Of all the pre-Inauguration celebrations, one shone more brightly than the rest, with the presence of ?The Architect? Karl Rove, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, Attorney General John Ashcroft, White House Public Liaison Tim Goeglein, and former Congressman J.C. Watts, among others: the Christian Inaugural Eve Gala.
But many of the 800-plus in attendance were tepid?or worse?in their assessments of the start of President Bush?s second term.
The black-tie affair, held at the Ritz-Carlton, was a mix of beltway insiders and religious activists from around the country, yet the cynicism could be found among both sets.
Several people at the event talked openly, though off-the-record, of their frustration that Bush now is not the Bush who was on the stump. One prominent conservative activist pointed to the star-studded line-up and wondered if it was merely a ?symbolic show of support.?
The sole point of agreement was that Bush was going to be strong on appointing conservative judges to the federal bench, and hopefully, to the Supreme Court as well. Those who felt that Social Security reform was a moral issue?and many did?believed Bush might make some headway on that issue as well.
What had attendees at the Christian event most concerned, though, was their feeling that Bush was abandoning his support for a federal amendment banning gay marriage.
President Bush had certainly given them reason to at least question his commitment. Only days earlier, Bush had sounded unusually pessimistic about the prospects for the federal marriage amendment in an interview with the Washington Post.
When asked how hard he would push the amendment to ban gay marriage, he responded, ?The point is that senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I?d take their admonition seriously.?
Much to the White House?s chagrin, many base supporters appear to have taken the comment as a larger sign.
Former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer is at best lukewarm about President Bush at the beginning of the second administration. His expectations are low, to say the least. Conveying the feelings of many, Mr. Bauer says, ?It?s almost like a woman who?s constantly disappointed with her husband or boyfriend who keeps forgetting her birthday or anniversary.?
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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