George Will

No, not San Francisco's grandstanding mayor. In that city, where same-sex marriage is probably considered the right-wing option, Gavin Newsom ordered the wholesale issuance of marriage licenses in defiance of state law. He thereby became the most flamboyant scofflaw in an American elective office since George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door.

More telling was Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's casual statement that he would have ``no problem'' with Cook County issuing such licenses. Daley, who you might send to Mars to show Martians what a typical American is like, is about as radical as a grilled cheese sandwich. His reaction to same-sex marriage is evidence that the American center has no stomach for what looks increasingly like a struggle over mere custody of the word ``marriage.''

At this point it seems probable the president's proposal to amend the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman would not be ratified by three-quarters of the states even if it could -- which seems unlikely -- muster two-thirds support in both houses of Congress. In California, where one-eighth of all Americans live, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes the amendment, which would be the first since the 18th -- it of fragrant memory, prohibiting the sale of ``intoxicating liquors'' -- to constitutionalize a social policy.

After a 1956 event -- the Suez crisis -- made Harold Macmillan Britain's prime minister, he was asked what would determine his government's course. He replied, ``Events, dear boy, events.'' In the 240 days until Nov. 2, there will be events.

Imagine the capture of Osama bin Laden, or a terrorist attack in America, or one in Baghdad on the scale of the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks at Beirut Airport, or four or five consecutive months with heartening -- or discouraging -- job creation. Events are certain to be a valuable reminder to both candidates of how little they control the unfolding of history.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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