After the Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that burning the American flag is protected by the First Amendment, President George H.W. Bush launched a campaign to overturn the decision through a constitutional amendment. The president received an immense amount of mail in response to his crusade, much of it supporting his push to outlaw flag burning. Among the supporters was one Frank Sinatra, who became a Republican in 1970 and had endorsed Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign.
Ten days later, Bush responded with a handwritten note, thanking his friend for agreeing that “I am right on this one.”
Ultimately, Congress, led by then-Sen. Joe Biden, passed a federal law—not a constitutional amendment—banning flag burning. The law was promptly struck down by the Supreme Court, and, despite periodic attempts, Congress has failed to muster the votes to enshrine a flag-burning ban in the Constitution. (During the most recent effort, Sen. Mitch McConnell cast the deciding vote—against the amendment.) Bush went on to appoint two Supreme Court justices with notably more expansive views on free speech than his own. That’s life.