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President Bush Defaces Flag (PHOTO)

President Bush habitually defaces the United States flag. Here’s an AP file photo from 2003:

President Bush Signs Flag

Via John Aravosis, who reports that Bush did this again today on his visit to Vienna and that this is in blatant violation of TITLE 4 > CHAPTER 1 > ยง 8 of the U.S. Code: “(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.”

I don’t think Aravosis seriously thinks the president is doing anything wrong here, just making the point that criminalizing “desecration” of the flag–let alone by Constitutional amendment–is rather silly. As I’ve noted previously, I agree.

UPDATE: Dana Milbank made the same point nearly three years ago, using the same photo.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.


  1. Maybe that is why 50 state legislatures and majorities in both houses want the amendment. Half to use it to go after Bush (don’t explain ex post facto laws) and the other half to protect the flag (from funny smelling hippie types and politicians with funny smelling sharpies).

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  2. Herb Ely says:

    I have a problem with the word “desecrate”. If congress passes a law saying that one cannot “de-secrate” (i.e. remove from the realm of the sacred) the flag, isn’t congress establishing the flag as religious symbol? If so, it will be violating the first amendment? The movement to criminalize “desecration” isn’t just silly. It is political posturing that, if successful, would be a source of income for first amendment lawyers and cause endless controversy for the rest of us.

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  3. Herb,

    I don’t think you can rule one part of the constitution invalid based on an earlier part. A good example is the 3/5 law on southern population of slaves. I don’t think it was specifically revoked, but subsequent amendments (e.g. 14th and 15th amendments) ‘read them out’ of the constitution.

    A flag burning protection amendment would read out any protection for burning the flag because of free speech. To the extent that you could make the establishment of religion clause argument (pretty week, but heh), you couldn’t use that to stop the flag burning amendment. If you really want to have fun with the idea, then show that it is establishing a religion, then that means the separation of church and state has been overwritten by the flag burning amendment, therefore it is not impermissible for the government to establish a religion.

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  4. McGehee says:

    I agree the use of the word “desecrate” is giggleworthy.

    I don’t think the Supreme Court was right to elevate flag-burning to the level of “speech,” though, and I don’t see why a law against doing so should have been found unconstitutional. Nevertheless it has, and a great many people do believe that burning the U.S. flag should be subject to legal prohibition.

    SCOTUS made it necessary to address this, if it’s going to be addressed, by constitutional amendment.

    Maybe the prospect of having SCOTUS try to apply the word “desecrate” to constitutional jurisprudence is simply the proponents’ sly attempt at revenge for the ruling in Texas v. Johnson.

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  5. Bhoe says:

    Bush–and many other politicians from both parties– consistently desecrates the flag when he wears it as a piece of jewelry.

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  6. LanceThruster says:

    I absolutely think that Bush is doing something seriously wrong here. He compounds his disrespect by his blatant double standard, the one that he uses for just about every single one of his actions (i.e. it’s OK when *I* do it).

    Either the code regarding proper handling of the flag is valid, or it is not. Which is it?

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