2/28/2004 11:27:00 AM|W|P|PJ|W|P|At first I thought that the President was being smart by announcing support for the notion of an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution. After all, it's good politics to sprinkle a little blood in the water and keep the base fired up, right? By offering the amendment, Bush could paint the Dems as "the gay rights party" and divide moderate politicans (who are by and large scared of the poll numbers which show a strong popular opposition to gay marriage) from liberal activists (who are by and large receptive to the notion.) It doesn't matter if it passes. Hell, it's better if it doesn't pass--better to keep the rednecks in a permanent state of agitation over the question. Divide. Conquer. You know. Well, it may have looked good on paper, but the execution has been a bomb. Bush, by supporting an amendment, changed the question from "do you support, in the abstract, the notion of gay marriage," to "would you like the Constitution changed to save us from the merest threat of gay marriage?" There's a lot of people who might sign on to the former who don't like the latter. Bush has thus ceded the middle ground in the debate and given politicians who for personal or political reasons don't want to be seen to support gay rights but aren't fanatics on the subject a useful moderate-sounding position to take which will resonate with both liberal and conservative voters: that this is simply not a question worthy of an amendment. Bush's second miscalculation was to support something which seems to be on the way to spectacular failure. The question at this point is not whether the amendment will get the necessary 2/3 majority in the Senate. This dog would be lucky to get a simple majority at this point if it ever came to a vote. Losing a close one might be politically useful. Losing this badly--with even conservatives like Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and John Warner (R-VA) opposing it in the Senate--just makes the present administration look more out of control than they have already been in the last couple of weeks. His third and most potent miscalculation has been to use the ol' bully pulpit to make gay marriage front-page news and a subject of water-cooler discussions, and to provide a platform for people like Gavin Newsom (the mayor of San Francisco) to put a human face on the issue--that is to say, to force people who have never really seriously thought about the matter before to form an opinion while the network news broadcasts pictures of smiling gay and lesbian couples on one of the best days of their lives, and it's no longer J. Sixpack vs. some unsettling social change provoked by The Queers, it's J. Sixpack vs. the happiness of these particular people, and Mr. Sixpack may thus be forced for the first time to confront the reflexive prejudices and inertia that has hitherto defined his thinking. Anyone who's devoted any serious study to American history knows that the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s did not spring fully-formed from the heads of Martin Luther King et al. There were civil rights movements before then, there were civil rights movements after then, but part of what makes the civil rights movement of that period so uniquely important is the degree to which it succeded in compelling people to take a stand one way or the other ("am I with the little girl being attacked by Bull Connor's police dogs, or am I with the cop holding the leash?") and the degree to which it (with the unwitting help of its antagonists and their foolish overreactions) framed the question so that the right course of action was clear to any thinking, moral person. George Bush's miscalculation over the gay-marriage question is a classic Bull Connor moment. Perhaps it would be worth the time of the thinking, moral people of America to ponder the right course of action.|W|P|107798927981276733|W|P|george w. bush, hero of the gay-marriage debate|W|P|2/18/2004 02:02:00 PM|W|P|PJ|W|P|here.|W|P|107713456839854672|W|P|funny|W|P|2/03/2004 02:09:00 AM|W|P|PJ|W|P|One or two people may have commented on the crappy quality of the ads shown during this year's Super Bowl--a grim parade of toilet humor, talking animals, and Jessica Simpson. These commentators speak truth. Allow me to suggest a hypothesis. Super Bowl advertising is a victim of the classic tragedy of the commons. Advertisers spent years building the reputation of Super Bowl advertising to such a point that it became conventional wisdom that the Super Bowl was the one television program where "the ads were better than the program." "Watching it for the ads" became a shopworn cliche. The entertainment quality of Super Bowl ads meant that people would stay around to watch instead of flipping channels or hitting the head, which meant that the cost of ad time went way up, which encouraged ever more elaborate and pricey ad budgets, which enhanced the entertainment value, which kept the cycle going in seeming perpetuity. That much is well known. Here's the bit that's pure speculation on my part: some bright boy somewhere along the line realized that people would stick around for any old commercial (sans the massive production budget) if they knew that it would be bracketed by the good entertaining kind of ads they've come to expect during the Super Bowl. Seeing the success of this strategy, more and more people realize that they can reach millions and millions of people without spending millions and millions of dollars, and presto, you've got nothing but crappy fart jokes left. Of course, in the long run, the admen are cutting their own throats, because once everyone abandons the funny ads with the snazzy production values, everyone's eventually going to catch on and quit watching. But, hell, in the long run, we're all dead.|W|P|107579579120454482|W|P|whither the bud bowl? whither cat herding? whither terry tate, office linebacker?|W|P|