Once Upon a Time in America

One of the strangest rituals in the United States Senate is the annual reading of President Washington's Farewell Address. The chore of recitation usually falls to a freshman nonentity eager to curry favor by performing what is regarded as a drudge task. The chamber is empty, save for the classical remnant: New York's Senator Moynihan and West Virginia's Robert Byrd, the pomaded knight from the mountaineer state, who, with his florid defenses of American sovereignty and the Daughters of the Confederacy and the United States Constitution (as opposed to the Republican pollsters' Contract with America) has become something of a statesman. "I do not sec in front of this chamber the U.N. flag," Byrd told the Senate during the Bush-Clinton Somalia debacle. "I never saluted the U.N. flag. I saluted Old Glory, the American flag."

This is a homey patriotism that traitors can never understand; which, indeed, they sneer at. It is of a piece with the remark by Wild Bill Langer of North Dakota during the original NATO debate that "when a Senator casts his vote in favor of the Atlantic Pact, in favor of getting us mixed up in all the problems of European nations, that Senator says to the American people, 'I know more about things than George Washington ever knew.'"

For saying this Langer was deemed a provincial idiot. The real fools, though, are the Honorables who every February read...

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