In the be-careful-what-you-wish-for department, witness House GOP Leader Tom DeLay's tepid response to the prospect of shoving a constitutional ban on gay marriage through Congress. "This is so important we're not going to take a knee-jerk reaction to this," was DeLay's underwhelming reaction to Bush's <a target= "new" href="announcement yesterday.
But DeLay just last week was out in front on the conservative assault against gay marriage, calling it a central issue in the campaign, and a winning one for Republicans. Americans "have been tolerant of homosexuality for years, but now it's being stuffed down their throats and they don't like it," DeLay said. He also said Democrats were shooting themselves by becoming "the party of gay marriage." But now that the president has put banning gay marriage at the top of his agenda in 2004, DeLay seems less excited about the whole thing.
Why the toned-down rhetoric? Atrios says DeLay may have "figured out what BushRove hasn't. First, no one likes a loser. There isn't a lot of chance this will make it through the Congress (though it could). And, more importantly, this might cause a pretty nasty rift in the Republican party. Sure, the Dems will be all over the place on this vote, but they're used to that. The Republicans will have a significant number of defectors -- particularly in the Senate. And, the failure by the leadership -- Frist, Bush, and DeLay -- to keep their members in line will infuriate the base. They don't want a noble defeat. They want victory."
Josh Marshall explains why pushing a gay marriage ban, a purely political ploy on Bush's part, may backfire on Republicans. "On the straight issue of gay marriage, yea or nea, I think there's little doubt a sizeable majority opposes this. But there is rising cynicism about the president's motives -- or rather, rising cynicism about the president's cynicism. And I think it's possible that more than a few voters who are uneasy about gay marriage or downright opposed to it won't appreciate the president's willingness to trash the country and the constitution just because his domestic and international policies are in a shambles."