Date: June 30, 2006
Byline: Darren M. Allen
Sanders flags Tarrant's use of 'Old Glory'
MONTPELIER — Richard Tarrant's campaign says he is the candidate for U.S. Senate who would have voted to protect the flag.
Trouble is, Rep. Bernard Sanders' campaign was eager Thursday to point out that the Republican who recently said Old Glory should not "be desecrated in any way" has done just that — at least according to the section of the U.S. Code that spells out the appropriate way to display and handle the national symbol.
Tarrant in recent weeks has handed out hundreds of miniature American flags with cards proclaiming his support for the now-defeated constitutional amendment that would have allowed Congress to ban desecration of the flag.
"The candidate for U.S. Senate who will vote to protect our flag," the cards read in part.
Apparently, the campaign did not read all of U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, which reads, in part: "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever ... Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown."
Tarrant's major opponent for the senate seat being vacated by Sen. James Jeffords was somewhat amused by the apparent contradiction.
"How ironic that Rich Tarrant, who claims to be a protector of the flag, is the only candidate for office in Vermont this year who is actively disrespecting it in violation of U.S. statute," said Paul Hortenstine, a spokesman for Sanders, who was adamant in his opposition to the now-failed flag amendment shot down by the Senate on Tuesday. "I would hope that all candidates for the U.S. Senate would agree that disrespecting the flag for personal gain is wrong."
Tarrant did not intend to disrespect the flag, said his spokesman, who said the messages that accompanied the miniature flags were needed, in part, to comply with federal campaign laws that require identifying who paid for the flags.
"The intent of the flag code is to prevent desecration and manipulation," said Tarrant spokesman Tim Lennon. "Our goals and intentions were clear, and we included a removable piece of paper to promote the fact that we wanted to honor our veterans who have fallen and died to protect the flag."
There are no penalties for violating any provisions of the flag code and, to be sure, they are violated almost every day by commercial enterprises around the country.
Nonetheless, the Sanders campaign said before anyone goes around talking about the need for laws purporting to protect the flag, the candidate should be certain he is not actually violating rules already on the books.
"Regardless of one's views of the flag burning amendment, there's a certain irony from a candidate who claims to be protecting the flag who is disrespecting the flag in violation of federal statute," said Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager. "I think he should apologize."
Tarrant is no longer handing out the flags, his spokesman said, but thought the Sanders campaign was making far too much out of this latest instance of flag waving.
"This is from a candidate who clearly doesn't have a message or record to run on," Lennon said. "I mean, we're talking about something he doesn't even respect."
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