Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 25, 2011

STEVE KING EYES JUSTICE DEPT BUDGET.... The Obama administration announced this week that it no longer considers the Defense of Marriage Act constitutional, and will no longer defend the law against court challenges. The right, not surprisingly, isn't happy, but there's a noticeable difference in the way different wings of the party are responding.

Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa, for example, offered this message via Twitter earlier today.

"If President Obama won't redirect Holder's DOJ to aggressively defend U.S. DOMA law, I will move aggressively to cut their budget."

It's certainly possible King will find some unhinged allies to pursue this, but I find it easier to just roll my eyes at his nonsense given the muted response from the rest of the party.

In the hours that followed [the Justice Department announcement], Sarah Palin's Facebook site was silent. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was close-mouthed. Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, released a Web video -- on the labor union protests in Wisconsin -- and waited a day before issuing a marriage statement saying he was "disappointed."

Others, like Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, took their time weighing in, and then did so only in the most tepid terms. "The Justice Department is supposed to defend our laws," Mr. Barbour said.

Asked if Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor of Indiana and a possible presidential candidate, had commented on the marriage decision, a spokeswoman said that he "hasn't, and with other things we have going on here right now, he has no plans."

To be sure, Mike Huckabee, who takes a back seat to no one when it comes to hating gays, was considerably more hysterical about this, but in general, much of the Republican Party effectively took a pass on Obama's DOMA move. It suggests the issue is losing its potency.

"The wedge," GOP strategist Mark McKinnon said, "has lost its edge."

The religious right, meanwhile, expects Republicans in Congress to do what the White House no longer wants to do -- defend DOMA in court. If lawmakers ignore it, the culture warriors are likely to go apoplectic, but it remains to be seen just how much the party intends to invest in this, Steve King's wild-eyed threats notwithstanding.

Steve Benen 2:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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Ain't that the way it goes with wedge issues - Bang on them long enough and the dull.

Then you gotta find a new wedge. Unions, for example.

Turns out that unions are more popular than gays, though.


Posted by: bignose on February 25, 2011 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

So, if the mighty clown Steve King were to actually do that, wouldn't that violate some law? Wouldn't that qualify as some type of extortion or co-ercion?

Posted by: June on February 25, 2011 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

"The wedge has lost its edge"

Which makes it a "W" in my book . . .

Posted by: retr2327 on February 25, 2011 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican Party and their social conservative allies will instead use this to raise funds and to rally the base at election time.

It's probably no longer a particularly effective wedge issue, if by that we mean an issue that helps get otherwise undecided voters out to vote. But it will continue to be useful in rallying the troops.

Posted by: DRF on February 25, 2011 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't seen anyone really discuss this or offer any concrete evidence, but one of the arguments that really proved to be the nail in the coffin of the defense in the Prop 8 trial in California last year was the way Olsen and Boies used the Yes on Prop 8's homophobic political rhetoric to show that, essentially, they were motivated by crude bigotry rather than high-minded concern for heterosexual marriage. If the GOP knows this is coming to a high court showdown, they're really going to have to reign in the hate-on-the-gay rhetoric if the plaintiffs aren't going to have a field day showing that the state is just propping up old-fashioned, retrograde homophobia with DOMA. Some Republican Congressman going off about how repealing this law would let child-molesting sodomites run rampant across our God-fearing land would quickly become exhibit A in showing how the law simply gives cover to irrational homophobia and is thus discriminatory rather than protective of a legitimate state interest. If I were a Republican operative, I'd be telling people to just STFU and let the lawyers take care of this one.

Posted by: jonas on February 25, 2011 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

"The religious right, meanwhile, expects Republicans in Congress to do what the White House no longer wants to do -- defend DOMA in court. If lawmakers ignore it, the culture warriors are likely to go apoplectic."
The timing of this is perfect, which explains why Boehner was so upset. After cutting so much from the budget, it is impossible for the GOP to argue that they should spend money on defending DOMA in court. You live by the wedge, you die by the wedge.

Posted by: Jon on February 25, 2011 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

McKinnon has it wrong. If Dems (and Obama in particular) would embrace the reality that civil marriage and religious ceremonies are two different things then this wedge could be used effectively against the GOP. This is still a big issue with the GOP base (but no one else). Force the GOP candidates to take a stand on this issue and you force them to alienate the electorate or leave their base wondering for what ideals they would be willing to fight.

Dems need to use this wedge. Endorsing gay marriage is the right thing to do and it has the advantage of being smart politically.

Posted by: rk on February 25, 2011 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think we should start referring to this as a cost-cutting measure. Obama is saving all the expense of defending cases that can't be won, saving the taxpayers gazillions of dollars and bringing down the deficit.

Doesn't King care about the deficit????!!!

Posted by: biggerbox on February 25, 2011 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

That's the thing with authoritarians, always the stick, never the carrot.

Posted by: thebewilderness on February 25, 2011 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

My memory on this type of thing isn't so good. Does anyone remember if any Democrats ever attempted to cut the Justice budget during a Republican administration?

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on February 25, 2011 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

The wedgy has lost its edgy, but don't worry Jesus and friends, you can still be a bigot and/or a racist and as much of an asshole as you need to be! Nobody is judging you!

Posted by: Trollop on February 25, 2011 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Lifelong Dem: does it really matter if you remember correctly? I'm sure some loyal Republican will remind you of the numerous occasions, without citation, when a Dem used/abused the DOJ, IRS, FBI, CIA, ETC to advance a socialist/communist Democrat agenda.
I direct your attention to the highly edited videos of ACORN and Planned Parenthood illegal activities to defund these organizations. In fact, ACORN was brought down by such videos and there were no DEMS who challenged the authenticity of these videos. To my mind, this would have been the perfect time to use the DOJ, and nothing happended except ACORN was unfairly shut down.
So, forget about a Republican ever telling the truth. Scott Walker is a perfect example, and he is still in office.
I equate the Republican leadership with that of Qaddafi. And, I trust they will eventually suffer the same fate.

Posted by: st john on February 25, 2011 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has the upper hand here. Remember, the Justice Dept is still enforcing the law, if not defending it in court. If the Republicans want to cut the Justice budget, Obama can just come back and say: "okay, now the Justice Department doesn't have enough money to enforce the law either." He can also point to some of the other things Justice spends money on. Like immigration enforcement and drug enforcement.

Posted by: fostert on February 25, 2011 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

So he is publicly blackmailing government officials and this legal why? (This is a serious question. I think.)

Posted by: Dummy on February 26, 2011 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

Since he's operating in his official capacity I'd be surprised if this qualified as blackmail. Congress has the right to decide how government funds are spent.

Posted by: oddjob on February 26, 2011 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK



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