There are some things in this life that you can always depend on: a fresh steroid scandal in baseball, a new Van Morrison album every year, a "Sopranos" rerun marathon on HBO, a vow from Democrats that they will soon unveil an agenda, the four-cheese pizzas at Trader Joe's...the list is long.
And here's another item for the list: the GOP's flag desecration issue. From Senate Republican leader Bill Frist's office, in a press release yesterday:
"The American flag is a proud and sacred reminder of the principles of freedom and opportunity that form the foundation of our Republic. Our flag reminds us that there is more that unites us as Americans than divides us, and a constitutional amendment will give one of our Nation's proudest and most treasured symbols the protection it deserves. It honors the sacrifice of countless brave men and women who died defending our flag and the ideals it represents. I look forward to bringing the Flag Protection Amendment to the floor at the end of June so we can debate legislation that respects one of the principal symbols of our nation, and appropriately honors the sacrifice and commitment of all those who've acted to protect it."
Yes, it's that durable evergreen, the Flag Protection Amendment. This is how we know that the springtime buds are about to bloom, and that an election season looms: the Republicans decide to go after the national epidemic of flag-burning, and dare the Democrats to demonstrate their lack of patriotism by opposing it. The Senate vote, as always, will be timed to occur somewhere around July 4.
Maybe what's different this year is that the Republicans fear they have ceded some ground on the patriotism front because of their president's port deal.
But that aside, there's nothing really new to say about the flag flap -- as evidenced by this comment from a Republican strategist named David Murray, extolling the issue's political potency: "It's real simple. Get 10 people in a room, other than ACLU types, and ask them if they'd cross the street to punch out somebody who's burning the flag. In a campaign context, anyone saying 'the right of free expression comes first' is saying, 'I'm for legal flag-burning.' Very risky."
He made that remark to me. The year was 1990.