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Pols Stampede to Decry Court Ruling on Pledge

Politics: Bipartisan resolutions affirm the patriotic rite, protest decision by 9th Circuit.

June 28, 2002|JENIFER WARREN and RICHARD SIMON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Few seemed to share Longville's qualms. Indeed, the bipartisan outcry is a measure of how politicians in the post-Sept. 11 climate are hypersensitive about expressing patriotism and condemning anything that might appear to threaten traditional American values.

For Democrats, the episode also stirs painful memories of the 1988 presidential campaign, when the flag became the most potent symbol of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis' loss to former President George Bush.

During his first term as governor, Dukakis vetoed a bill that would have required teachers to lead their classes in the pledge each day. Bush hammered his opponent on the issue at virtually every campaign stop, most memorably at a flag-making factory in New Jersey.

After that, Democrats were determined never to be out-flagged, as it were.

Red, white and blue became standard at virtually every party affair--from the smallest state gathering to the nationally broadcast nominating conventions--and the pledge became as much a fixture as invocations of John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, and the singing of the old party theme song "Happy Days Are Here Again."

Political analysts disagreed Thursday over whether the ruling could work to one party's advantage.

"Republicans and social conservatives are thanking God for the pledge ruling," said John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College. He called it "a great issue for conservative fund-raising letters."

But Marshall Wittmann, an analyst at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, said he was skeptical about the issue's potential to benefit Republicans "because Democrats were falling over themselves expressing their own outrage."

Times staff writers James Gerstenzang and Dan Morain contributed to this report.

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