Long May She Wave-- And Burn
Good for the Post's Dana Milbank for going beyond the wire copy reports of yesterday's flag-burning debate and vote in the Senate. The reporter and columnist offered readers true insight into the dopeyness of the Congressional effort. It's truly must-reading for anyone who wants to understand why Senate leaders pushed for the vote, and why, ultimately, their efforts to outlaw flag-burning failed by a single vote.
If Milbank's stuff was bright, there was plenty of dimness before, during and after the vote. Here are some of the highlights. Or lowlights. "Old Glory lost today," said Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a candidate for president in 2008 and perhaps best known for diagnosing Terri Schiavo's brain condition last year based upon what he saw when he watched her on videotape. "Who gets the final word -- five justices on the Supreme Court or we the people?" Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked, apparently unaware that the Bill of Rights was designed to require judges to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority.
There was more buffoonery. Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) showed up on the floor of the Senate with that famous picture of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima-- as if the debate over amending the Constitution was really a debate about the merits of the flag. But there was also political courage. The hero of the day? How about Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who lost an arm in World War II and received a Medal of Honor for his efforts. "Our country's unique because dissidents have a voice," he said, before voting against the Amendment. Another decorated veteran, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said that the Constitution protects the rights of Americans to be stupid (enough to burn a flag).
So the grand exercise now is done, the political calculations all laid out in advance of the upcoming election. Even proponents of the Amendment, as Milbank so vividly explains, didn't believe it was a legitimate legislative priority. And of course that says more about the current leadership in Washington than just about anything else Congress has done, or not done, this session. Idiots who burn flags aren't going to destroy America. But hapless politicians just might.
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