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Say It Isn't So, Hillary

leah's picture

flag-320x240I don't have the strong, visceral, negative response to Hillary Clinton that so many of my liberal Democratic comrades do.

I don't blame her for the failure of the Clinton universal health care initiative.

I don't think she knew about Monica before her husband finally told her the truth, only shortly before he told the rest of us.

We all know she was right about a vast right-wing conspiracy.

I also think the way she went about running for Senator from New York was entirely admirable and did not, as often charged, smack of a sense of entitlement; in fact, I remember my astonishment at seeing the still First Lady handing out campaign brochures at Grand Central. A further admission; I was glad she ran; I thought it took guts, was a validation both of her obvious qualifications for holding public office, and of the value of elective public service.

Ultimately, I've felt it's hard not to be sympathetic with a woman who has managed to retain both grace and poise in the face of the shit load of lies repeatedly dumped on her, her husband, her daughter, her friends and her colleagues, for the eight solid years of the Clinton presidency, a phenomenon which continues to this very day.

That being said, although I’m willing to change my mind, I still hope, at this point, she doesn't run for President in 2008, but for reasons far more complicated than her perceived tilt toward the center, a formulation I loathe because it misconstrues the dynamic nature of the center in a democracy, and as well as what liberal Democrats stand for. But that discussion is best left for another time.

I wish I could look forward to a Hillary presidential run, if for no other reason than that it would be exciting, at long last, to watch a woman being taken seriously as a presidential contender, and she would be.

As of now, however, where I agree with those many liberal Hillary naysayers is in their perception that she has shown a surprising lack of leadership when it comes to defining what the important issues for Democrats should be, even though I’m also aware the SCLM does all it can to stuff whatever position she takes into their pre-approved and always deprecating narrative of the ruthless politico forever contorting herself into a centrist girdle that makes her more Republican than Democrat.

To learn, from Newsday, via Kos, then, that Senator Clinton has agreed to cosponsor federal legislation barring the desecration of the American flag is to finally meet a Hillary position that is hard both to misunderstand, and to understand, and one, on which Hillary may have finally have lost me for good.

The proposed law, the work of Senator Bennett of Utah, is apparently an attempt to get around the Supreme Court's decision that flag burning is constitutionally protected speech, a position Hillary supported when it came to opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

At a time when Democrats are being assailed, once again, as traitors to the nation because they dare to question how this administration is running a war that was said to have been accomplished and over almost three long years ago, at a time when increasing numbers of Americans are expressing a profound dissatisfaction with this Republican administration, this is Mrs. Clinton's idea of leadership?

Has there been some recent spree of flag desecration sweeping the country I haven't heard about? Are there some significant number of cases of someone creeping up behind another and setting their flag on fire, which is one of the instances specified by the bill as henceforth a federal crime, and aren't such instances better treated as simple assault and handled by local authorities? Most noxious of all, what does it mean to use flag desecration as a means to intimidate another person?

This bill is so transparently a poison pen letter from a federal government dominated by right-wing Republicans to all manifestations of dissent and protest emanating from the liberal/progressive/left, that Senator Clinton's participation is inexplicable, and please, ambitions for higher office explain nothing. This is an attack on Senator Clinton's base, not, please note, because flag desecration is used with any kind of regularity by Democrats or liberals.

Here’s why: First, it is an unspoken attack on the genuine concerns of liberals of all hues with a phenomenon like cross-burning, which has been classified as so intimidating and so closely aligned with acts of violence that some local communities have banned it. This is a genuine free speech issue on which people can differ, but the history of violence symbolized by cross-burning is starkly undeniable. Pretending that there is a history of personal intimidation by means of flag desecration is not merely ridiculous, it is an insult to a massive history of suffering by a key constituency of the Democratic party.

Second, think about the starkest recent case of a protest by one set of Americans clearly meant to intimidate another group of Americans, who were attempting, in a legal and orderly fashion, to guarantee the basic American right to have one’s vote counted - yes, that would have happened late in 2000 in Dade Country, Florida, when a group of Republican operatives, many flown down from Washington for the occasion, managed by their threatening behavior to close down the counting of votes for that day in the presidential election, when, conveniently, time was running out for completion of that task by decree of Florida’s Republican Secretary of State. Nor is that an isolated case. Republicans have consistently sought to limit the turnout of Democratic constituencies, by various questionable means, on the flimsy basis that they are preventing voter fraud.

At a time when a GOA report, (see Lambert’s important analysis), tells us that it was perfectly possible for the presidential results in 2004 to have been falsified in Ohio, at a time when we find out that the career lawyers in the Justice department all agreed that Tom DeLay's plan for redistricting key Texas counties, for a second unprecedented time, violated the terms of the Voting Rights Act, but were overruled by the appointed Republicans at the top of the hierarchy, is signing onto a Federal attempt to ban flag desecration Hillary Clinton’s idea of leadership?

What on earth is achieved by making Federal property off-limits for anyone to violate someone else’s vague notion of what it means to desecrate the flag? The Federal building in Los Angeles is set back from a major boulevard, and is the site of all kinds of peaceful protests, and sometimes concurrent counter protests; what happens if, in the rough and tumble of such occasions, a representation of the flag somehow gets trampled on; who gets arrested, and what on earth is achieved?

Good lord, the American flag and what it represents is bigger, better, and stronger than such petty concerns as are expressed in this bill, at least as described. Recently, anti-war protesters have carried flags as an emblem of their patriotism, and on more than a few occasions, since 9/11, such protesters have been brutally attacked by police. Are we now to see the Feds descend on such scenes to arrest demonstrators, even though said flags may well have been desecrated by the actions of the police? Or will any police be arrested. In either instance, the actions of the Federal government could only be seen as ludicrous.

When Democratic combat veterans, like John Murtha, and yes, once again, like John Kerry, are being attacked as military-hating traitors, Mrs. Clinton has time to worry about nonexistent flag desecration?

When our Secretary of State makes a claim, in answer to allegations of torture, secret prisons, and rendition of people who are innocent of anything more suspicious than having the wrong kind of name, that none of it is true, except that what is true is also legal and therefore okay, and persons around the world who are not unconscious recognize, before the words are out of her mouth that she is lying, Hillary Clinton is signing onto a flag desecration bill, instead of pointing out all the many ways this administration has desecrated, through its actions, what the American flag has meant to admirers around the world for more than two centuries?

That’s what matters, for pity’s sake. What the flag stands for, not what might be the fate of any individual representation of that flag.

And please, smart politico that Hillary is supposed to be, surely she should be able to see through so transparent a feint as this one by Senator Bennett, clearly meant to highlight Democratic dissent on Iraq by means of a tired, irrelevant debate, not, please note, about protecting what the flag is supposed to stand for, but instead, with how best to criminalize ways of handling that flag which displease Senator Bennett and other such patriots whose patriotism only seems validated when they can point to Americans they view as not as patriotic as themselves.

Senator Bennett, being sharply critical of President Bush's handling of Iraq and the war on terror is not the same as desecrating the flag, nor does it make one unpatriotic.

If Hillary is looking for a way to validate reverence for the flag, here's a much better idea than attempting to outlaw any particular use of the flag. I have my own problems with seeing flag patches on jeans, or made into blouses, but I'm not for making such displays a federal crime. So, if this isn't about a partisan attempt to once against use the flag as a wedge to divide Americans from one another, let's see if Hillary can get Bennett to sign onto this idea.

Why not sponsor legislation that once and for all would designate one flag, or a series of flags, the ones, for instance, flown over congress and the White House, or over all Federal buildings for that matter, as the official flags of the United States of America, and make it a crime to burn or otherwise desecrate those particular flags. I could get behind that. Those flags can be said to belong to everyone, they should not be available for partisan desecration.

We need to let Senator Clinton know what kind of dissatisfaction she is provoking among her base, and yes, I still consider myself part of Hillary’s base. She is simply too famous for any of us to think we can either ignore her, or marginalize her.

The lines to her Washington office are almost always busy, but nothing is keeping any of us from sending her either an email or a letter, asking her to reconsider her position.

Let me be frank; to those Democrats who can’t take the time to do that, your complaints about Hillary remain empty ones.

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