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Stars, stripes and scoundrels: Dems use flag as fig leaf

By Daniel Clark
web posted April 7, 2008

If it's true that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, then that explains the tendency of liberal Democrats to seek shelter behind the Stars and Stripes.

When Barack Obama tried to distance himself from the anti-American ramblings of his spiritual advisor, Jeremiah Wright, he enlisted the help of not one, but eight American flags. He must have figured that, with all those banners standing behind him, he'd sound patriotic no matter what he actually said. That was apparently an accurate assessment, in fact, as few accounts of his widely lauded speech have bothered to note that he indirectly blamed Wright's hatred of America on America itself.

This is the same Sen. Obama, remember, who had once worn an American flag pin on his lapel, but removed it in protest of the war in Iraq. The war continues, and so does Obama's protesting it; nevertheless, he has changed his mind and embraced the American flag, now that he needs it as a security blanket.

Bill Clinton affected a similar reconciliation back in 1994. When he'd been a student at Oxford during the Vietnam War, he had protested against his own country on foreign soil. He had by that point been drafted, but had received an unprecedented deferment in exchange for an insincere promise to join the ROTC. In a letter justifying his duplicity to his ROTC director, Col. Eugene Holmes, Clinton told the former POW and Bataan Death March survivor about his "loathing the military." Solipsistically unaware of the insult he was delivering, he wrote in closing, "Merry Christmas."

While Clinton was running for president in 1992, Col. Holmes warned of "the imminent danger to our country of a draft-dodger becoming Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States." In an affidavit detailing the ways in which Clinton had misled him, the colonel explained, "These actions cause me to question both his patriotism and his integrity."

This personal history made President Clinton's presence at Normandy for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion more than a little awkward. As usual, he figured it was nothing that a little superficial contrivance couldn't fix. Using an American soldier's grave as the setting for a photo-op, he picked up a small flag that had obviously been left there on the ground as a prop. He then unfurled and planted it, in a thoroughly unconvincing moment of faux-spontaneity.

The New Soldier coverWhen it comes to cynical use of the American flag for political cover, nobody can top Sen. John Kerry. When he was with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Kerry co-authored a book whose cover featured a gang of hippies hoisting an upside-down flag, in a mock Iwo Jima pose. Included in its pages was the false testimony he infamously related to the Senate in 1971, in which he slandered his fellow soldiers with accusations of murder, rape and mutilation. Kerry had also thrown away his military ribbons in protest, and secretly met with the Vietcong in Paris, as a representative of the VVAW.

By the time Kerry ran for president a few decades later, he tried his best to present himself instead as Audie Murphy, Sergeant York and Popeye, all rolled into one. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he comically surrounded himself with American flags, including an enormous one hanging directly above the podium. "We call her Old Glory," he lectured. "For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in." Whatever desecrating the flag had said about who he is and what he believes in, he didn't explain.

Like Obama and Clinton, Sen. Kerry was using the American flag as a fig leaf, to conceal his naked hostility toward the United States. For these three, Old Glory plays the same role as the betrayed wives of sleazy politicians like Jim McGreevey, Larry Craig, Eliot Spitzer, and … well, Bill Clinton. Like those women, American flags have been repeatedly placed next to their unfaithful mates, as if to signify acceptance of them, despite their faults. The image being presented is that it is the flags that are endorsing these liberal Democrats, instead of the reverse. Unlike the politician's wives, however, the flags cannot consent to this degradation.

That's why these men are able to manipulate our national symbol in a manner apparently inconsistent with their true beliefs, without considering themselves to be hypocrites. For them to use the Stars and Stripes to mop up their political messes is simply another of their usual desecrations. ESR

Daniel Clark is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.


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