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.