One story is about Melissa Schlag and the controversy over her kneeling during the pledge of allegiance.
Another story is about Tim Herbst and the gubernatorial candidate’s willingness to drag Haddam’s first selectwoman for political gain.
But the real story is about Herbst siding with Russia. He didn’t mean to. I hope not. Maybe he did. We’d better get to the bottom of this.
Like many Americans, Melissa Schlag, a Democrat, was outraged by the sight of President Trump “throwing his country under the bus,” as a conservative pundit put it.
This was in Helsinki, Finland, standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The president last month said he took the enemy’s word over that of U.S. officials bound by oath to defend the United States. They said Russia attacked us in 2015. Putin said nope, didn’t do it. Trump said OK.
To Schlag, this was a moment of betrayal. On July 16, at a Board of Selectmen meeting, she quietly protested by kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance.
I’m pretty sure no one outside of Haddam would ever have heard the name Melissa Schlag, or that she kneeled, had Herbst not been running fourth in the race for governor of Connecticut to party-endorsed candidate Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and two former Democrats.
Far behind and against the odds, Herbst recognized an opportunity to stoke the rage lobes of Republican voters while bettering his chances in the run-up to the Republican Party’s primary next week. So he got on Fox News to blast Schlag and demand her resignation.
This was the beginning of the controversy you have heard, the one about Schlag and the question of kneeling during the pledge, or the national anthem, and whether that’s an act of love or hate of one’s country.
It’s a stupid debate, not least because it can’t be settled. It’s stupid, because very few people cared before Herbst went on Fox News, at least they didn’t care enough to travel all the way to Haddam to condemn Schlag to her face. They only care now because Herbst, who has nothing to do with Haddam and likely never will, attacked Schlag on Fox in order to get more attention, and more primary votes.
To her immense credit, Schlag stood her ground during a town meeting Monday, as did many commendable residents. Together, they defended her, and anyone’s, right to speak freely and dissent. Yes, many there called the flag “sacred” and accused Schlag of disrespecting the sacrifice of veterans. But in attendance were veterans who said they served to protect her right.
I love Connecticut Yankees!
Lost in the fray, though, is the substance of Schlag’s protest — that Trump sided with the enemy. This is key, but something that does not help Herbst. It hurts him. Or should. In attacking Schlag, Herbst inadvertently (I think) defended the president, which is to say, defended the fact that Trump took Putin’s side against his own country.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that looks to me like Herbst is taking Putin’s side, too. Looks can be deceiving, so we better get to the bottom of this, applying as much scrutiny as we did in the Schlag case. A new story, or the real one, I’d say, is this: Does Herbst side with Russia?