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Criticism of Burk's campaign grows

Maybe Hootie Johnson and Martha Burk should book themselves on "Celebrity Boxing" and settle the Masters protest situation once and for all.

It is clear Johnson, chairman of Augusta National, is not going to budge from his stance. It is also obvious Burk is not going to walk away from the fight.

Burk first questioned the club's membership policies nearly a year ago. Johnson responded with a short letter declining to discuss the issue. He then issued a statement indicating that while Augusta National might one day have a female member, it would not be forced to do so ''at the point of a bayonet.''

Burk threatened a boycott of TV sponsors. Johnson countered by announcing CBS would televise the Masters sans sponsors.

Burk decided to stage a protest near the entrance to Augusta National. Johnson countered with a more distant location ... Nova Scotia, perhaps.

And so it has gone since June, when Burk - chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations - first surfaced on the national radar.

But faced with Johnson's resolve and a television network unwilling to throw away hundreds of millions of potential viewers for the Masters - set for April 10-13 - Burk is now attempting to use the war against Iraq to bring attention to her fight against Augusta National.

With this latest shameful bid for attention, her fight has officially entered the theater of the absurd.

''Broadcasting the Masters now and showcasing a club that discriminates against women is an insult to the nearly quarter million women in the U.S. armed forces,'' Burk said at a news conference in New York City on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

''It's appalling that the women who are willing to lay down their lives for democratic ideals should be shut out of this club. ... Democratic ideals do not include discrimination,'' Burk said.

I'm sorry, but I must have missed the Pentagon briefing in which Operation: Iraqi Freedom was changed to Operation: Augusta National Membership for Millionaire Women.

Or maybe I'm wrong and the issue of whether or not rich, powerful women should be club members is actually foremost in the minds of American soldiers, even those risking their lives in the Iraqi theater.

Burk long ago made it clear she is not going away, so it shouldn't be surprising she would try to use military women to further the cause. Augusta National spokesman Glenn Greenspan called her comments ''grandstanding.''

''Ms. Burk will say anything to get publicity,'' Greenspan told The Associated Press. ''But if she is invoking the troops to draw more attention to herself, only three words apply - shame on you.''

Same for those New York City council members, whose constituents live 800 miles from Augusta, Ga. Don't these people have more important issues to deal with in a city that was brought to its knees on Sept. 11, 2001, and a city that lives in fear of more attacks?

Apparently not.

But one of the greatest things about our nation is that people like Burk, Oscar-winning director Michael Moore - who used the occasion of his award to make sure everyone watching knew where he stood on the issues of the day - or even your next-door neighbor can grab a bullhorn and get political.

No true patriot would ever want that to change, but don't demean our military people by dragging them into what, given current circumstances, seems like a silly little skirmish.

Our soldiers - men and women alike - are fighting for something much bigger and more important right now.

But the levity of a Johnson vs. Burk bout on Fox might be a welcome diversion from news of bombs, POWs and body counts.


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