For the second time in less than a week a congressional debate began with a request for the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and for the second time in a week the League of Woman's Voters moderator said no, and for the second time in a week the audience got up and said it anyway. One would think that with all of the bad publicity after last week's incident, the League would have "gotten it." But Tuesday night the League of Woman Voters proved that they aren't too "quick on the uptake."
The Pennsylvania 18th Congressional district debate between Republican incumbent Tim Murphy and his Democratic party challenger Dan Connolly was about to begin when Murphy asked the moderator for the pledge. As the moderator Susan Reuther began to make excuses, the crowd stood up and took action on their own.
After the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, moderator Susan Reuther dealt with her obvious consternation over the spontanious show of patriotism by scolding Candidate Murphy who asked for the pledge.
"Next time if you have a request like that, we would appreciate it if you would give it to us when the rules are discussed," she said.
"It didn't need to be requested. I assumed you would do it," Mr. Murphy replied.Once again the League of Woman's Voters blamed it on politics.
Former Peters High School principal Tom Hajzus was sitting in the front row with a 22-yearold Marine veteran wounded by a bomb in Afghanistan.
"The insensitivity, to me, was inexcusable and outrageous," said the registered Democrat and Murphy supporter. The crowd's reaction "was an American moment, that's what that was," he said.
"There have been some groups who want to create a ruckus, call attention to something and using the pledge to the flag and making it seem the league is unpatriotic if we don't," says Greater Pittsburgh League President Arlene Levy.
Levy says she thinks some of this is political but the League has no problem with the pledge if requested in advance by the candidates.While neither Connolly nor Murphy made that request before the debate, both of the candidates said there was nothing political about the pledge.
"I see it as something completely a-political. It's something that unites all of Americans," says Connolly.Ms Levy says her chapter will be discussing this issue at its next board meeting, perhaps to incorporate the pledge in every candidate debate (YA THINK!?!?)
"If the flag is political, then we have some problems here. The flag is what brings us together," says Murphy.
The previous incident occurred last Wednesday night at the beginning of a debate between Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean, GOP challenger Joe Walsh and Green Party candidate Bill Scheurer. The debate for Illinois 8th congressional district took place at Grayslake Central High School. While League of Women Voters moderator Kathy Tate-Bradish began explaining the rules of the debate an audience member raised his hand and (when called upon) asked if they were going to start with the Pledge of Allegiance. When she said no, the audience booed and almost all in the crowd of more than 300 stood and enthusiastically recited it anyway.
What is it with these people at the league? What is so wrong about taking out one minute to say the Pledge of Allegiance and honor the great republic that allows debate between two political parties? Why is it that every time an audience wants to recite the Pledge the League of Woman's Voters takes it as a personal affront. In the end a second incident within one week doesn't make one question the League's patriotism, it makes people question their intelligence.