November 14, 2007

In 1988, perhaps even more important than the "Willie Horton" controversy* in electing the first George Bush to the Presidency was a flap over his opponent, Michael Dukakis, vetoing a law that would have forced school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Then-Governor Dukakis rightly pointed out that such a law was flagrantly unconstitutional, scoring points with the converted but failing to understand that such a rationale had no spin potential whatsoever, and in fact made him seem weak for putting Warren Court procedural tenets above compelling grade schoolers to recite patriotic and religious doggerel like automatons.

Fast-forward twenty years, and the same thing is coming out of Hillary Clinton's camp today regarding John Edwards' promise that he will seek to strip members of Congress of their health care privileges unless they pass a comparable bill for all Americans. Even if the "27th Amendment" to the Constitution can be considered a "real" amendment, what difference does it make in terms of framing the agenda for the next President? It's a political winner, for the same reasons that the Pledge issue was the turning point for Vice President Bush in '88.

If Congress fails to act, the membership will have a toxic issue on their hands, and Edwards, as President, will have the bully pulpit to ream them for their inaction. And considering that if Edwards wins the Presidency, it will be highly likely that the next session of Congress will have an even larger Democratic majority, doing nothing on the issue will send a public signal that our legislators, Democrat and Republican alike, are under the thumbs of the special interests. [link via Kausfiles]

*Scare quotes used to remind the reader that there was no such person as "Willie Horton," other than the retired outfielder for the Detroit Tigers; the furlowed rapist's name was William Horton, and received the dimunitive nickname only after Ailes, Atwater and crew went to work not-so-subtly reminding Americans that the convict in question was, like the more famous baseball player, black.

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