Friday, July 23, 2004

Hadley Arkes on John Kerry, Mitt Romney, and Gay Marriage on National Review Online: "The Senate is bracing now for a vote on a constitutional amendment on marriage. Behind closed doors, the Republican leadership, including several chairmen and supposed conservative stalwarts, have reportedly expressed their resentment that they should be made to vote on an issue so vexing, so quick to release poisons into the political air. In the reaction of the Senate leadership we get a measure of the true state of the conservative political class in America—their want of confidence in making their own arguments and standing ground in the face of assaults from the media. (They bring to mind the line of the first Mayor Daley: 'I have been vilified, I have been crucified, I have been...criticized!') And yet, there is one person in the Senate who is never tagged with the least bit of responsibility for this straining business, or held to answer for the introduction of marriage as a dramatic, unsettling issue this political season.

"The issue, after all, was the gift of Massachusetts—or rather of four judges, backed with all of the passion of liberal Democrats in that state, who wished to lead the nation to the next rights frontier. John Kerry is now the preeminent Democrat in Massachusetts. Clearly he did not welcome this issue as an intrusion into the presidential campaign, but the decision was brought forth by his friends, and it is his party that houses those most passionate in their commitment to the rightness of same-sex marriage. Whether he likes it or not, John Kerry owns this issue. He will soon be the head of the Democratic party, and it is entirely apt that he be pressed to explain the position he has embroidered in his typical style—with nuances, inventive and implausible, covering brute facts.

"As everyone understands by now, a Kerry 'explanation' is not always easy to follow. And here especially, with a matter so contentious, Kerry has sought to placate both sides with a stylish straddle. The undoing of that straddle, or the unraveling of his argument, would be fine political theater in itself. But as it is undone, it also reveals the strongest case for the constitutional amendment on marriage."

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