Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hillary Pulls a Kerry

Is Hillary Clinton taking communication lessons from John Kerry?

If the reaction of the junior senator from New York to the stupid flag burning amendment is any indication, I'm severely worried that in a run for president she'll easily be portrayed as a conviction-less waffler just like Kerry (and Al Gore and Bill Clinton, for that matter). Look at this tortured description of her position from a USA Today article:

It will not be an easy vote, as evidenced by the carefully worded statement issued by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I support federal legislation that would outlaw flag desecration, much like laws that currently prohibit the burning of crosses, but I don't believe a constitutional amendment is the answer," she said, adopting a position similar to the one taken by her husband, former President Clinton, when he was in office.

Her aides said there is no contradiction in being against the flag-burning amendment and for a flag-burning law.

They say she believes a federal law would not trample First Amendment rights because, like laws against cross burnings, it would ban flag desecration that is deemed to pose a threat to others — and not acts of political expression that are protected by the First Amendment.

However, a law like the one proposed by the senator would likely be challenged in courts because Congress has no clear right to outlaw flag burning. That is why supporters of the ban want to add a one-line amendment to the Constitution that says, "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

Can't you just see the Republican ad now? Hillary Clinton: "I actually voted for an anti-flag burning law before I voted against it."

How can Hillary Clinton possibly vote for a law but not the authority to let Congress pass that law? At least John Kerry had the advantage of being technically correct when he said he voted against the $87 billion in troops funding before he voted for it. Hillary isn't even being intellectually honest here. So even the liberal elite press who pay close attention to these matters will massacre her. And rightfully so.

I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that on most issues, most voters prefer a consistent and passionately held position they disagree with to a pathetic attempt to please everyone. I know that as someone who strongly believes that an anti-flag desecretation amendment is an affront to the most fundamental values of our country, I'd still rather a politician just take a strong position against it rather than engage in this kind of pathetic posturing so that she won't offend anyone.

But I suspect that Hillary probably does agree with me, and most liberals, on this issue. And it seems to me that there's no reason in the world she couldn't do so and remain (potentially) appealing to moderate voters. All she has to say is something like "I find flag burning deeply offensive and those who those who do it deserve nothing but scorn. However, one of our country's core values is that all expression, no matter how outrageous, is protected by the 1st Amendment and we should not begin selectively altering the Constitution based on what we offends us."

Flag burning is not like gay marriage, where it's kind of odd to oppose it personally but also oppose outlawing it (I also have to ask what does it mean for a straight man like John Kerry to personally oppose gay marriage? Don't all straight people personally oppose gay marriage? It's not like abortion where he and his wife can choose not to ever have one but still not want to outlaw it. But anyway...) It makes perfect sense to oppose flag burning and oppose outlawing it. And according to that USA Today article, 54% of the public is against the amendment. So why is Hillary Clinton giving Republicans ammunition to make her look like a waffler with no core beliefs?

1 comment:

rone said...

"How can Hillary Clinton possibly vote for a law but not the authority to let Congress pass that law?"

You nailed it right there. That was my exact reaction, as well as the last thing you say about the waffling.