This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," January 25, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: A Mesa County, Arizona, city councilman is causing quite a controversy in this town. In a meeting earlier this week, Councilman Tom Rawles not only refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance; he didn't even stand up for it.
Rawles' actions were in protest of the war in Iraq, saying he will not say the Pledge of Allegiance again until all U.S. troops are withdrawn from Iraq.
Joining us now, Mesa County councilman Tom Rawles.
Counselor, thanks for being with us. I know you're getting a lot of heat. And I will get a lot of heat, probably, for defending you. But our Constitution gives us the right not to exercise speech. That's part of what was decided in 1943 in a case concerning the Pledge of Allegiance.
TOM RAWLES, COUNCILMAN, MESA COUNTY, ARIZONA: Well, I think it's fundamental to the United States that we have the right to say the pledge or not say the pledge.
The question becomes whether we're more interested in protecting the symbols of freedom in this country or the freedoms themselves, and I feel very confident that what I did is designed to stimulate some debate. And there has been some political heat and some personal heat, but it was well worth the price.
COLMES: What made you decide not only to not say the pledge, but not even to stand up when the pledge was being said?
RAWLES: I really don't see any difference between the two. I just thought if I sat down and stared straight ahead, as your video shows, being courteous and not disrupting the procedures, not asking anybody else to join me, that was the most solemn way that I could make this symbolic gesture of protest against the war.
COLMES: What do you say to those who are going to accuse of you being unpatriotic, not supporting the troops? They're going to — I'm sure you've already heard all of this, throwing all kinds of brickbats at you for doing what is expected in some quarters of Americans to do at, quote, unquote, "a time of war"?
RAWLES: Well, I think that dissent is the highest form of patriotism and that standing up for what you believe is the highest and purest form of love of country.
My — I come from a very military background with my father being a volunteer World War II veteran, my grandfather a volunteer World War I veteran. My brother served for 23 years in the Army.
This isn't about the troops. I admire and respect everything that they do. This is about trying to effectuate, in my little way, a change in policy at the highest levels of this country. And that's what our fundamental freedom of speech entitles us to.
COLMES: Traditionally, there have been acts of civil disobedience. This is one where nobody gets hurt. Do you consider this in the tradition of a Martin Luther King kind of act of civil disobedience?
RAWLES: Well, an act of civil disobedience normally involves the violation of some rule, some regulation, some requirement. I've never seen the constitutional amendment that was passed that said freedom of speech applies to everything but the Pledge of Allegiance.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Tom.
HANNITY: Hi, Sean Hannity here.
RAWLES: Hi, Sean.
HANNITY: You say you're trying to stimulate debate. That's all we've done since the war started. We've debated.
You liberals don't like the fact that you're not in power. You insult the president. You call him a liar every day. You change your position every day. You have no plan on how to solve the problem in Iraq. You don't understand the importance of it.
This isn't about stimulating debate. This is about, you know, making yourself look good. There's no extra debate that's happened. We've been debating and debating and debating. This isn't about — you're not going to stimulate more debate here.
RAWLES: This has brought the issue home, which is where it needs to be brought. It needs to be brought to the local level. It needs to be brought to every level.
HANNITY: It's brought to the local level. Everybody in America has been debating it, sir. Where have you been?
RAWLES: You think you've been debating it, but the people at home are still sitting on their couches watching television and not getting involved. I'm trying to do something, and I've had e-mail responses from across the country that told me, "I appreciate what you've done, because it's given me the courage to stand up where I live."
And by the way I'm not a liberal. I've been a Republican for 45 years.
HANNITY: OK. Whatever. That's not the point. I think — you know what I think? I think it has no connection whatsoever.
And here's my position. So many people have already died. So many people have already shed their blood. This is the greatest country God gave man. You have a right to say anything you want, but it's insulting not to stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
I don't like that they spend too much money in Washington. I don't like that they won't control our borders. I don't like the growth in influence of government. I don't like liberals like Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and Harry Reid insulting our president every day.
But I still stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. And in that sense, I think you've made a fundamental mistake.
RAWLES: Well, I respect you for your decision, and I think that when people's conscience dictates to them differently, they have the right to do what I did. And I am standing by that decision. I think it was a fair decision. I think it was an effective decision.
And I believe it has, in fact, caused more people to think about this war and, fundamentally, what our rights are in this country. You know, the issue...
HANNITY: Everybody knows what our rights are. Everybody knows.
RAWLES: No, they don't.
HANNITY: You have a sense of self-importance. Look, I can drink this glass of water and say I'm drinking this glass of water in protest of whatever. It's meaningless in as much as I think you have a duty as a public official, and you have every right to speak out, every right to support Alan. All your leaders in the Democratic Party are out there insulting our president every day. I don't take issue with that. That's one of the freedoms our troops fight for here.
But you, as a public figure, as a councilman, you have to be a role model. And what you're saying to kids in this country is if you have any slight, minor disagreement, Dad, don't stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance.
The point is that, in spite of our disagreements, while we're debating those issues, we all stand united. Because the terrorists, let me tell you something, Councilman, they don't care if they kill councilmen, they don't care if they kill Republicans, conservatives, liberals and Democrats. They want to kill us all.
And this is a moment where you could show that it's about right and wrong in this country, not left versus right.
RAWLES: It's not about left versus right, first of all. It's about whether you believe in freedom or not believe in freedom.
You know, you keep calling me a liberal. I'm a classical liberal from the 17th and 18th and 19th Century. I've, you know, followed the teachings of Madison and Jefferson and Loche, not this left-right dichotomy that the American people have falsely chosen or are forced to decide between.
COLMES: All right, Councilman. Part of the rights we have are not to speak. You have the right to do what you're doing, and I think that's an important lesson.
HANNITY: It doesn't mean anything.
COLMES: Thank you very much for being with us.
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