July 31, 2003

Church and State in the Bush Administration

In a rare news conference yesterday, President Bush declared his opposition to the notion of gay marriage. He explained that his administration is looking into how gay marriage can be outlawed more effectively. The New York Times suggests that this may mean that, in spite of the existence of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, the Bush administration might sponsor a constitutional amendment to probibit legalization of gay unions. (See “Where Are the Politicians?”)

The President offered no explanation for his position, which is, no doubt self-evidently proper to many Americans. Moreover, he managed to mollify and offend gays in the same breath by expressing a need to “respect each individual” while explaining that “we are all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of their neighbor’s eye when they [sic] got a log in their own.”

Mr. Bush’s biblical rhetoric, invoking the decidedly non-secular concept of sin, exposes his opinion for what it is—not a reasoned, public policy position, but an unexamined article of religious faith. Ironically, stories about the news conference are juxtaposed this morning with stories of the Vatican’s latest campaign against gay marriage. Once again, President Bush has wandered drunkenly over the line between church and state, oblivious that his strong religious convictions are not a legitimate rationale for legislative action.

July 16, 2003


It becomes increasingly clear that the Republican Party has a philosophy that is accepted by its acolytes, unencumbered, as Tom and Ray Magliozzi are fond of saying, by the thought process. This morning, for example, I heard an amazing sound byte on the radio from the House Budget Committee Chairman, Jim Nussle (R, Iowa). In all seriousness, he said, “Taxes that are left in the pockets of people who earned the money in the first place is [sic] not borrowed from the federal government. It’s left in the pockets of the people in the first place. Tax relief cannot cause deficits.” Of course, this is true in the same sense that a wing’s falling off an airplane does not cause the plane to crash, though that event, along with gravity, will usually do the trick. By Mr. Nussle’s logic, we could eliminate taxes completely without causing deficits. It is not, I suppose, his responsibility that the government necessarily spends money, and, lacking revenue, will run what most economists would call a deficit.

Congress (and the President, for that matter) needs to rely less on articles of faith, as does Mr. Nussle, and more on conventional logic.