AP, Several Other Outlets Ignore Hillary's 2005 Co-Sponsorship of Flag-Burning Law

November 29th, 2016 11:25 PM

Well now. The press has been raking President-Elect Donald Trump over the coals for proposing "consequences" for burning the American flag.

It's especially rich to see leftists like Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post invoke the name of the otherwise completely despised late Antonin Scalia, who was considered the tie-breaking Supreme Court Justice in the 1989 case when the Court ruled that flag-burning is "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment. Many in the press apparently believe that no one except Donald Trump has been dumb enough to support punishments for flag-burning since then, and ... oh, wait. Someone has — and she's a Democrat, and she just ran for President and lost.

Yes, it was Hillary Clinton who supported penalties for burning the American flag as a Senator in 2006.

As is so often the case, Bret Baier at Fox News's Special Report presented material the rest of the press somehow couldn't locate:


HILLARY CLINTON, June 27, 2006: So I hope, Mr. President, that we can pass a law that criminalizes flag burning and desecration.

-- snip --

I agree that this burning, this desecration, that can happen to our flag, is something that people have a right to ask this body to try and prohibit and prevent.

It gets better. Hillary Clinton co-sponsored the related law — with a maximum jail time penalty the same as what Trump's tweet proposed and separate, very stiff fines:

The Flag Protection Act of 2005 was a proposed United States federal law introduced in the United States Senate at the 109th United States Congress on October 24, 2005, by Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and co-sponsored by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

... It called for a punishment of no more than one year in prison and a fine of no more than $100,000; unless that flag was property of the United States Government, in which case the penalty would be a fine of not more than $250,000, not more than two years in prison, or both.

Now let's look at the motivation behind the law, as seen in the first half of a harshly critical December 7, 2005 New York Times editorial:


The Times appears to have missed the supremely cynical calculation behind Mrs. Clinton's co-sponsorship.

As a Democratic Senator, she nevertheless hoped that a Supreme Court supposedly more conservative than in 1989 — thanks to the recent additions of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, whose nominations she had opposed — would reverse a prior court's 5-4 ruling.

If that bill had indeed become law, it would have been reflexively challenged by the likes of the ACLU. If it was upheld by the Supremes in time for the 2008 presidential campaign, Mrs. Clinton, who at the time did not expect much of a challenge from within her party, would have burnished her patriotic credentials with the general electorate.

But even within her party, though it wasn't yet widely known, it seems likely that Team Clinton's opposition research had made her aware of potential rival Barack Obama's hostility towards wearing an American flag lapel pin, disinterest in properly saluting the flag, and routinely not standing at attention during the national anthem. Those issues became more apparent for all to see as the Democratic primary campaign warmed up in the fall of 2007. What better weapon to use against a guy like that than saying you've stopped malcontents like many of Obama's friends (e.g., Bill Ayers, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright) from burning the American flag?

But unlike Mrs. Clinton, President-Elect Trump will shortly have the ability to nominate a Supreme Court Justice, or ultimately two, or more, who might rule to uphold such a law (though, to be clear, the "loss of citizenship" element of Trump's tweet is completely out of bounds).

Several media outlets which have covered Trump's flag-burning tweet but have failed to mention Mrs. Clinton's prior co-sponsorship of such a law is very long. Just a few examples include The Associated Press, The Chicago Tribune, and USA Today.

At Slate.com, Mark Joseph Stern argued that Trump's tweet "is an attack on the most American of values, the freedom to dissent." Well, not that two wrongs make a right if you're inclined to think that way, but then so was Mrs. Clinton's failed bill a decade ago — and Stern didn't mention that.

CNN's online coverage of Trump's tweet didn't mention Mrs. Clinton's 2005 bill until it very last sentence.

To their credit, the Washington Post did mention Hillary Clinton's involvement with the 2005 bill in reasonably prominent fashion, as did the Los Angeles Times, CBS News, and Reuters. CBS tried to argue that "Clinton’s proposal was written to skirt the free speech argument -- it targeted cases of destroying a flag with intent to incite violence." Without knowing what Trump has in mind — to be fair, if he even knows — that's a meaningless attempt at a distinction.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.