B2 FRIDAY. OCTOBER 4, 1996 THE SALINA JOURNAL George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SalJoumal ©aol.com Quote of the day "It will be quieter." Rep. John Boehner R-Ohio, asked what Congress will be like with the retirement of Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo. OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / TVie Safina Journal Sacred and profane THE ISSUE A flag desecration amendment THE ARGUMBUT You cannot desecrate what is not sacred O nce again rearing its ugly head in this ugly election year is a movement to ban desecration of the American flag. While they are at it, they might as well go for a constitutional amendment prohibiting pigs from flying. It is not possible to desecrate an American flag. You can burn one, rip one, blow your nose in it or make it into a diaper, but you cannot, no matter how hard you try, desecrate it. That is because desecration is an act that, by definition, can only be done to objects of religious veneration — to holy relics and symbols. To desecrate, the American Heritage Dictionary says, is to abuse the sacredness of something. It is the opposite of to consecrate, which means to make something holy. The American flag is worthy of respect. But it is not a piece of the True Cross, not the Ark of the Covenant, not a holy text, shrine or artifact. It is a political symbol and, like all political symbols, open to political comment. When the peoples of the former Soviet Empire gathered in town squares from Vladivostok to Prague to knock over statues of Lenin, smash busts of Stalin and rend flags bearing the hammer and sickle to shreds, we all knew those were political statements. They were powerful statements, statements that would have gotten those making them jailed, or shot, under the previous regime. For Americans to amend their basic law to model after the old Soviet Union instead of the free nations that followed it would be a shame. Yet that is exactly what too many politicians have been pressured into doing. Thanks to pressure from a deluded group called the Citizens Flag Alliance, all the Republicans seeking U.S. House and Senate seats from Kansas back a proposed constitutional amendment banning desecration of the flag. Two Democratic House candidates — John Frieden in the 2nd District and Randy Rathbun in the 4th — are too afraid to refuse the offer of this protection racket. If burning a flag is not valid and protected political speech, then neither is flying one. Why on Earth should we deprive the many patriotic flag-flyers of their proud political statement in order to deter the very few airheads who want to exercise their constitutional right to make the opposite point? To remove the flag from the realm of politics and attempt to give it the status of a religious icon is to show a disturbing disrespect for the flag's strength and significance. Like the flag of the Soviet Union, the flag of the United States will only require legal protection when the people in their wisdom no longer respect it. Those who support this pernicious amendment to the Constitution are only working for that sad day to come much sooner. LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL P.O. BOX 740, SALINA, KANSAS 67402 State not ready to close Topeka hospital On Sept. 25, you published a letter from John Garlinger, public information officer for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, captioned "State is ready to help mentally ill." I believe your caption was misleading. The state is not ready to help the mentally ill, and it is very doubtful if they will be ready next month, or even next year. On Sept. 6, I attended the Kansas Mental Health Care Summit in Topeka, sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company. Speaking for SRS was Dr. Jai Sookram. Dr. Sookram's comments left no doubt in the minds of the attendees that SRS had not formulated a workable plan for the closure of Topeka State Hospital, nor did he indicate that a workable plan would be forthcoming. However, on Sept. 12, SRS Secretary Rochelle Chronister testified before the Transitional Oversight Committee that she had a plan for closure. Her plan? Simply transfer the patients from Topeka State to the remaining hospitals around the state. She would establish a children's ward at Kansas Neurological Institute with its own administrative staff. I question how helpful it will be for the mentally ill at Topeka State to be transferred further from home, where families already financially stressed will find it more inconvenient to travel additional miles to visit and support their mentally ill family members. The recommendation of the closure committee was that all residents of Topeka State who could function in the community would be transferred to community- based living. The promise of SRS was that the dollars used to support the patient in the hospital would follow them to the community mental health center. Secretary Chronister's position is that no additional dollars will be used to support any adult programs. (This is helping?) Kansas seems to have a novel approach to caring for the mentally ill. Close the hospital, replace it with a prison, and populate it with many of the former residents. There is no reason not to believe the same fate awaits Topeka State Hospital. Mr. Garlinger closes his letter by saying, "Rest assured, our* interest is also in those who are most vulnerable. That is foremost in our minds as we go about the serious business of closing Topeka State Hospital." I would suggest to you that the interest of SRS is not in the best interest of the mentally ill, nor has SRS taken seriously the business of closing Topeka State Hospital. We call upon the governor to suspend the process of closing Topeka State until a workable plan is in place that would assure services are available in the local community to meet the needs of those being discharged. — EDWARD J. MOYNIHAN Topeka • Edward J. Moynihan is president of the Kansas Alliance for the Mentally III. V UNCOMMON SENSE How to watch (or listen to) the debates The voters should work to prepare themselves for the big event, too S o far the focus 09 this campaign's first presidential debate has been exclusively on the debaters. But what about the rest of us? How should we prepare to watch the ultimate in political perfor- & mance art? Where are our advisors and coaches? There's still time to get ready. No one should show up cold. It's essential to have an understanding of the issues, who has best addressed them, and how honestly, before tuning in. Otherwise, you set yourself up to be deceived. The best advice is not to watch the debate at all. Listen to it on radio. This helps focus your mind on what is being said, not how it is said. * Catch the replay later on C-SPAN and compare your first reaction on radio with the distortion that TV brings. Remember, most people who listened to the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate on radio thought Nixon had won. Then, you must consider that one of the debaters is not known for telling the truth. Bill Clinton effectively uses a rhetorical machine- gun approach to overwhelm his listeners with T TORY NOTIONS CAL THOMAS Los Angeles Times Syndicate distortions arid half-truths, then quickly moves on. To better inform your judgment on the president's debate comments, you may want to check out the Republican National Committee's 500-page "1996 Bill Clinton Fact Book." Titled "Shameless," it documents statements made by Clinton in recent years. These show that the president has supported both sides of almost every issue. On school choice, then-Gov. Clinton said in an October 1990 letter to Wisconsin state representative Polly Williams, a school-choice advocate: "I'm concerned that the traditional Democratic Party establishment has not given you more encouragement. The visionary is rarely embraced by the status quo." Two years later, Clinton told the National Education Association: "We shouldn't give our money to private schools in a system that will undermine the integrity of the public school system." Taxes? Clinton promised not to raise taxes on the middle class to pay for his social programs. In fact, he repeatedly promised a middle-class tax cut. Then, when he did raise taxes retroactively, he denied the middle class was affected. This prompted Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) to say: "It will be the largest tax increase in the history of public finance in the United States or anywhere else in the world." And the president proposed a value added tax and other taxes to pay for a nationalized health-care plan developed by his wife and her socialized-medicine friends. Abortion? Gov. Clinton sent a letter to Arkansas Right to Life on Sept. 26, 1986, that said: "I am opposed to abortion and to government funding of abortions. We should not spend state funds on abortions because so many people believe abortion is wrong." By 1991, he had flipped, telling the National Women's Political Caucus that he opposed overturning Roe vs. Wade: "I think it's the right decision. I think we should leave it intact." On the issue of jobs vs. the spotted owl, presidential candidate Clinton said in 1992: "I have enormous sympathy for loggers. They have to make a living." But when Clinton took the Oval Office, the loggers lost to the owls. New environmental laws were written at the Northwest Forest Conference in Portland, Ore. U.S: District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that the team appointed by the president to develop the plan to save the owls "was convened and did its work in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. On so many issues — health care, legal reform, deficit reduction, ethics, national security— this president has been shameless in his quest for political expediency, not integrity. Recalling such things is how we should prepare for this debate. The evidence shows that Bill Clinton will say and do anything to win reelection. If he wins again, he will do whatever he pleases afterward. If that's the kind of person we want for another four years, we will be holding a mirror up to our own character, and his will be the reflection we see. Newt and the miniaturization of politics People understand things such as ice buckets and legalizing baby sitting T hermidor, the name of the month in the French Revolutionary Calendar in which Robespierre fell and the Reign of Terror ended, has become the name by which historians denote an era of waning 4 revolutionary ardor. Conservative critics of the 104th Congress complain that it went directly from the ancien regime to Thermidor, without any intervening revolution. The deflation of their aspirations is symbolized by Newt Gingrich brandishing buckets in which ice had been delivered to congressional offices since before the invention of refrigeration. The Commerce and Education departments may not be finished, but ice deliveries are, so there. Some depressed conservatives — one of them calls the 104th "the Bush administration in drag" — may think that the end of the 104th was in its beginning, in its opening day hoopla, which included, among much else, a children's party featuring the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Newt Gingrich. Back then it was hard to have any Washington gathering of two or more without having the speaker speak, and at the children's party he stuffed into the wee minds this explanation of the event's Larger Meaning: GEORGE F. WILL The Washington Post 4 "We wanted the Power Rangers here because they're multiethnic role models in which women and men play equally strong roles;" There has been too much blather, much of it from Gingrich, who has paid dearly for his refusal to ration the portions of himself that he serves to the public. Still, measuring the 104th against history rather than its own rhetoric, it was remarkably consequential. Intelligent people differ concerning the prudence of the 104th's most important act — repeal of a 60-year old entitlement to welfare. But the repeal ranks with the 1981 tax cuts, Medicare, the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts and the Taft-Hartley Act as one of the most momentous legislative acts of the last six decades. The 104th has demonstrated the constitutional fact of congressional supremacy. Bill Clinton began his presidency talking only about "reinventing" government so that it could be more efficient while doing more. He now accepts, at least rhetorically, that government should do less. This underscores the fact that Democrats are more "out of power" today than when George Bush was president but George Mitchell and Tom Foley ran Congress. Regarding spending, the actions of the 104th have been more conservative than even the aspirations of the Reagan administration. Last year, for the first time sin<?e 1969, discretionary domestic spending was reduced. From telecommunications to agricultural policy, regulations and subsidies have yielded ground to competition and market forces. Sixty-five percent of the Contract With America's 74 legislative provisions are now laws or congressional rules. Of the major provisions, the DOONESBURY House passed all but the term-limits constitutional amendment. The 104th's impressive record has been obscured by the fog of war rhetoric from its leader, for whom politics is war carried on by other means. Gingrich must know what Wellington said of some troops sent to him: "I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they terrify me." It might be harmless hyperbole for him to say "I am in combat everyday," but he scares people when he says things like: "The left at its core understands in a way Grant understood after Shiloh that this is a civil war, that only one side will prevail. ..." That makes people yearn for a rhetorical Thermidor. He is wise to brandish the ice buckets, for reasons Sen. Pat Moynihan learned when campaigning in 1994. Moynihan found little public interest in the failure of the Clintons' gargantuan health care proposal, but got warm' recognition when he mentioned he had "decriminalized baby-sitting." You remember: Clinton's first two choices to be attorney general came a cropper because they, like millions of others, failed to pay Social Security taxes on domestic workers' wages of more than $50 per quarter (a sum unchanged since 1950). Sally next door baby-sits for $5 every Saturday and you forget her payroll taxes, you are an outlaw. Moynihan helped get the $50 changed to $1,000 annually. "Here was something (people) could relate to, that mattered to them person-, ally." Ice buckets and baby-sitting reflect the, miniaturization of politics, itself a conservative achievement, By G.B. TRUDEAU .ute, i HAP TO CWR.
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