Truman called it earlier this month when he barely failed constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. The tragically comic thing is that, although they’re on opposing sides of the issue, both candidates are managing to get it wrong.
First, Senator George Allen criticizes challenger James Webb for failing to support the flag burning amendment. That put Senator Allen in a position against the American tradition of legal dissent. Using the power of government to make it a crime to criticize government is just plain tacky.
But what about James Webb? Well, Webb responded to Senator Allen’s criticism by saying that Allen didn’t have the right to criticize his opinions. No kidding! Webb’s campaign actually said, “George Felix Allen Jr. and his bush-league lapdog, Dick Wadhams, have not earned the right to challenge Jim Webb’s position on free speech and flag burning.” Webb’s contention was that Webb’s political positions should be immune from criticism by George Allen, because Webb spent time in the military, but Allen did not.
Memo to the Webb for Senate campaign: In the United States of America, no one has to earn the right to criticize a politician. Everyone has the right to criticize. It’s called freedom of speech, and it’s guaranteed everyone – not just military veterans. You can’t say you’re defending free speech when you try to deny free speech to others.
Both Webb and Allen ought to be ashamed of themselves for sacrificing the integrity of the Bill of Rights for the sake of political gain. I have a great deal of pity for the people of Virginia for having to choose between these two turkeys this fall.