Floribunda politics

IT might be better that a national flower for the United States not be named. The only mechanism for making such a decision is political. That is, the Congress decides -- in this case after a debate that has been waged since the 19th century -- which blossom is fairer than all others. It legislates a species as the favorite, and a president must sign or not sign the bill.

It is risky to give politicians a subject like flowers to consider. Encomiums have droned on and on from the Capitol floor about the elegance of corn tassels, the indigenousness of marigolds, the pendancy of columbines. The legislator's first choice is rooted in regionalism. Hyperbole rises to the clout of the home district industry promoting the species.

And since politics is the art of compromise, it is hard to see how there could have been any other winner -- if one were necessary -- than the rose.

Surely politicians have a fondness for the rose. When in doubt, when all actions fail, be optimistic.

Apart from their obvious beauty, an advantage of roses is that their culture admits of so many varieties -- a variety for every state (we bought an Oklahoma rose the other day -- spectacular), two for First Lady Nancy Reagan (now that was clever lobbying by the rose growers!), and for virtues like Peace and Morality.

A problem with the image of the rose is that it is not egalitarian, and can be downright prickly to the unwary. More Americans likely identify with the dandelion than with the rose. Many fruits -- the apple, for instance, which is very American, especially in pie -- belong to the rose family, but these are not the rose Washington has in mind.

The rose is not prosaic -- which is probably why the House and Senate have parodied themselves in approving it.

President Reagan (who has himself been honored by a variety -- no doubt, the Ronnie Rose) should veto the legislation. If there were ever a time to stand up for states' rights, leaving the designation of flowers to the states along with education, this is the moment. The irony of coming up with a rose when Washington cannot come up with a balanced budget is too good a bouquet to hand critics.

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