- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Flag measure passes

The House yesterday voted 300-125 to approve an amendment to the Constitution to make it a crime to burn the U.S. flag.

It was the fifth time in the past eight years the House has approved the one-sentence change to the Constitution: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”

Passage of the amendment would also require a two-thirds majority in the Senate and approval by three-fourths of state legislatures. But it is unlikely that the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority, will pass the measure this year, the Associated Press reported.

“It’s always an uphill battle, but we’re hoping we can get it done,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Maybe not this year, but at least probably next year.”

The Senate has never passed the legislation under Republican or Democratic control.

The Bush administration supports the amendment, a White House spokesman said.

Lawmakers have debated the flag amendment almost annually since a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 1989 saying flag burning was protected as a type of free speech. That ruling overturned a 1968 federal statute and flag-protection laws in 48 states. In 1990, Congress passed federal legislation protecting the flag, but the Supreme Court that year, in another 5-4 ruling, struck it down as unconstitutional.

Hillary’s book

The release on Monday of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s memoir, “Living History,” “is shaping up to be one of the biggest literary and political events of the year,” USA Today reports.

“Publisher Simon & Schuster thinks it has a blockbuster in the story of the former first lady who became New York’s junior Democratic senator. The first printing is 1 million — an almost unheard-of number for a nonfiction book, especially one that is 576 pages long and costs $28. It puts Clinton, as an author, in the same league as Pope John Paul II and Billy Graham — though industry skeptics say the publisher’s sales projections are wildly optimistic,” reporters Kathy Kiely and Bob Minzesheimer said.

Some Republicans are licking their chops, the newspaper said.

“It couldn’t come at a better time for Republicans and a worse time for Democrats,” said Rich Bond, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. He thinks Mrs. Clinton will steal the spotlight from the nine Democrats running for president.

Republican pollster John McLaughlin agrees.

“The poor Democrats who are running for president are going to get eclipsed again,” he said.

He’s scandalized

Paul Krugman, the Bush-bashing New York Times columnist who recently inspired Democrats to attack the president for landing on an aircraft carrier, now says that the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq constitutes perhaps “the worst scandal in American political history.”

“The public was told that Saddam [Hussein] posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-Contra,” Mr. Krugman said in his column yesterday.

Of course, Mr. Krugman’s judgment could be questioned. The columnist once predicted that the collapse of Enron — a firm that he once advised — would come to overshadow the September 11 attacks.

It takes chutzpah

“The new tax bill exempts another 3 million-plus low-income workers from any federal tax liability whatsoever, so you’d think the nation’s class warriors would be pleased,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“But instead, we are all now being treated to their outrage because the law doesn’t go further and ‘cut’ income taxes for those who don’t pay them,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“This is the essence of the uproar over the shape of the child care tax credit. The tax bill the president signed last week increases the per-child federal income tax credit to $1,000, up from the partially refundable $600 credit passed in the 2001 tax bill. But Republican conferees decided that the increase will not be paid out to those too poor to have any tax liability to begin with.

“Most Americans probably don’t realize that it is possible to cut taxes beyond zero. But then they don’t live in Washington, where politicians regularly demand that tax credits be made ‘refundable,’ which means that the government writes a check to people whose income after deductions is too low to owe any taxes. In more honest precincts, this might even be called ‘welfare.’”

The newspaper added: “Sen. Olympia Snowe, the media’s favorite Republican now that John McCain isn’t actively running for president, says she is ‘dismayed.’ ‘I don’t know why they would cut that out of the bill,’ adds Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat. Those last two remarks take chutzpah, because if either woman had been willing to vote for the tax bill, a refundability provision would have been in it.”

A head-scratcher

“Sometimes I think contemporary liberalism has to be understood not as a type of politics, but as a species of mental illness,” David Frum writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“How else to understand the New York Times’ account on the newly released Justice Department report on the post-9/11 detention of terror suspects? According to the Times, ‘the report represented a high-level validation of the concerns voiced by civil rights groups about the broad net authorities have cast in prosecuting the campaign against terrorism.’

“Oh yeah? The reasons for detention listed in the report sound perfectly reasonable in the context of post-9/11 America. Is it really so outrageous for a citizen to worry when two Middle Eastern men rent a truck from him ostensibly for a one-way trip to a distant city, return it just a few minutes later after driving only a few miles, forfeit a large deposit without complaint, and seem visibly nervous through the transaction? When the citizen reports the incident and it turns out that the men are present in the country illegally, is it really so intolerable for the FBI to hold them, question them, and then deport them?” Mr. Frum asks.

“If you remember how much favorable attention the press gave to reports last year that the Bush administration had missed opportunities in the summer of 2001 to detain the 19 9/11 hijackers, you have to wonder — are they telling us that in a national emergency the government should detain only those illegal immigrants who later turn out to be dangerous and no illegal immigrants who later turn out not to be dangerous? Is it really true that the cause of civil liberties requires law enforcement to have 100 percent perfect foreknowledge of what their investigations will later find?”

Thompson’s future

Tommy G. Thompson said yesterday that he will not stay for a second term as secretary at Health and Human Services.

However, Mr. Thompson said he will not be leaving anytime soon.

“I would think the fact that I’m here taking on the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria], building a new command center, going to Africa, is a pretty good indication I’m going to be here for a while. Let’s leave it at that,” he said.

At the Wisconsin Republican Party convention this month, Mr. Thompson, who was governor there for 14 years, said he wanted to try his hand outside government.

“I think it’s time for me to take a hiatus from government and do something else for a while,” he said.

Mr. Thompson promised to eventually run for office again, the Associated Press reports.

“I will someday run for elected office again in Wisconsin. Someday,” he said. He added that chances were “slim to none” that he would challenge Democratic Sen. Russell D. Feingold next year when the senator is up for re-election.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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