There’s a serial cat killer on the loose in the West. Has anyone checked Bill Frist’s alibi?

In his 1989 memoir, Dr. Frist, the heart surgeon and Senate majority leader, confessed that at Harvard Medical School, he used to adopt stray cats at shelters, take them home and slice and dice them for practice.

“It was, of course, a heinous and dishonest thing to do,” he wrote. “And I was totally schizoid about the entire matter. By day, I was little Billy Frist, the boy who lived on Bowling Avenue in Nashville and had decided to become a doctor because of his gentle father and a dog named Scratchy. By night, I was Dr. William Harrison Frist, future cardiothoracic surgeon, who was not going to let a few sentiments about cute, furry little creatures stand in the way of his career. In short, I was going a little crazy.”

Now Dr. Frist is not going to let any sentiments about those cute lesbians on the new cover of Newsweek — headlined “Is Gay Marriage Next?” — stand in the way of his career. He told George Stephanopoulos that he supports a Congressional proposal for a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriages.

“I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament,” he said. “And that sacrament should extend, and can extend, to that legal entity of a union between what has traditionally in our Western values been defined as a man and a woman.”

Yeah, love those Western values, from Socrates to Michelangelo to the Catholic Church. And what is a politician doing talking about sacraments anyway? Religion is in the business of deciding what is holy, not government.

If Dr. Frist felt a little “schizoid” in medical school, how must he feel now? One minute he and the Democrats are cooperating on a Medicare expansion bill that conservatives denounce as socialism, opposed by Tom DeLay, Trent Lott and Hillary Clinton. (You know you’re in trouble when Hillary calls your health care plan too byzantine.) The next minute, the good doctor is throwing out Anita Bryant red meat to conservatives as a sop, after a week when they were whacked by the Supreme Court and Congress in a capital they’re supposed to be dominating.

Dr. Frist got the top spot after Trent Lott’s ode to segregation. President Bush dumped Senator Lott in favor of Dr. Frist, who has cared for AIDS patients in Africa, so conservatives could have a more compassionate face.

But now the anti-Lott looks anti-tolerant. Is the doctor merely a cat’s paw for the White House, foreshadowing a demonization of gays in the 2004 race? Instead of Willie Horton, will the Bushies make Willie & Grace the bogeyman?

James Carville thinks the G.O.P. is pushing its culture war, playing up “the ick factor,” as Newsweek calls it, that gay couplings conjure up for many Americans, even moderates.

“Their base is all gassed up, screaming that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” he says. But he thinks the Democrats and gay activists would make a mistake “falling into Frist’s trap” and making a stand on gay marriage now. “I don’t care who gets married,” he says, “but the Republicans will use this to divide the Democrats and reduce us to an accumulation of interest groups — a woman’s right to choose, a kid’s right to education, a transgender’s right to whatever.”

But President Bush declined to endorse the constitutional amendment yesterday, and Lynne Cheney told Wolf Blitzer she agreed with striking down the Texas sodomy law: “It seemed to me a stretch that government had any place in the bedroom.”

Strategists involved in the president’s re-election effort denied any coordination with Dr. Frist. “Wedge politics are passe,” one said. “You can’t win by tearing down different groups.” He noted that younger conservatives tend to be more libertarian, so why turn them off?

President Bush seems pretty unfazed by different orientations. At his recent Yale reunion, among the classmates he greeted at the White House was one Yalie who had changed from a man to a woman.

According to news reports, the president did not blink and warmly greeted the alum, saying: “Now you’ve come back as yourself.”

Maybe the right’s spending too much time worrying about the thorny issue of gay marriage. Wait until it has to wrestle with gay divorce.