One Cheer for Hillary Clinton

Jon Perr

In South Carolina today, Senator Hillary Clinton once again reminded Democratic voters why so many have misgivings about her. Even as she rightly spoke out against flying the Confederate flag over public facilities in the Palmetto State, she called to mind her own pandering over the U.S. flag.

In Orangeburg, S.C., good Senator Clinton declared of the Stars and Bars:

"I think about how many South Carolinians have served in our military and who are serving today under our flag and I believe that we should have one flag that we all pay honor to, as I know that most people in South Carolina do every single day. I personally would like to see it removed from the Statehouse grounds."

But over the past 24 months, bad Hillary has played red state politics with Old Glory. In June 2006, Clinton joined 33 other senators in blocking a proposed constitutional amendment banning flag desecration. But in 2005, however, she co-sponsored a bill with Utah's Robert Bennett making flag burning a federal crime. In an act of rhetorical contortion, Senator Clinton reasoned:

"Burning or destroying an American flag is a despicable act that disrespects the sacrifices of our brave veterans and soldiers who fought to protect the very freedom of speech that flag burners exploit. I find this abhorrent and will endeavor to make sure our laws reflect this. Thankfully, we are fortunate that flag desecration is rare…[But] those few who would destroy a flag are not worthy of the response of amending our founding document."

Despite her front-runner status, many Democrats worry that Senator Clinton's consistently high disapproval ratings and proven (if undeserved) history as a polarizing figure make her unelectable in the 2008 general election. But at a deeper level, it is the perception of cold, political calculation that unnerves so many potential allies.

And as she reminded us today, her position of "inhale, but don't smoke" the flag doesn't help.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Huh?

    I see three separate issues in your post, and fail to get the connection.

    1. She's trying to promote the idea of the American flag over the Confederate flag.
    2. She opposed enshrining anti-flag-burning legislation in the Constitution. Good for her.
    3. She does support non-constitutional restrictions on the right to burn the flag.
    I don't agree with #3, but it hardly seems like rhetorical gymnastics are required to distinguish it from #2. As for #1, how is that even related?

    As to her electability, I'd think the strong support she's received from her senior Senator in NY - who defied all predictions in delivering the Senate for the Democrats - might count for something.

  • (Show?)

    So if you think that burning an American flag is wrong and co-sponsor a statute to make it illegal, while opposing amending the US Constitution, you are "bad?" So what, exactly, is the "good" position on this issue? Against a statute and for a Constitutional amendment? Against everything? For flag burning?

    As for the "consistently high disapproval ratings," Hillary is plus 18 in the most recent numbers cited. Plus 18 is huge.

    I heard Charlie Cook speak the other day and what he said is that 47 percent of likely voters say they will never vote for Hillary Clinton, no matter what. But 45 percent say they will not vote for any Democrat, no matter what. And 45 percent say they will not vote for any Repbulican, no matter what. The challenge for Hillary will be to get 6 of the 8 points up for grabs and the challenge for any other D will be to get 6 of 10. My money's on her.

  • Jon (unverified)
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    A couple of follow ups.

    1. Hillary's Negative Ratings I don't think these are deserved, but they are striking at this early point in the process. A year before the primaries, Clinton consistently gets over 40% negatives, compared to levels in the 20's for John Edwards and teens for Barack Obama, for example:

    http://www.pollingreport.com/C2.htm#Hillary http://www.pollingreport.com/E-F.htm http://www.pollingreport.com/l-o.htm#Obama

    1. Perception of Opportunism The danger for Clinton's position on flag-burning is the perception she's trying to have it all ways. She in essence acknowledges that this is a non-issue ("Thankfully, we are fortunate that flag desecration is rare.")

    But at a time when Bill Frist and the Senate GOP was pushing an agenda of amendments banning same-sex marriage and flag-burning as well as a "fetal pain" bill, Hillary Clinton tried to reach out to conservatives on this one. As as the Washington Post noted:

    "it is written in a cutesy way that does not explicitly outlaw all flag burnings -- just those intended to 'intimidate any person or group of persons.'"

    I guess it depends on what your definition of "flag-burning" is.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Via the links in Perr's post, I read the CNN and the Cohen column. Information contained in those two articles do not help persuade me that Hillary Clinton is an original thinker. An original thinker is what this country needs in order to bring common interests amongst people of diverse opinion together.

    Hillary's position on flag desecration seems to be nothing much more than going with the flow, or pandering as Perr and I think also, Cohen says in his piece.

    The flag burning flag desecration skit is so tired and worn out, that any genuinely ethical meaning inherent in the topic its built upon has been almost completely lost. Anymore, whenever some crew drags it out for another run, its almost a dead giveaway that doing so is for the purpose of cultivating support from the conservative faction.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    For Hillary Clinton and her ilk your rights are dependent on polls. Which part of free speech is it that the States have a right to over-rule? Why is this even a question? I think flag burning is stupid and counter-productive behavior, so is being a KKKer. Frankly there are a lot of stupid counter-productive behaviors, and so what? She wants political capital on the backs of your rights and you approve because? You're allowed to be stupid - that's called freedom from the tyranny of the majority - maybe it's not really stupid.

    This flag now stands for: Torture Indefinite incarceration without trial Governmental interfernce in your most basic communications A lie based war Foreign national sevitude (illegal hiring/no vote) Plutoctracy Dissent as treason

    And burning that is what?

    It stands for a whole raft of good things

    So you shouldn't burn that one...what about the other one?

    George W Bush could win in 2004 - and that makes it a good thing? There is not a single other Democratic candidate that I would work against in the Primaries, Hillary is bad news so I will. I will attack her with every bit of reasoning and actual evidence I can get my hands on, all the way through the Primaries.

  • jami (unverified)
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    really? flag burning?

    way back when the republicans wanted us to talk about this nonsense, i read somewhere (on blueoregon maybe), that there are some tiny number (way fewer than five i think) of flag burnings every year.

    it's a non-issue, and i don't care about it. people who burn flags would love to be arrested for it -- it's just the kind of attention they're seeking. and since clinton and other democrats didn't vote for the republican flag burning amendment, an honest supreme court can only find their arrest unconstitutional (the honesty of the supreme court is a whole other subject).

    as for a real issue, on the other hand, hillary clinton has introduced a plan to start withdrawing troops from iraq in 90 days. it's a careful and detailed plan for ending the war in iraq. imagine that.

  • (Show?)

    Can you trust Hillary Clinton?

  • (Show?)

    I have enormous admiration for Hillary Clinton. For her strength, for her intelligence, for her capacity for hard work, for her toughness. The one person I know who worked on her staff (when she was First Lady) is devoted to her. But I wish I thought we could see some authentic opinions out of her instead of all this triangulation and calculation.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
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    An original thinker is what this country needs in order to bring common interests amongst people of diverse opinion together.

    The last thing we need in a President, or any other elected official, is "an original thinker". We have a lot of original thinkers in this country who come up with all sorts of ideas, we elect people to sort through all those ideas and champion the ones that will get the job done. If you have a President coming up with their own original ideas, who is going to tell them their idea stinks?

    Most successful politicians who bring people together are pretty conventional thinkers. The good ones are open minded and willing to listen to new ideas. Frankly, original thinkers are usually too busy listening to their own internal voice that creates those original ideas to hear what others have to say.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "I have enormous admiration for Hillary Clinton. For her strength, for her intelligence, for her capacity for hard work, for her toughness. The one person I know who worked on her staff (when she was First Lady) is devoted to her."

    If you go to Chile you can easily find people who knew strongman Pinochet and are still devoted to him, so Stephanie's reference is of limited value. Lay aside any rose-colored glasses you might be wearing and check her record and Chuck Butcher's list of charges above. Just her callous and cynical vote for the war on Iraq should disqualify her for any public office. Add to that her association with part-time husband Bill and the DLC and she should be regarded like a plague.

    One cheer for Hillary is half a cheer too many.

  • lin qiao (unverified)
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    Check out the Resolute Hillary item.

    Hillary Clinton is a disaster. She is clueless about the lives of most Americans and only dances to the tune of the DLC and others inside the Beltway. If she wins the nomination, it will be thanks to the machinations of party hacks, along with the absurd rush to move all the primaries up to February or March. The only way a candidate can compete in that sort of crazy scene is to have a fantastic amount of money on hand. So why are people on this website pushing to have yet one more primary--Oregon's--also pushed ahead?

  • Zak J. (unverified)
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    So is she running for the Republican nomination now?

  • jami (unverified)
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    republicans attacking our candidates don't make me lose hope for our country. they're fucking morons, and they're only 30% of the country. we don't need them to win elections. but when leftie folk do the right's work for it by attacking leftie candidates, i really start wondering what english- or spanish-speaking country has a more hopeful future ahead of it.

  • gl (unverified)
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    She was on the Board of Directors for Walmart, especially when they drafted their strategies for employee benefits and rapid expansion geographically at all costs. nuff said

  • ws (unverified)
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    "The last thing we need in a President, or any other elected official, is "an original thinker".". Ross Williams

    No, I would say that in a presidential candidate, we absolutely need an original thinker, not a megalomaniac thinker as Mr Williams comment seems to warn of.

    A successful politician and good president has to have both the following qualities; the capacity for good, original ideas and the ability to be open minded, willing to listen to new ideas, and ultimately bring people of diverse points of view together on important issues.

    Gee, I wonder if Bush's idea to go to war was an original idea. Doesn't seem too original to me. But maybe, according to Mr Williams point of view (refer to the rest of his comment) regarding original thinkers as politicians, that was why not enough people told him his idea to do so stank.

    I hope Hillary soon sees the futility in trying to build a solid constituency through the narrow scope of coddling lock step conservative voters by embracing their freedom of speech threatening mentality. I'd love to see an american gal give the old school presidential gender record a run for it. Girls can do it. So far though, she's just not the one.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    Let's be clear about something, in my case it is the left attacking a plutocratic, poll driven, corporate tool who has less than no respect for my Rights. I am clearly attacking the status quo and the people who would stomp on American civil liberties.

    If that behavior qualifies for exodus to Mexico and points south, I will point out that Hillary will be a great friend to the xenophobic racist corruption that passes for government there.

    The Right will not bring to the table one single piece of my argument, they will bring deceits and libels based on god knows what objection - apparently her husband. I don't hold him against her or her gender, but I surely do hold her version of politics against her. If I wanted corporatist triangulation, double dealing, playing the ends to the middle politics I could be a Republican.

    Bankruptsy Bill Flag burning Guns War Authorization

    Damn, that's progressive woman's thinking...

    and there's plenty more where that came from, any one of those should be a disqualifier for a Democratic candidate.

  • Zak J. (unverified)
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    ...when leftie folk do the right's work for it by attacking leftie candidates, i really start wondering what english- or spanish-speaking country has a more hopeful future ahead of it.

    Hillary doesn't have the left's support; she is not, in any sense, the "left's" candidate. She is showing us how she thinks and her priorities for action in an effort to win our support. But we are not under any obligation to give it to her.

    I don't condone flag burning, and I'd never vote for anyone who had actually done it. But our actual freedoms are more important to defend than our symbols of freedom. And Hillary's apparent pandering to a narrow constituency in an early primary state does not instill me with confidence that she understands--or is committed to defending--the difference between substance and symbolism.

  • BlueNote (unverified)
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    Hillary may be able to buy the nomination. I would not bet against her. But if she does, we may as well skip the general election and have the Republican candidate move directly into the White House following the Republican convention in the summer of 08.

  • (Show?)

    Bluenote: "we may as well skip the general election and have the Republican candidate move directly into the White House..." Exactly the sort of things that were said when she ran for the Senate : "Let's just give the seat to Rick Lazio, because he'll crush her." And six years later the GOP could barely find anyone to file against her. Go ahead and underestimate Hillary. Plenty of smart people have done it before.

  • (Show?)

    Really, Paddy? I don't remember that at all. Rick Lazio was a lamb led to slaughter. NY is such a blue state that I can't imagine anyone (other than the NY Daily Post and other right-wing fantasy-mongers) making a "Lazio will crush Hillary" argument.

    There might have been folks who thought Rudy would crush her, but we never got to see that fight. (Which is why it's so weird that he's running for president now.)

  • lin qiao (unverified)
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    I don't condone flag burning, and I'd never vote for anyone who had actually done it. But our actual freedoms are more important to defend than our symbols of freedom.

    I've always wondered how someone burning a US flag is a threat to civil liberties. Can someone explain this for me, please?

    As far as I can tell, the folks frothing at the mouth about flag-burning would in fact be perfectly thrilled to curtail all sorts of civil liberties in the name of one screwball abstraction or another, be it "American values", or "our troops", or "Mom and apple pie". Isn't this what fascists always do? Stir up people's religious (or quasi-religious) zeal in order to disguise their real agendas?

    It's also more than a bit ironic that there is a subset of the no-flag-burning crowd that simultaneously has no problem with the Confederate battle flag flying over state capitols. The modern heart of the die-hard Party of Lincoln is now Dixie, after all.

    Go ahead and underestimate Hillary. Plenty of smart people have done it before.

    This discussion is not about underestimating Hillary. I'm pretty sure nobody posting her underestimates her. I sure don't. No, I think she is extremely smart, capable, unprincipled, and ruthless.

  • Zak J. (unverified)
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    I've always wondered how someone burning a US flag is a threat to civil liberties.

    Hi lin qiao, I hope I was clear that I don't think flag burning is a threat to civil liberties. That's why I said this: But our actual freedoms are more important to defend than our symbols of freedom.. But neither will I be inviting flag burners to dinner: what anyone chooses to express is an individual choice in this country, but it's also our right to ostracize others for what they choose to say (or burn). We don't need to rely on legal penalties to dictate the boundaries of conversation, nor should we.

    You've put your finger on something else too: I think she [Hillary] is extremely smart, capable, unprincipled, and ruthless.

    Indeed. It's hard to imagine people getting so emotional about any candidate unless that person scared them. I think Hillary's lack of principles scares the hell out of people because they have no idea where circumstance would lead her. If she wants people's support, she simply must show she has core values she won't compromise. Her bizarrely contrasting votes on flag burning are not a step in the right direction.

  • jami (unverified)
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    i'm out. if blueoregon is all about extremists who can't hear past what ralph nader and rush limbaugh tell them, i'm out.

    have fun tearing apart any democrat who dares take the lead for '08.

  • Stephen Holland (unverified)
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    Despite her front-runner status, many Democrats worry that Senator Clinton's consistently high disapproval ratings and proven (if undeserved) history as a polarizing figure make her unelectable in the 2008 general election.

    These polls are taken out of context. A poll taken of New Yorkers in December put her approval rating at 74%. Of course NY is a blue state and doesn't necessarily translate nation wide ,but here's the point: Sen. Clinton has campaigned here in two separate elections. She has been able to put her machine to work. The contest in 2000, when it began, was not a foregone conclusion. It wasn't until after the Clinton machine got going in Upstate that she was able to win in a walk.

    Expect Sen. Clinton to run a national campaign similar to her two senate campaigns in New York and to her husband's two winning presidential campaigns in the 90's. She may not be the same candidate as her husband, but she's got a political team that may be even stronger.

  • Steiny (unverified)
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    I'll vote for Hillary...right after I hear the simultaneous sounds of "Oink, oink" and wings flapping!

    <h2>Be VERY afraid!!!</h2>

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