Your Weekly Reader

Friday, April 16, 2004

Hooray for Hollywood

The Bush campaign staged a “press conference” this past Tuesday. “Staged” is certainly the appropriate word, since the affair was more a performance than an information gathering event. For those of you who do not follow these things, the Bush White House has what might charitably be described as a contentious relationship with the press. Adversarial would be more descriptive. This is because the Administration perceives the presence of the Fourth Estate, and the concomitant desire of the American public for unbiased reporting, as something of a privilege rather than a right. Thus, it doles out information in a rather niggardly and completely controlled manner. This is only the 12th press conference this president has scheduled since taking office, and only the third telecast in prime time.

Opinion seems split over whether Bush gave an effective presentation or not. The bar for this president has dropped so low that if he doesn’t make a complete fool out of himself it is considered a triumph. There was only one time last night that he seemed a complete fool, so I suppose that’s a victory.

The President opened with what was described as a “brief statement,” but which actually turned out to be nearly 20 minutes long – almost a third of the hour allotted for the entire event. The entire statement revolved around how well things are going in Iraq, despite the fact that violence there is at an all time high. As is his wont, George Bush managed to reduce all the resistance down to the efforts of one man, “a radical cleric named al-Sadr [who] has assembled some of his supporters into an illegal militia and publicly supported the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.” Yes, another Iraqi bogeyman. Bush correctly understands that the American people have a difficult time with complex situations, and is always happy to find one scapegoat to blame for all that goes awry. We’ll see more of this as the “press conference” continues.

The first sign that this was not a legitimate press event is that none of the reporters present took any notes. They all had notebooks and pens with them, but there was none of the furious scribbling one tends to see at impromptu events. Instead, since (most of the) questions had been approved and answers written before the cameras rolled, the members of the press could relax, confident that they would be presented with a printed copy of the entire “press conference” at its end. Assuming they didn’t have one already. For his part, President Bush looked at his notes rather than scanning the assembled corps before deciding who to call on next. Nearly all of the reporters scheduled to ask questions were seated in the front row, and those who were not sat on or near the aisle, where the little Hobbity man with the boom pole could easily reach them without interfering with the broadcast. (At first I thought this guy was a child, like a bat boy. At a baseball game, not in the Weekly World News. It was only later that I realized he was a semi-grown adult, squatting low so as not to interrupt sight lines.)

That the entire thing was scripted was verified by several comments Bush made, such as midway through the event, when he cut off a follow up question by saying, “I’ve got some must-calls. Sorry.” Similarly, at the end, when several reporters tried to get his attention, he scolded them rather testily with, “Hold on for a second. Those who yell will not be asked …” What? Asked back? Asked into the press pool? Ever allowed in the building again? Bush made his most visible flub when he replied to the reporter who asked, “After 9-11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?” with “I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.” The clear implication is that other reporters did provide written question ahead of time so he could plan for them.

John Kerry and others have taken the President to task for “refus(ing) to acknowledge a single mistake in the course of his presidency.” But how he handled the question says more about him, and his “character,” than that simple statement implies. Watching his face during this debacle is most telling. “Uh… (He blinks his eyes several times, shakes his head.) John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could've done it better this way or that way. Uh… (He looks down, shakes his head some more, blows air into his lips.) You know, I just … uh … I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference (smiles ingratiatingly) with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet. (He means “hasn’t.” Looks down pleadingly, then looks up, eyes blank. Shakes head.) I would've gone into Afghanistan the way we went into Afghanistan. (Looks down; looks away.) Even knowing what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would've called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein. See, I'm of the belief that we'll find out the truth on the weapons. (Raises eyebrows; nods head several times.) That's why we sent up the independent commission. I look forward to hearing the truth as to exactly where they are. They could still be there. (Nods head.) They could be hidden, like the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm.”

Now he’s back on course. Despite the fact, which White House spokesmodel Scott McClellan admitted to the next day, that the 50 tons of mustard gas in Libya which Bush addressed twice in his speech was only half that, and it was found at several different locations, none of which was the turkey farm, which is where “unfilled chemical munitions” were found. Whatever those are. But Bush speaks for the next minute or so about Saddam Hussein and how evil he was. Then he finishes up with, “I hope - I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't - you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.”

Not quick on his feet? The man has no clue. He can’t even fake it like his dad, who said, when running for president, "For seven and a half years I've worked alongside President Reagan. We've had triumphs. Made some mistakes. We've had some sex ... uh... setbacks." At least GBI knew what he meant to say. If it ain’t scripted, GBII hadn’t got a chance. But that’s what happens when you’re under the spot. Wherever that is.

Most of the Q&A, though, was scripted. Several questions were designed specifically to allow George Bush to make policy statements intended to bolster his campaign. Those that did not were answered in ways that completely avoided the question. I have neither time nor space to offer a complete reckoning, but here are a few examples.

The first few questions are softballs, designed to provide Bush with an opportunity to repeat what he’s just said about the situation in Iraq. Then someone named Terry (none of the reporters are identified) asks this: “Mr. President, before the war, you and members of your administration made several claims about Iraq: that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers; that Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, we know where they are. How do you explain to Americans how you got that so wrong? And how do you answer your opponents who say that you took this nation to war on the basis of what have turned out to be a series of false premises?”

This could be a tough question. Where are the WMDs? Why do the Iraqis hate us? Did you lie to the American people? Bush’s tactic is simply to avoid the question. His response? “First, the lesson of September the 11th is that when this nation sees a threat, a gathering threat, we got to deal with it. We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. Every threat we must take seriously.” So we invaded Iraq because of September 11? I thought you never said Saddam was responsible for September 11. Then, after some revisionist history about the UN, he ends with, “Finally, the attitude of the Iraqis toward the American people - it's an interesting question. They're really pleased we got rid of Saddam Hussein, and you can understand why. This guy was a torturer, a killer, a maimer.” That’s why they’re still killing us. Because they love us! They’re killing us with love! Even if the majority of Iraqis are happy to Saddam gone, which they probably are, it still doesn’t answer the “sweets and flowers” question. What (other than sheer hubris) made us think that the Iraqis hated Saddam so much they would welcome an invading army? We’re not liberating France from the occupiers: we’re the occupiers.

Next, “Elisabeth” refers to a statement Bush made to Bob Woodward that in early 2001, Osama bin Laden was not a central focus of the administration. He puts the quote “in context,” saying, “I said, you know, compared to how I felt at the time, after the attack, I didn't have that – and I also went on to say, my blood wasn't boiling, I think is what the quote said.” Thanks for the clarification! And what do you mean, “what the quote said.” In other words, what you said? How removed is this guy from his own self that he can’t recognize quotes as being his own words?

“Dave” observes that, “you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism, and do you believe that there were any errors in judgment that you made related to any of those topics I brought up [WMD in Iraq, postwar planning in Iraq, whether the administration did enough to ward off 9-11]?” George responds, “most in the country never felt that we'd be vulnerable to an attack such as the one that Osama bin Laden unleashed on us.” Well, yes. And would that be an error in judgment? “The people know where I stand, I mean, in terms of Iraq. I was very clear about what I believed. And, of course, I want to know why we haven't found a weapon yet. But I still know Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.” Oh, never mind.

Bush does make one good point, which is that prior to 9-11, we “weren’t on a war footing.” But he never explains it, and he never takes responsibility for it. In essence, it means that prior to being attacked, there was no way to sell the American people on the notion that terrorism at home was a major concern. So the Bush Administration chose to ignore it, even more than the previous administration had. Bush claims credit for the Department of Homeland Security, not mentioning that a recommendation for just such a department, delivered by a bipartisan committee, languished on his desk from the spring of 2001 until after the attacks. Nor does he admit that had we been on a war footing, it would have been with Saddam Hussein rather than Osama bin Laden, so the attacks would still have taken place.

Of course, when a reporter (“Ed”) brings up the August 6th PDB, which warned of Osama planning to hijack commercial airliners, George counters with, “It was also an indication, as you mentioned, that bin Laden might want to hijack an airplane but, as you said, not to fly into a building, but perhaps to release a person in jail. In other words, he would serve it as a blackmail.” Rather than serving it as a palate cleanser, I suppose. Granted, many more people died in the attacks on New York City and Washington than would have in a standard hijacking, but in general, hijacking = bad, no? And if in August of 2001, the federal government had ramped up efforts to combat all hijacking of commercial airliners, it would have saved lives, yes? I do not believe that any president, no matter how I feel about him personally, would intentionally overlook a threat against the United States. But I continue to find this discrepancy between hijackings for ransom and hijackings for attacks a bit sophistic. In a similar vein, when asked if he feels at all responsible for the attacks, Bush says, “The person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden. That's who's responsible for killing Americans. And that's why we will stay on the offense until we bring people to justice.” Hmmm, evasive and jingoistic all at the same time. Two great tastes that taste great together.

As I mentioned, several questions are asked merely to provide Bush with an opportunity to wax political for several minutes. Jim the Stooge asks, “You have been accused of letting the 9-11 threat mature too far, but not letting the Iraq threat mature far enough. First, could you respond to that general criticism? And, secondly, in the wake of these two conflicts, what is the appropriate threat level to justify action in perhaps other situations going forward?” There is, of course, no reasonable answer to this question. It is not a question, but an invitation for self serving blather. Which George takes with a five minute response about what a good job he’s doing (mentioning, along the way, the fictional 50 tons of mustard gas in the turkey farm). The following nonquestion, from Judy the Stooge, is, “Sir, you've made it very clear tonight that you're committed to continuing the mission in Iraq, yet, as Terry pointed out, increasing numbers of Americans have qualms about it. And this is an election year. Will it have been worth it, even if you lose your job because of it?” George takes the bait, and answers, “I don't plan on losing my job. I plan on telling the American people that I've got a plan to win the war on terror. And I believe they'll stay with me.” Bravo, George! Brava, Judy! George isn’t done, of course, and continues for another 2 ½ minutes with such platitudes as, “No matter where they may stand on this war, the thing I appreciate most about our country is the strong support given to the men and women in uniform. And it's vital support. It's important for those soldiers to know America stands with them, and we weep when they die, and we're proud of the victories they achieve.” He makes sure we get the point of his message: “The American people may decide to change. That's democracy. I don't think so. I don't think so. And I look forward to making my case. I'm looking forward to the campaign.” I love press conferences, because they’re so apolitical.

Not everyone is on George’s side, though. John makes the mistake of asking a direct question and expecting a direct answer. “You mentioned that 17 of the 26 NATO members [are] providing some help on the ground in Iraq. But if you look at the numbers - 135,000 U.S. troops, 10,000 or 12,000 British troops. Then the next largest, perhaps even the second- largest contingent of guns on the ground are private contractors, literally hired guns. Your critics, including your Democratic opponents, say that's proof to them your coalition is window dressing. How would you answer those critics?”

In my communication class at Northeastern, we’re working on persuasive speaking. As part of our class work, we’ve been discussing reasoning fallacies. George employs many of them in his response.

Ad Hominem (mudslinging), along with some Non Sequitur: “I don't think people ought to demean the contributions of our friends into Iraq. People are sacrificing their lives in Iraq from different countries. We ought to honor that, and we ought to welcome that.” No one’s demeaning the Polish troops who are there, but 2400 of them to 135,000 of us isn’t much of a coalition. Observing such does not make your critics insensitive.

“One of the things I've found, John, is that, in calling around, particularly during this week - I spoke to Prime Minister Berlusconi and President Kwasniewski - there is a resolve by these leaders that is a heartening resolve. Tony Blair is the same way. … I was having dinner with Prime Minister Koizumi …” Nice use of the ol’ Bandwagon. I’m glad your powerful friends support you.

“Some of the debate really centers around the fact that people don't believe Iraq can be free; that if you're Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can't be self-governing or free. I'd strongly disagree with that.” I see a Straw Man! This involves misrepresenting your opponent’s position and then attacking that weaker (straw man) argument. Nothing about this discussion has anything to do with the ability of the Iraqis to self govern. In fact, George, you’re the first one to bring it up!

Bush employs plenty of other fallacious reasoning throughout his press conference (and presidency), most suspiciously False Cause (Best response to terrorist attacks? Invade Iraq!), Either-Or (“Do we have an obligation to lead, or should we shirk responsibility?”) and Hasty Generalization (“Yet, in this conflict, there is no safe alternative to resolute action. The consequences of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable.”). But since no one’s listening – the reporters are coughing, his supporters and detractors aren’t changing their minds – it doesn’t really matter.

One guy does want to challenge Bush, though, and that’s Michael. He’s one of the few reporters present who asks a legitimate question. “Mr. President, why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9-11 commission?”

Bush pretends to miss the point, and replies, “Because the 9-11 commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.”

Despite being off camera and off mike, Mike persists. “I was asking why you're appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.”

This is the one time when George comes close to losing it. Unlike the question about mistakes, where he bumbles and shuffles, here he looks ready to kill. He looks at Michael as though he’s a fucking moron, and repeats, sarcastically, “Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9-11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them.”

It is at this point that someone – Michael or another reporter – attempts to pin him down, and Bush responds with, “I've got some must-calls. I'm sorry.” Does he get the question or not? Only Karl Rove knows for sure. But I’m fairly certain that Michael is off the list.

Friday, April 09, 2004

In Your Easter Bonnet

This Sunday, of course, is Easter. For Christians, this is the highest Holy Day of the year. For Americans, it’s a chance to dress up, hide goodie bags and eat those foul marshmallow Peeps.

The clash between the religious and the secular is central to American culture. We are a repressive religious nation by birth (the Pilgrims were Puritans, who left England because the Anglican Church was too soft – too “impure” – for their hardy hides), an embracing culture by law. We’ve made Christian holidays into national celebrations, then dressed them up in pretty colors and squeezed out the Christ, to make everyone feel welcome. We love Christmas, which we abbreviate as Xmas and pronounce “kriss-mus” to avoid the Christ. We much prefer celebrating Baby Jesus’ birthday by giving each other presents, rather than celebrating his death and resurrection by going to church. In America, Easter has returned to its pagan roots as a ritual honoring the coming of spring. Easter parades give people a chance to shrug off the long, cold winter and put on something frilly. Not your average funeral wear. Even the song “Easter Parade” was written by Irving Berlin, the Jewish composer who also gave us “White Christmas” and “God Bless America.” How cross-denominational can you get?

Growing up in a Greek-American home, I was particularly aware of this clash. My family celebrated both “Greek Easter” and “American Easter.” American Easter – or Catholic Easter, as it is more properly called. (Sorry Protestants, but the split was between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. You guys have been around for less than 500 years.) Anyway, on American Easter we hunted for baskets and ate chocolate bunnies. On Greek Easter – which is to say, Orthodox Easter – we went to church and engaged in rituals and cracked red eggs. Even as a child I understood the dual nature of Easter, and got to pick and choose between the two as I wished.

This is the American way.

[By the way, as happens every so often, this year Greek Easter and American Easter are on the same day. It all has to do with the Ecclesiastical Calendar and the Paschal Full Moon (that gorgeous full moon we had just a few days ago) and how both are affected by the differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. To complicate matters, the Ecclesiastical Full Moon is not always on the same date as the Astronomical Full Moon, and the Paschal Full Moon is not the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon following the equinox, but the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon following March 20, which was the equinox in 325 AD, when these dates were set. I’m not making this up, you know.]

Whether we like it of not, Easter is about resurrection. All the good stuff in Christ’s life merely leads up to this point. In the words of Shakespeare, “What’s past is prologue.” The Crucifixion puts nasty end to all that. And by the way, notice how we don’t allow the word “fiction” in “crucifixion?” Without the resurrection (“resurrexion?”) and ascension Christ is just another prophet, just like the Muslims say.

Christianity gets its big boost from the resurrection three days later. Or two days. Or a day and a half. I can’t seem to make sense of Christian math. He’s arrested on Holy Thursday, crucified on Good Friday and rises on Easter Sunday. Now today is Friday, and if I have plans for Sunday (and I do), that’s the day after tomorrow. Not three days. But the Gospels don’t actually say “three days,” they say “the third day.” So I guess Friday is the first day. It all has to do with the mystical power of threes, and to say he rose a day and a half later just doesn’t have the same oomph.

Just as important as the resurrection are the numerous sightings afterwards. Jesus is like Elvis: sightings continue long after his purported death. First he appears to Mary Magdalene (but says, “Don’t touch me!”), then to The Two on the road, then to the assembled disciples, then to Thomas, who does get to touch him. Then he goes fishing, then he goes to Galilee, then he goes to Bethany. The risen Christ puts in more personal appearances than Adam West on the shopping mall circuit. Though he tells Thomas, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,” he goes out of his way to make sure everyone sees. Faith is all well and good, but a close encounter of the third kind goes a long well to dispelling doubt.

In Christian countries, the faithful go to church and beat their breasts and eat salted fish or a paschal lamb. In America we watch the Pope on TV and eat ham and yams. Some channel is bound to be showing “The Robe” while another airs “Easter Parade,” and I believe ABC has scheduled a telecast of “The Ten Commandments,” though what that has to do with Easter I haven’t the slightest idea. [Things ain’t what they used to be. Granted, TCM is showing a lineup which includes “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Easter Parade” and “King of Kings” (both the 1927 Cecil B. DeMille and the 1961 Nicholas Ray versions). But everyone else has dropped the ball. HBO is showing “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Groundhog Day,” TBS “Total Recall” and AMC “Capricorn One.” Well, Jesus was a Capricorn.] It will probably be a nice day for shopping, and you might catch a movie or even stop in at a church and see all the kids in their holiday finery.

But if some guy tells you to stick your hand into the wound in his side – don’t.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Vacation of the Christ

"The Passion of the Christ" opened last weekend in Croatia and set a new box office record in that country. The record was previously held by "The Return of the King," which is kind of the same movie, but with less scourging. One viewer said, "I went to see the film to get a better feel for Easter." Or you could just rent “Total Recall.”

Critics expect the movie to get a boost during Holy Week, as families take their children to see an uplifting film about Christ.

They’re eating the film with tahini in the Arab world. A fan in Jordan spoke for many when she said the flick "unmasked the Jews' lies and I hope that everybody, everywhere, turns against the Jews." Yasser Arafat compared the suffering of Jesus to that of the Palestinians, and Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Mehri of Kuwait says the movie "reveals crimes committed by Jews against Christ."

Ain’t religion grand?

Meanwhile, the little Italian town of Matera, where much of the film was shot, is bracing itself for a tourist onslaught. "Passion" tour packages have sparked interest among US visitors, while travelers from Germany, France and Norway are already climbing the hill which stood in for Golgotha. This isn’t the first time Matera served as Jerusalem’s body double; Pier Paolo Pasolini shot "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" there in 1964. The tour includes the hotel where Mel Gibson slept, the chapel where he attended Mass, and a trattoria serving "fettuccine alla Mel."

Wasn’t that a dish on “Alice”?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Adam and Steve

Gay marriage is back in the news this week – as if it was ever gone – as the Massachusetts legislature passed a constitutional amendment which would ban gay marriage while legalizing civil unions. This is just the first step in a convoluted process which requires the amendment to be passed again by the legislature during its next two year session, and then approved by the voters in November 2006. In the meantime, all 200 seats in the state legislature are up for reelection this November. Since the amendment passed with only a four vote margin, both sides will be fighting to retain as many members as possible.

Ironically, the lawmakers are fighting for a compromise which satisfies no one. Gay rights advocates, who normally would be pleased with the prospect of state sanctioned civil unions, see the amendment as a step back from the full marriage rights they had been promised. At the same time, conservatives rankle that the only way to ban gay marriage is to approve civil unions.

Personally, I believe they should all hang their heads in shame.

The controversy began, as you may recall, last November, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to discriminate against a class of people based on their sexual orientation, and gave the legislature six months to rewrite the state’s marriage laws to include gay couples. That six month period is up May 17.

The legislature’s response was swift. Rather than even considering righting the inequity, they decided to write discrimination into the constitution. “Hey, if it’s unconstitutional to ban gay marriage, best change the constitution!” They behaved like a teenager who, because his mother tells him she doesn’t want him stoned in her house, simply doesn’t come home when he’s stoned. It’s as if baby eaters had a strong enough lobby that they could compel the legislature to legalize baby eating. Passing a law doesn’t make it right.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court are what George Bush refers to as “activist judges” – activist apparently being a bushphrase for someone who does their job. Mr. President, perhaps the word you’re looking for is “active.” Other activist judges are the ones who decided it might be all right for adults of all persuasions to engage in safe and consensual sexual activity in the privacy of their own home. That this decision came less than a year ago is still somewhat shocking. Even at that time, rabid Fat Tony Scalia saw gay marriage on the horizon. Of course, he also fretted that “laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are … called into question by today's decision.” At the time, I wrote, “What, no cat and dogs living together? Once again, homosexuals, prostitutes and animal fanciers find themselves in the same category. … That Antonin Scalia thinks there are or should be laws against masturbation, of all things, is bizarre to me. And isn’t fornication just unmarried sex? Who has time to round up all the fornicators?”

This clash between the various branches of government is as old as our nation, and is what the framers of the Constitution had in mind. The Supreme Courts are meant to be safe from the vagaries of public opinion and political pressure, and their members are supposed to be knowledgeable in both the letter and spirit of the law. It is the nature of the Supreme Courts to hand down controversial and unpopular opinions. 50 years ago, Strom Thurmond railed against The Supremes for their decision outlawing school segregation. He joined with 18 senators and 77 representatives in presenting “The Southern Manifesto,” which read (in small part), “We regard the decisions of the Supreme Court in the school cases as a clear abuse of judicial power. It climaxes a trend in the Federal Judiciary undertaking to legislate, in derogation of the authority of Congress, and to encroach upon the reserved rights of the States and the people.” Those words would fit very easily into George W. Bush’s mouth today.

I am annoyed, as ever, by the sidesteps and fancy dance politicians are taking around this issue. Dennis Kucinich is the only one who has come out clearly in favor of the rights of gays to marry. Last July, he said, "there should be a federal law that would allow gay couples to be married" because "we cannot have states making separate rules with respect to basic human rights." John Kerry is in the same boat as his Massachusetts compatriots, coming out in favor of civil unions which bestow the full 1,049 benefits married couples receive, without calling it marriage. As for Bush, who knows what he really thinks. If anything. The way he Clintons around the issue, it’s difficult to tell. He has called for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, but has said state legislatures could define "legal arrangements other than marriage." (Many gay marriage proponents feel that the amendment as phrased would prevent states from offering full rights to civilly united couples.) He wants to defend marriage, but he also wants to defend the rights of gays to live their lives in peace. It’s the political version of that “love the sinner hate the sin” policy that plagues Christians of every stripe.

I’m not surprised that politicians are afraid to come out in favor of gay marriage. You can’t blame them for being gutless and more than you can blame Pavlov’s dogs for salivating when the bell rings. If we wanted them to speak their minds, we shouldn’t have hit them across the snout with a rolled up magazine every time they tried. Some may say Bush is standing up for what he believes by supporting The Amendment. This might be the case if gay marriage was a plague sweeping the nation. As it is, the rash of gay weddings of late are a response to the threat of a gay marriage ban, not the cause. According to the most generous figures, gays and lesbians account for one tenth of the population. How much guts does it take to trample the rights of such a small minority?

I understand that many people are uncomfortable with the notion of gay marriage. I understand that many people are uncomfortable with the notion of gay sex. (Unless, of course, it involves two women and a Penthouse magazine.) I am uncomfortable with some notions of gay sex. My parents, like many of their generation, were uncomfortable with the notion of marriage between blacks and whites. But their discomfort was not enough to make such marriages illegal. At least not after 1967, when the Supreme Court, once again “undertaking to legislate,” overturned the miscegenation laws which outlawed interracial marriage in 16 states. The trial judge in the original case – amusingly known as Loving v. Virginia – said in his ruling, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” These words would fit a little less easily into George Bush’s mouth, and probably wouldn’t come out very well.

The fact is, you can’t legislate away the future. The Federal Marriage Amendment is Prohibition all over again, a “noble experiment” designed to legislate morality and destined to be repealed, should it ever pass, which is highly unlikely. More than that, it is a red herring, a sop to the far right, to make them feel safe in a world not of their making. But it’s all a sham, and anyone is Washington with a head on their shoulders knows it. Gay marriage is coming – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

That’s what I want to hear a candidate say.