Originally created 02/15/99

The mistake festers 021599 - The Augusta Chronicle



It was two years ago this month when two screw-driver wielding state senators -- Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, and Joey Brush, R-Appling -- climbed over a railing in the Atlanta Capitol building to remove the New York State flag from a 50-state display.

The move, many will remember, was in retaliation for New York Gov. George Pataki's incredible statement that our state flag contained "a symbol of hate" -- the Confederate battle flag. Pataki also benignly presided over "a short ceremony" during which the chairman of the legislative Black Caucus climbed up a ladder and removed our present Peach State banner from the Albany Capitol's Hall of Flags.

New York's flag was soon restored. Georgia's flag is still missing, sort of. (A few months ago, a new display appeared with the flags of the 13 original colonies, including an old Georgia flag.)

But Pataki, now that he has formed a political action committee to foster his GOP presidential or vice presidential ambitions, must still with this lingering unpleasantness. When he travels south of the Mason-Dixon line for Republican money, support and votes, how will he address his 1997 insult to Georgia and to what millions in the old Confederacy consider to be a symbol of Southern heritage?

Brush wrote the governor in 1997 requesting an apology and the flag's reinstatement. He never received an answer. The Appling senator did manage to get Pataki's chief of staff on the telephone, and Brush says the aide stammered that the removal was "a mistake."

Well, was it really a mistake? Or was it a sincere show of solidarity by Pataki with the New York Legislature's Black Caucus, whose chairman demanded its removal?

In this age of politicians wooing special interests, the New York governor has forgotten to placate an important constituency in the Land of Cotton.