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Pledge of Allegiance a prop for politician?

| Friday, Oct. 29, 2010

Nice to know that both candidates in the 18th Congressional District are pro-Pledge of Allegiance.

Glad that's cleared up. But a pivotal question remains unanswered after Tuesday's debate at Peters Middle School between Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, and Democratic challenger Dan Connolly.

Did Murphy make patriotism as much a prop at the event as a mask would be in a traveling production of "The Phantom of the Opera"?

For those whose cable company somehow carries ESPN but not Peters Township Community Television (if you're in that group, you really should complain), here's what happened:

Murphy, Connolly and a League of Woman Voters moderator were onstage about to begin the debate when Murphy asked if the pledge would be recited.

The moderator, obviously caught off guard, didn't immediately respond affirmatively. So both candidates and the crowd rose to profess the oath of loyalty.

Seemingly satisfied that no subversives had crashed the event, everyone then sat down.

Murphy's inquiry appeared to lack spontaneity. The pledge uttered in the auditorium followed by about 24 hours Glenn Beck's show on the Fox News Channel that aired a similar scene.

In the clip, a League of Women Voters moderator more aggressively attempts to prevent the pledge from being uttered at a recent congressional debate in Illinois.

In that instance, the crowd took matters into its own hands -- er, make that mouths. Beck applauded their efforts and was incredulous over the league's attempt to stifle the pledge.

"What good reason is there not to say it in that setting?" he said.

A good question, certainly. An even better one, at least for the purposes of this column, is this: Did Murphy decide to dine at a table that Beck set for him the previous night?

Being that Connolly occupies a ballot position directly opposite Murphy, the South Park attorney isn't the most objective person to offer an opinion. He said he believes Murphy engaged in a "baseless political stunt" designed to distract people from his record.

"A day after Glenn Beck puts this out, and (Murphy) waits until the cameras are turned on to say something about the pledge," Connolly said. "We had several discussions about the rules (prior to the debate), and it could have been brought up then."

See what I mean about Connolly's lack of objectivity•

Still, he has a point. The league has no specific prohibition against reciting the pledge, but strictly adheres to debate formats candidates agree to long before they take the stage.

Murphy, who did not immediately respond to an interview request made through his campaign manager Thursday, should know that. No political novice, the incumbent is seeking his fifth term in Congress.

Did Murphy engage in an act of stunt patriotism• While I would never suggest that, I will note his campaign has posted three pledge-related videos on YouTube since the debate.

If Murphy ever decides to take up acting, all indications are he would use his props proficiently.

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