If you question the timing of President Bush's directive for a constitutional amendment defining marriage, you shouldn't be.

The president would much rather have this nation in an uproar this summer over a constitutional amendment than employment or war.

Mars rovers and moonshots as well are better subjects this year for the president than crippled schools and underinsured citizens.

And pandering to homophobia is much safer turf for this president than discussing Dick Chaney's personal war.

Election-year sideshows are not unusual, especially for presidents who have suffered through tough first terms or one-term presidencies. Most of them have attempted to divert the electorate from those issues where they don't measure up.

In directing Congress to get involved in drafting a constitutional amendment that would make marriage solely the province of men and women, President Bush is just following in the footsteps of others.

The timing is not the issue as much as the quality of this diversion. It's a disservice to incite this discussion and let it be about God, the Bible or something as misguided as the inability to prohibit polygamy.

The issue, if there is a valid issue, is financial. Homosexuals are identified as high-risk health care insurance consumers. If they are legally married, then their "spouses" will be invited into the coverage group and could cause insurance rates to rise even more than they already are.

It's a lame issue, but at least it can be debated as opposed to where President Bush's directive has us headed.

The policies and practices of this administration continue to be about division rather than inclusion.

Now in its panic over ever declining approval ratings, it has punched a lowest-common-denominator hot button in the hope it will lead Americans away from demanding issues at home and abroad.

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