Friday, June 25, 2004

President Defends the Sanctity of Marriage

In an earlier comment I discussed Bush's reaction to the beheading of Paul Johnson and concluded that Bush doesn't understand what is going on in his own head.

Although this view may, by now, be fairly noncontroversial, he is the President, and it is probably worth the effort to look at what he thinks he is thinking. I'll do that with a series of occasional comments on remarks by the President.

Last November, Mr. Bush said that he plans to "work with congressional leaders and others to do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage."

The question is whether he knows what he is saying.

Merriam-Webster Online defines sanctity as:
  1. holiness of life and character : GODLINESS
  2. the quality or state of being holy or sacred : INVIOLABILITY "
Since the Government of the United States is prohibited by its constitution from establishing a church, it is impossible for the government to take legal action to defend the sanctity of anything. So on its face, the statement is either meaningless or foolish.

Of course one can argue that the President didn't really mean what he said. What he really meant was <you fill in the blank>.

So the issue is whether the President understood and meant what he thought he was saying, or whether he was choosing deliberately to confuse his listeners about two of our most fundamental institutions, separation of church and state and marriage, for pure political gain.

In this case, my guess is that not only does Mr. Bush value the political advantage he thinks this statement gains for him, he is too unintelligent to recognize the harm it is doing to his reputation and to the political fabric of the country.

If he truly understood how foolish he appears in making this statement, then no matter what he believes about marriage, he wouldn't go about expressing his views this way. So in this case, I come out on the side of stupidity rather than calculation.

UPDATE: I looked up misunderestimate, one of Bush's most often quoted apparent mental failures and found The Misunderestimated Man - How Bush chose stupidity. By Jacob Weisberg. Weisberg writes the Bushisms column for Slate. Weisberg concludes that Bush "was not born stupid. He chose stupidity. Bush may look like a well-meaning dolt. On consideration, he's something far more dangerous: a dedicated fool."

I do not plan to comment on Bush's off-the-cuff failures. I'll limit my remarks to those apparently made after due deliberation and that seem to reflect his actual intent.

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