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Wednesday, June 28, 2006 

Flag Burning

I'm pretty upset about the flag burning amendment vote today in the Senate. Even though it failed by one vote, the very closeness of the vote is deeply troubling. Small margins aren't unusual in the Senate, but only one vote just isn't enough for comfort. It's very disappointing that 66 United States Senators don't seem to understand exactly what the flag means, what it represents. Flag burning is a disgusting, obscene, and unpatriotic act - but in our great country, legal protection of such things is not optional. Anything else violates the spirit of the Constitution. Free speech may often seem inconvenient, because no one wants to hear, for example, Nazi lies and propaganda, but it is the bedrock of democracy and it hurts to see it so narrowly upheld today in a place that ought to know better. People often don't think much of free speech until it's they who need it.

Take a look at the roll call; some of the votes are surprising, and few pleasantly. One of the most unpleasant is retiring, nothing-left-to-lose Sen. Mark Dayton's yea vote. Even more disgusting is that Sen. Dayton is a cosponsor of the amendment, and has been for a year. I've said it before, but Dayton has lost my support. November can't come soon enough so that we can replace him with Amy Klobuchar. Also interesting are some key senators' sometimes unexpected votes: Bennett (R) nay, Biden nay, Chafee (R) nay, Dorgan nay, Feinstein yea, Lieberman nay, Menendez yea, McConnell (R) nay, Reid yea. My respect, if not my support, for some of those nay voters has increased, while both my respect and my support for all of the yea voters has decreased. Flag burning is the ultimate unimportant wedge issue - how many people are troubled by it on a daily basis? - thus many of the yea votes are pure pandering, and for the Democrats in particular, it represents both a lack of principles and bad politics. By voting yea, Dems in tough races wanted to help increase Republican turnout by putting a flag burning amendment on the ballot? What the hell is wrong with them?

As a side note, did you know that the version of the amendment that passed the House was chief sponsored by Duke Cunningham? That should say something about the whole matter.

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Your first paragraph above captures the issue so well -- thank you for that.

I find it truly horrifying that our Senate came so close to approving the desecration of our nation's flag by using it to gut that which it is a symbol of.

Whether our Senate is truly that ignorant, or simply preying on others' ignorance for their own political posturing, it is either way quite frightening...

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