War brings flag-waving to U.S. streets, flurry of patriotic bills to Congress WAR IN THE GULF

February 20, 1991|By Peter Osterlund | Peter Osterlund,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- At an elementary school in rural Georgia, the local Republican congressman, Newt Gingrich, was regaled with assembly program whose patriotic fervor was "amazing, even by the standards of the South."

Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman found his hometown neighborhood in New Haven, Conn., festooned with flags and yellow ribbons.

And, during his 10 days back home, Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., was treated to the "most extraordinary display of patriotism" he had ever seen.

"In Washington, there may be a few people who still covertly debate whether it was a good idea to go to war," Mr. Lugar said. "In Indiana, this isn't an issue."

After a 10-day recess, lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill yesterday, most of them reassured that President Bush continues to enjoy broad public support for his prosecution of a war initiated with Congress' nervous approval.

"It's wide and deep," said Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., who voted against a key resolution last month authorizing the use of force to dislodge Iraqi troops from their Kuwaiti conquest.

Public opinion surveys, which show overwhelming support for Operation Desert Storm, have prompted individual members of Congress to deluge the legislative machinery with sundry patriotic measures.

Lawmakers were confronted last month with a resolution expressing support for the president as commander in chief of the armed forces, as well as for the servicemen and women stationed in the war zone.

Yesterday, the House was confronted with a measure calling on Americans to display the flag.

"Ain't nobody going to oppose the flag," predicted Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th.

A host of other rally-round-the-troops initiatives await action. Nearly 100 veterans bills have been introduced since last month's start of the 102nd Congress. One would call on countries benefiting from Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait to pay part of the cost of new U.S. veterans' benefits.

Others would establish Hire-a-Veteran Week; guarantee that veterans cemeteries are open for burials on weekends; ensure that veterans' spouses over age 55 can remarry without losing benefits; and double the $50,000 life insurance policy now provided to military personnel.

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