Wedge-Issue June Starts Today
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When you watch George W. Bush on a daily basis, seeing him reveal yet another hypocritical stance is about as newsworthy as a new criminal indictment on a Congressional Republican. Same old, same old.
But watch in the next few days when -- barring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist being struck down by a bolt of lightening from an angry God -- the U.S. Senate turns its attention to S.J.RES.12, a joint resolution (with the House of Representatives) that would amend the Constitution "…to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
"After September 11, citizens proudly flew the flag, defying the terrorist challenge to our core values of liberty and equality, and confirming its unique status as a symbol of our nation's strength and purpose," said the measure's author, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), of course not missing the chance to invoke 9/11 in introducing his bill. "In the struggle that has followed, our flag stands as a reminder of the many personal sacrifices made to protect and strengthen our nation. And so, to protect this symbol, I am today introducing this amendment."
Given the GOP penchant for hypocrisy, it probably won’t seem odd that Republican standard bearer Bush thinks nothing of desecrating the flag himself, as you can see in the accompanying photo from 2003, showing the president affixing his autograph to an American flag. I'm sure Republican operatives will have an answer for how using the flag for an autograph in lieu of a cocktail napkin isn’t as bad as burning the flag in protest. But Bush should be happy that the Hatch amendment, which he strongly supports, was not yet on the books when he committed his own act of "physical desecration."
I can't claim to speak for every Veteran but, for myself, I did my duty not for the flag itself, but for what it represents -- freedom and the right of each of our citizens to exercise that freedom by burning the flag in protest if that's how they choose to express their outrage. People who burn the flag don't disrespect anyone who fought for our country's creed. Cynical individuals like Hatch, who try to restrict the freedoms that many of our people have died for, most certainly do.
Watch for that to come to the Senate floor as early as this week as the second act in the GOP's wedge-issue June, in which they attempt to solidify their extreme right-wing base with nonsensical issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with governing the country.
Of course, the first act will be Senator Wayne Allard's (R-CO) disgraceful Marriage Protection Amendment, on which debate starts today and which will attempt to insert into our Constitution an article that says the following:
"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."
Never mind that this blatant pandering to the most bigoted elements of our society stands as much chance of passing the Senate as I do of getting a hot date with Salma Hayek. Is this what Bill Frist and George W. Bush think is a good use of the legislative branch's time when our country is faced with the Iraq quagmire, the situations with Iran and North Korea, the biggest deficit in U.S. history, hurricane season upon us again and 46 million Americans with no health insurance?
But if the terrorists Bush claims to be fighting really do "hate our freedom," they must be busting a gut laughing at the prospect of our government trying to debase the document on which our country was founded -- based on equal treatment under the law -- and cementing within those sacred principles a new article of bigotry and bias against one group of Americans.
With guys like Bush, Orrin Hatch and Wayne Allard, who needs Osama bin Laden hating our freedom?
Both of these amendments must pass both the Senate and the House with a two-thirds majority and be ratified by 38 state legislatures to become the law of the land and that simply is not going to happen. But is seems a fair question to ask the next "moderate Republican" you meet how they can continue to embrace a party that rallies its base by taking away essential freedoms and turning one segment of our population into second-class citizens.
What remains unclear is whether possible presidential candidate George Allen's (R-VA) S. 3275, a gift to the National Rifle Association (NRA) that would allow people licensed to carry a concealed weapon in one state to enjoy the same privilege anywhere else in the country, will make it to a Senate vote this month. This legislation is nothing but political payback to the NRA, terrible public policy and another effort to energize one part of the GOP base on an issue of no significance to the vast majority of Americans.
Whether or not any of these bills passes, the GOP is taking a giant gamble five months before the midterm elections: That when the polls open on November 7, Americans will believe that two men getting married, someone, somewhere burning an American flag or some yokel's right to have his Florida carry permit observed in New York has a damn thing to do with the daily, real-life concerns of their families.
They've won this gamble in the past. This time, they will not.
You can reach Bob Geiger at email@example.com