ABC News Sends Lobbyists to Capitol Hill
"The Star Spangled Banner" — our national anthem — is under attack. Or so you would think by the rush to defend it on Capitol Hill last week.
As millions marched for immigration rights, the U.S. Senate introduced a resolution to ensure that the national anthem would be sung only in English. A day later a similar measure was introduced in the House of Representatives.
Good, progressive journalists are naturally alarmed by such legislation. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer has already denounced having the anthem only in one language.
When Senator Lamar Alexander spoke against a multi-lingual anthem on the floor of the Senate, ABC News had had enough, sarcastically claiming he "bravely" spoke against it.
On Monday, May 1, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., rose bravely on the floor of the U.S. Senate to defend the anthem from those who would sing it in Spanish, saying "We should always sing it in our common language — English."
So what do you do when you are alarmed by legislation pending on Capitol Hill? You lobby against it, and go around the Hill to push your position. This is what ABC News did by asking congressmen if they could sing the anthem. If they can't even sing the anthem in English, how can they demand everyone else to?!
So on a glorious spring day last week, we went to Capitol Hill and — armed with a cheat sheet of lyrics printed on a piece of paper — we marched up to tourists, school groups, tour guides and our elected officials and posed the question: Oh, say can you sing — the national anthem?
They say only one representative was willing to sing it alone, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio.
They made sure to mention that another congressman tied to the Jack Abramoff scandal, Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, was unwilling to sing it: "I'm on the phone with my wife." Are they willing to believe that? He's probably talking to a fat cat lobbyist who is bribing him to restrict the anthem.
Here's a retelling of some of their lobbying efforts.
Every member of the House or Senate we approached insisted that the national anthem should be sung only in English. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif., said, "It's an insult" to use a foreign tongue.
One technique several congressmen used to demonstrate their lyrical knowledge of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" without having to perform it was to offer arcane facts about the song as they walked away.
"Francis Scott Key," shouted Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., as he rushed to the House floor. "In the harbor. The flag still standing."
"Oh, say can you see ABC?" mocked Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio.
Across the Capitol Plaza, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., had an important lunch to attend and so wouldn't sing along. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas., said, "I can't sing," but Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., offered a spirited version unique to fans of the Baltimore Orioles who emphasize the "Oh!" at the start of baseball game renditions.
There was a group of five Army soldiers who sang it successfully and harmoniously, to which the report said:
Whether you salute the Stars and Stripes with your hand over your heart or by singing in English or Spanish or any other language, "The Star-Spangled Banner," it seems, is in safe hands.
That's a fairly good lobbying effort, confronting all those congressmen and pressuring them to allow the anthem in any language. That's a lot of hard work. Invite them out to lunch, and maybe they'll consider your proposition.