Saturday, January 24, 2004


President Bush is beginning to look squeezed, hemmed in by his own policy decisions. Thursday’s New York Times included reports of GOP discontent over White House spending and the deficit, as well as signs that even homosexuals who are Republican were dismayed by signs that Bush is headed toward a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

The Senate also approved changes to overtime regulations Thursday. They may not hurt 8 million people, as some say they will, but anyone hurt is going to be bitter at the president who signed them into law. And the rules will take effect in March, not after the 2004 elections, as will other controversial bills Bush has signed into law.

Democrats will play up that the Labor Department was caught advising companies how to avoid paying the new overtime. In other words, businesses are being told they can stop paying overtime to a bunch of people who earn it now -- up to 8 million -- and advised on how to never pay overtime to a bunch of people -- about 1.3 million -- who were supposed to start getting it.

These aren’t sure signs Bush is going down. They’re just cracks in the foundation.

And the Republicans are likely to fall into line behind their president at election time. These fissures are being revealed now to force the president to modify his behavior, and by November these complaints may be long forgotten.

On fiscal matters, anyway.

There are two gay Republican groups: the Log Cabin Republicans said firmly that “We will not stand with anyone who is willing to write discrimination into the Constitution”; the Republican Unity Coalition is holding back on criticism because, as the Times said, “Bush had not yet explicitly called for an amendment.” It’s clear that if Bush is forced into a corner on the gay marriage issue, he’ll lose gay Republicans, not to mention many democratic swing voters (even those who don’t swing that way).

So the more Bush participates in the usual election-year spending, the more fiscal conservatives will mutter their discontent. If Bush acts to comfort the antigay elements in his party, he’ll lose voters who see a constitutional amendment as abhorrent. Application of the overtime law will very likely not benefit low-wage workers and actually offend the middle class.

How will our hero escape this diabolical trap?

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