“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis

Oh, I get it. It’s easy to get why Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is the sole Democrat who is co-sponsoring an anti-flag burning bill with — get this — Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah, “which has been written in hopes of surviving any constitutional challenge following a 2003 Supreme Court ruling on the subject.” (Newsday)

The helmet-haired former wannabe-hippie is trying to defuse the maniacal, obsessive hatred of the right towards her and her ’08 presidential bid (following, of course, her successful reelection to the Senate in ’06). As Carpetbagger, via Evan Derkacz at Alternet’s PEEK, notes:

… Senate Republicans don’t like the bill, so it’s basically an easy thing for Senate Dems to sign onto with impunity. It may be cynical, but it’s hard to blame a Dem planning a presidential run for pursuing this approach.

I guess poltiical moves trump freedom of speech now? That’s why I was so glad to see Madman in the Marketplace‘s recommended diary on Jonathan Tasini, who will challenge Sen. Clinton in the ’06 Senate primary. (Amy Goodman also announced Tasini’s candidacy today on Democracy Now!.)

Madman in the Marketplace covers the flagburning bill and many other issues, primarily Hillary’s conservative views on the war on Iraq. (Did any of you hear antiwar-activist, actor, and NY state resident Tim Robbins tell Air America’s Morning Sedition hosts that “Hillary can KISS MY ASS!”)

Just why is this Senate bill so offensive? Here’s one major problem: Hillary equates flag-burning with cross-burning.

“The deeply disturbing piece here is the awful comparison of flag burning to cross burning. Cross burning is well-understood as a sign of terrorism. It was used to suppress blacks organizing themselves in both the South and the North from the post-Civil War era until the late 1960s. It was a sign of intimidation, of terrorism, or impending hate crimes. It was often a death threat. Flag burning has usually been the province of hippies and countercultural movements, and these have been relatively benign. They are certainly not equivalent in any way shape or form to the KKK or the legacy of slavery and segregation that cross burning represents.”

Matt Stoller via Evan Derkacz at Alternet PEEK

Evan adds his two cents about the lack of common sense in supporting a bill — in this day and age — that “outlaws a protester intimidating any person by burning the flag, lighting someone else’s flag, or desecrating the flag on federal property” (Newsday):

Remember the quaint old days when flag-burning was so outrageous as a rights violation liberals would quiver with indignation? A Bush, a Patriot Act, and some enemy combatants later, outrage over criminalizing flag-burning feels like outrage at the exposure of a bare knee in a Hollywood movie.

I’m sort of kidding of course. Banning flag-burning is an important first amendment issue. It’s just, you know, expectations have shifted.

Is this “smart politics or Republican Lite?” Well, I guess it’s smart politics if you care more about defusing the rightwing’s ammo than you do about freedom of speech or your own base who find such bills utterly a waste of Senate time when so many other issues beg for attention.

Thanks, Madman, for your diary. Thanks, Jonathan Tasini, and I hope you gain enough voice to pressure Hillary on Iraq. Now, who in the hell can we work our asses off for to oppose Hillary in ’08?

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