A constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from desecration was defeated by the Senate last night, ending a two-day debate that analysts say was more about politics than constitutional law.
Senate Republicans and President Bush, who had pushed hard to win the 67 votes needed to approve the amendment and send it to the states for ratification, came up one vote short, 66-34. Although proponents portrayed the amendment as necessary to protect America's premier symbol, others saw it as an election-year ploy by Republicans to inject enthusiasm into their most conservative supporters while forcing Democrats to oppose a popular amendment.
To drive home that point, Senate Majority Leader Bill First, R-Tenn., who is considering a run for president in 2008, scheduled the floor debate just one week before the July Fourth holiday and only months before crucial November elections that will decide which party controls the House and Senate.
"Why bring this stuff up a few months before an election?" said Peter Fenn, a Democratic consultant in Washington. "It's a political ploy. I think voters see through it. Does it mobilize the (conservative) base? After awhile, folks just roll their eyes."
Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic consultant in Boston, described the amendment as White House political adviser Karl Rove's "latest attempt to make the Democrats look unpatriotic."
The Democrats do not need Karl Rove to help them look unpatriotic -- they do a fine job all by themselves.
Still, I do not believe that an amendment is needed and am not sad that it failed. I believe that those who would burn the American flag deserve treatment similar to what would be given out by the big black guy who just got called a "n****." (Hint: it involves knuckles and several right crosses.)
Mitch McConnell (Ky), Robert Bennett (Ut) and Lincoln Chafee (RI) were the only Republicans to vote against the amendment.