In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, President Bush urges the new Congress to not “play politics as usual.” He writes, “If the Congress chooses to pass bills that are simply political statements, they will have chosen stalemate. If a different approach is taken, the next two years can be fruitful ones for our nation.”
But three of the most egregious examples of partisan politicking in the 109th Congress — gay marriage, flag burning, and Terry Schiavo — were pushed by the President.
Ban on Gay Marriage: In every year of the 109th Congress, Bush urged lawmakers to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage. From the beginning, the move received little public support and was considered “likely to fail,” but Bush and other conservatives continued to push it as one of the most important issues facing the nation. When the amendment failed in the Senate in June, the New York Times reported that Bush “expressed disappointment,” but urged lawmakers to “take several [more] tries.”
Ban on Flag Burning: Conservatives’ attempt to ban flag burning was opposed by the majority of Americans, called a “non-problem” by a Republican senator, and would have violated rulings by the Supreme Court that declared flag burning protected free speech. Yet Bush supported the amendment and when the vote in the Senate failed, called on the senators to keep trying.
Terry Schiavo Legislation: Bush and conservative leaders in Congress used the tragic case of Schiavo as an opportunity for political grandstanding. A memo, which the AP reported was distributed by Senate leadership to right-wing members, called Schiavo “a great political issue.” Bush played his part in the spectacle by flying to Washington from his ranch in Crawford to sign the bill, even though waiting a few hours for the bill to be flown to him would likely “have made no difference in whether Ms. Schiavo lives.”
Under Bush’s watch, the 109th Congress used valuable time to “play politics as usual.” It failed to raise the minimum wage, left nine out of 11 spending bills undone, and left unresolved a long list of national security priorities.