr. Bush will need the support of every element of his coalition.
"We couldn’t help but notice the contrast between how the president is approaching the difficult issue of Social Security privatization where the public is deeply divided and the marriage issue where public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side," the letter said. "Is he prepared to spend significant political capital on privatization but reluctant to devote the same energy to preserving traditional marriage? If so it would create outrage with countless voters who stood with him just a few weeks ago, including an unprecedented number of African-Americans, Latinos and Catholics who broke with tradition and supported the president solely because of this issue."
The letter continued, "When the administration adopts a defeatist attitude on an issue that is at the top of our agenda, it becomes impossible for us to unite our movement on an issue such as Social Security privatization where there are already deep misgivings."
TWO THINGS: 1)The White House apparently is now trying to halt use of the word "privatization," claiming it’s press bias (so this group is biased like the press?). The new words are "personal accounts." 2) Acknowledgment that there are "deep misgivings" on Social Security is not terrific news for the White House.
And there is this:
The letter also expressed alarm at recent comments President Bush made to The Washington Post, including his statement that "nothing will happen" on the marriage amendment for now because many senators did not see the need for it.
"We trust that you can imagine our deep disappointment at the defeatist position President Bush demonstrated" in the interview, the group wrote. "He even declined to answer a simple question about whether he would use his bully pulpit to overcome this Senate foot-dragging."
The letter also noted that in an interview before the election Mr. Bush "appeared to endorse civil unions" for same-sex couples.
The group asked Mr. Rove to designate "a top level" official to coordinate opposition to same-sex marriage, as a show of commitment.
Trent Duffy, a spokesman for the White House, said on Monday that "the president was simply talking about a situation that exists in the Senate, not about his personal commitment or his willingness to continue to push this issue." Mr. Duffy said the "president remains very committed to a marriage amendment" and added, "We always welcome suggestions from our friends."
THE BOTTOM LINE: For years the Democrats relied on the foot-soldiers of labor. As the GOP moved into the Nixon/Reagan/Ford/Bushes era the religious right increasingly became a foot-soldier force for the GOP that actually proved to be in many instances more potent than the increasingly weaker labor unions.
The White House can’t afford to let it’s coalition drift apart…but if it moves firmly to give in to demands to push gay marriage to the top of its agenda, it could find forces mobilized against other reforms such as Social Security for a reason that dates back to early Man: political payback.
In short: Karl Rove is confronting a pincer movement. But never underestimate Karl Rove…