On the Confederate Flag

Confederate Flag Protest In the wake of the absolutely horrific shooting in South Carolina that left nine people dead, attention has swiftly turned to the display of the Confederate flag in the state, given that the murderer, Dylann Roof, was pictured wrapped in the flag, and given the (to put matters mildly) problematic history behind the flag. As anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock is well aware by now, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina has come out in favor of removing the Confederate flag. I support this move, and think it is long overdue. But no one should pretend that other issues are not raised by the decision to remove the flag.

For one thing, now that we have decided that we don’t like the Confederate flag, what are we going to do about the display of other prominent landmarks and symbols with questionable (again, to put matters mildly) histories behind them?

The bulk of this NPR story on the history of the South Carolina flag literally doesn’t mention Democratic contenders for president after cataloguing various responses of Republicans in the field. This even though Hillary Rodham Clinton was First Lady of Arkansas at the precise moment in time that Bill Clinton signed into law a flag that explicitly honored the Confederacy. As reported by the Daily Caller . . .

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When I first moved to the D.C. area from Colorado, I had a bit of culture shock relative to the Confederate symbols on display here. I live not a mile from a cannon that marks where Confederate troops gathered to go off and fight. But rather than call for its removal, I’ve used it to learn history and teach my children about their commonwealth’s history. And I’ve used other monuments, cemeteries and buildings to teach my children about their history, including both the good and bad points.

I wouldn’t put Confederate kitsch up in my house, but mainstream media figure Claire Shipman and former Obama press secretary Jay Carney put up Communist kitsch in their house. There is something intriguing about how the elite left tolerates art celebrating those who killed 100 million people in the last century, but seeks the erasure of anything associated with the Confederacy.

I am entirely in favor of eliminating communist kitsch, given communism’s bloody and despicable history. But I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that many of those who are outraged (rightly) by the Confederate flag, either don’t care about the hammer and sickle, or are positively thrilled whenever they see it flutter in the wind.

Now then, about that Bill Clinton story . . .

Many Republican presidential contenders say the question of whether to keep the Confederate flag flying outside South Carolina’s Statehouse is a matter for South Carolinians to work out among themselves. Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton tend to say that the flag — a symbol of racism and oppression to many — ought to come down, especially in the wake of last week’s racially motivated mass shooting in Charleston. (Clinton has not made an official statement about South Carolina’s flag since the shooting, but in 2007 she did say she “would like to see it removed” from the Statehouse grounds.)

But the former secretary of state, who is now running for president, is not the first Clinton to weigh in on the matter of the Confederacy. The state flag of Arkansas sports 25 white stars and four blue ones. And in 1987, while serving as governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton signed a bill affirming that one of those blue stars is there in honor of the Confederate States of America.

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Arkansas observes a Confederate Flag Day, which is celebrated together with Arkansas Confederate History and Heritage Month and Confederate Memorial Day. Per state code, it is observed on the Saturday immediately preceding Easter Sunday. In annual gatherings outside the Arkansas Statehouse, participants can “attend and bring examples of the variety of flags used by Arkansas units and of the Confederate government and its army during the War,” according to the Log Cabin Democrat, an Arkansas newspaper.

Clinton did not publicly object to Confederate Flag Day during his time as governor. The holiday is still being observed: A photo posted to the website of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Arkansas shows this year’s event.

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A spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Of course s/he didn’t. This is Hillary Clinton’s campaign, remember? The one that is famous for shooing away the press and preventing it from holding the campaign and the candidate accountable. Yeah, that one. You won’t get any answers from this crowd unless you lace their food and drinks with sodium pentathol. I should write that I am sorry to talk about politics regarding this issue–racial reconciliation is an issue that in an ideal world would be addressed without the odor of politics attached to it, but others have injected the issue with politics, and it would simply be naïve to pretend otherwise, or to ignore the political aspect of this discussion.

And since we are talking about the politics of this issue, can we agree that it would be nice if the press could wonder aloud and often–with or without any ability to ask questions directly of the putative next president of the United States–whether she supported commemoration of the Confederacy during her husband’s time as governor of Arkansas? Now that we have obsessed ourselves with all things Confederate, I would like to know whether Hillary Clinton objected to her husband’s decision to give fans of the Confederacy symbols and events to celebrate in Arkansas. If she didn’t, then why should we take her present sentiments on this issue seriously? And if she did, then why didn’t she have the ability to sway then-Governor Clinton on the issue? Doesn’t any inability to change her husband’s mind bode ill for her ability to change the minds of representatives, senators, governors, mayors, the American people and foreign powers regarding issues of consequence, should she ever become president of the United States?

More regarding the Clintonfederacy:

It’s unclear if the Clinton-Gore Confederate flag campaign button that has been prominent on social media was an official part of their 1992 presidential campaign.

And Hillary Clinton isn’t clarifying, nor is her team responding to questions about her husband honoring the flag as Arkansas governor in 1987.

TheBlaze left phone and email messages with the Clinton campaign Monday inquiring whether the button, and other similar designs sold on eBay, was part of the official campaign of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

TheBlaze also asked if the former Arkansas first lady opposed now or opposed then an act signed by her husband honoring the Confederate flag. The Clinton campaign did not respond to either question.

One would think that if the Clinton campaign could shoot down these stories, they would not hesitate to do so. They are the masters of rapid response, after all.

Of course, it ought to go without saying that despite all of the foregoing, people are busy attacking Republicans over the Confederate flag issue, because . . . well . . . because why not? This, despite the fact that history is not on their side:

The partisan tilt of [South Carolina’s] politics, of course, had shifted a good deal by 1996, when Republican Governor David Beasley proposed bringing the flag down and moving it to a less prominent site on the capitol grounds. Beasley’s plan never got through the state legislature, and was opposed by the NAACP. Democrats, seeing an opportunity, shrewdly pounced. The 1998 governor’s race was openly fought mainly over Beasley’s opposition to video poker, but Democrat Jim Hodges carefully avoided the flag issue while his video poker allies poured money into ads pounding Beasley over it:

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Hodges had previously been a critic of the flag, but abandoned that principle to win the election:

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Bill Clinton could not have been prouder:

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As it turned out, Beasley’s compromise – which created the current placement of the flag – ended up passing the Legislature with bipartisan support in 2000 (again over the NAACP’s objections), and was signed into law by Hodges once the South Carolina presidential primary was over and there was no more partisan mileage to be dragged out of beating up George W. Bush for steering clear of the issue. And there things stayed until Gov. Haley’s press conference on Monday.

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Howard Dean in 2003, famously declared that “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks”. Two years later, they made him chairman of the Democratic Party. We’re not talking here about the Democrats’ role in slavery, which after all is the fault of people long dead, or the Democrats’ role in segregation, which is passing as well into history. Fritz Hollings, Jim Hodges and Howard Dean are the very recent past. The Clintons and Joe Biden are still with us.

Meanwhile, Republicans can never win.  Haley gets blasted by liberals even when she does what they demanded. Mitt Romney repeated his stance last week on removing the flag; he’d been saying that since 2008, but got zero credit for it from the national media in 2012. When Jeb Bush took down the Confederate flag in Florida in 2001, he was criticized by a prominent Democrat, Kendrick Meek, the son of a Congresswoman and himself the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2010:

Yes, you read that last part right. Before it was fashionable to do so, Jeb Bush decided that he didn’t want to have the state of Florida associated any longer with the Confederate flag. And he took action to end that association. Anyone who is genuinely interested in the process of racial reconciliation and healing ought to take notice of Bush’s act of courage, especially given the fact that we are closing in on a presidential election year. As for the rest of you–those who wish to exploit this issue for partisan political gain–feel free to vote for Hillary Clinton. She is your candidate in more ways than you can possibly imagine.

(Photo Credit.)

(Cross-posted.)