On July 15, The New York Times reported that President George W. Bush has tried to "finesse" the same-sex marriage issue, endorsing a constitutional ban under "election-year pressure from his social conservative base," while being "careful to modulate his message to avoid alienating moderate voters." But the Times suggested that the issue gave the Bush campaign an opportunity to portray Senator John Kerry (D-MA) as "taking both sides of an issue."
During a 2000 Republican primary debate, Bush responded to a question about same-sex marriage as follows: "The state can do what they want to do. Don't try to trap me in this state's issue." But earlier this year, under "election-year pressure," Bush took the opposite position, endorsing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The Times didn't note this flip-flop but did suggest that Bush's 2004 maneuvering on the issue -- supporting the amendment but moderating his message to avoid alienating voters -- "may have insulated" him from political harm:
By hedging his position, if only a bit, Mr. Bush may have insulated himself somewhat from the sting of the defeat the proposed amendment suffered in the Senate on Wednesday.
While the Times didn't point out Bush's clear flip-flop on the issue between 2000 and 2004, and even suggested that his "maneuvering" in 2004 was an effective political tactic, the Times wasn't so kind to Kerry, saying the following about the issue:
[It] provided an opportunity for the White House to maneuver Senator John Kerry into a position where it could again accuse him of taking both sides of an issue, the central theme in its effort to portray Mr. Kerry as so lacking in conviction that he would be an unreliable leader. Mr. Kerry has said he opposes gay marriage, but he also opposed the amendment, largely on the grounds that the issue was one for states to decide.
The Times provided no evidence of Kerry "lacking conviction" on this matter, nor did it provide evidence of Kerry "taking both sides" of the issue. There is nothing inconsistent in Kerry's position; he personally opposes same-sex marriage but thinks the issue should be up to the states. Indeed, that was precisely Bush's -- and then-vice-presidential candidate Dick Cheney's -- position in 2000. Instead, there is ample evidence that Bush has flip-flopped, that Bush lacks conviction, and that Bush is trying to take both sides of the issue.