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“Closet Confederate Sympathizers?”: The Clinton-Confederate Flag Conspiracy Theory Is A New Low

Out of the swirl of chaos, grief, grace, and courage that has followed the Charleston shooting, partisan politics has mostly kept its rightful place nowhere near the state of South Carolina.

But the national debate over the future of the Confederate flag that flies in front of the state’s capitol has unwittingly given rise to one of the more bizarre Clinton conspiracy theories to date: that Bill and Hillary Clinton, despite decades as civil rights advocates and their right-wing caricature as Northeast liberal elites, are closet Confederate sympathizers.

The meme took off on Sunday, when The Daily Caller ran a story under the headline “Flashback: Bill Clinton Honored the Confederacy on Arkansas State Flag.”

The next morning, the hosts of Fox & Friends debated whether Hillary Clinton had refused to denounce the Confederate flag flying in front of the South Carolina (though she actually did denounce it in 2007) out of loyalty to her husband, who, Elisabeth Hasselbeck said, “signed a law honoring the Confederacy in Arkansas and about the flag’s design in 1987…that stated, ‘the blue star is to commemorate the Confederate states of America.”

The legislation that The Daily Caller, Fox & Friends, and now dozens of conservative blogs are referencing was a bill to make the flag that Arkansas had flown since 1924 the state’s official flag. That flag includes four stars, three to symbolize the countries that held the Arkansas territory—Spain, France and the United States—and the fourth, as Hasselbeck said, “to commemorate the Confederate states of America.”

Nowhere in the state’s legislative history does it explain why the 63-year-old flag needed to be made official, but Arkansas historians have two explanations. First, the legislature was moving to give the state a number of “official” designations—think “official state butterfly,” “official state grain”—as it celebrated its sesquicentennial.

Second, Bill Clinton and the state legislature were pushing through a series of measures to ban flag desecration as the U.S. Supreme Court debated and eventually struck down the 48 state laws against flag burning, including Arkansas’s ban. Historians told me they believed the 1987 flag bill was passed to specify the official design of the state flag in conjunction with that effort. As governor, Clinton later signed a bill making it a crime to burn or deface a flag, a move that drew vocal complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union.

It is true that Clinton did nothing in his time as governor to remove the state flag’s reference to Arkansas’s role in the Confederacy. But by all accounts, the bill he signed making the state’s flag official was not created as a Confederate memorial. The sponsor of the bill, longtime Arkansas legislator W.D. “Bill” Moore, has since died, but former Representative Steve Smith said, “I served with Bill Moore in the early 1970s, and he was hardly a neo-Confederate. Nor was Bill Clinton.”

The more recent Clintonian history related to the Confederate flag is easier to find and may be one of the more straightforward positions either Clinton has ever taken. Both have been consistently, unambiguously against its use.

During Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, he endorsed Georgia Governor Zell Miller’s fruitless attempt to remove the St. Andrews Cross from the Georgia state flag, a change that eventually came nine years later, and made Miller the keynote speaker at Clinton’s 1992 Democratic National Committee nominating convention.

In 2000, as South Carolina wrestled with the future of the Confederate flag that still flew above its capitol, then-President Clinton gave the state his unsolicited advice during a visit to Allen University, a historically black college in Columbia, just miles from the state capitol: Take the flag down. “As long as the waving symbol of one American’s pride is the shameful symbol of another American’s pain, we have bridges to cross in this country and we better get across them,”’ he told the students.

When Hillary Clinton became a candidate for president herself in 2007, she said much the same thing during her own visit to the state, telling the AP she thought South Carolina should remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds entirely, not just from the front of the capitol.

And Tuesday, after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s call to finally remove the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds in the wake of the Charleston tragedy, Hillary Clinton called it the right thing to do.

“I appreciate the actions begun yesterday by the governor and other leaders of South Carolina to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House, recognizing it as a symbol of our nation’s racist past that has no place in our present or our future,” Clinton said. “It shouldn’t fly there, it shouldn’t fly anywhere.”

There are more than enough reasons for members of the conservative media to be dubious about the Clintons: the deleted emails, the paid speeches, the Friends of Bill you thought went away with the Y2K bug but were actually just sitting on the Clinton Foundation payroll waiting for the next Clinton administration to begin.

But accusing either Clinton of being a Confederate sympathizer, past or present, is a conspiracy beneath even its creators.

 

By: Patricia Murphy,

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Bill and Hillary Clinton, Confederate Flag, Conservative Media, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Change Your Stand, Or Shut Your Mouth”: ‘The Culture War’ — A Battle The GOP Can’t Win

The argument is over and conservatives have lost. Some of them just don’t know it yet.

That’s the takeaway from the remarkable events of last week wherein the states of Indiana and Arkansas executed high-speed U-turns — we’re talking skid marks on the tarmac — on the subject of marriage equality. Legislatures in both states, you will recall, had passed so-called “religious freedom” laws designed to allow businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples. In Indiana, the governor had already signed the bill and was happily dissembling about the discriminatory nature and intent of the new law.

Then reality landed like the Marines at Guadalcanal.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made a fool of himself on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” five times refusing to answer a simple yes or no question about whether the bill would protect a business that refused to serve gay people. Angie’s List, which is headquartered in the state, delayed a planned expansion. NASCAR, the NCAA, the NFL, the NBA, the WNBA, and a host of businesses condemned the law. Conventions pulled out and some states and cities even banned government-funded travel to Indiana.

Down in Arkansas, where similar legislation awaited his signature, Gov. Asa Hutchinson was no doubt watching with interest as Pence was metaphorically shot full of holes. Then he received a tap on the shoulder from a very heavy hand. Walmart, the largest retailer on Earth, born and headquartered in Arkansas, urged a veto, saying the bill “does not reflect the values we proudly uphold.”

Both governors promptly got, ahem, religion. Hutchinson sent the measure back to legislators for revision. Pence signed a measure to “fix” a law whose glories he had spent so much time touting.

And here, a little context might be instructive. Twenty years ago, you recall, we were essentially arguing over the right of gay people to exist. The debate then was over whether they could serve in the military, adopt children, be fired or denied housing because of their sexuality, Ten years ago, public opinion on most of those issues having swung decisively, we were fighting over whether or not they could get married. Ten years later, that point pretty much conceded, we are arguing over who should bake the cake.

The very parameters of the debate have shifted dramatically to the dreaded left. Positions the GOP took proudly just 20 years ago now seem prehistoric and its motivations for doing so, threadbare. This is not about morality, the constitution or faith. It never was.

No, this is about using the law to validate the primal sense of “ick” that still afflicts some heterosexuals at the thought of boys who like boys and girls who like girls. And the solution to their problem is three words long: Get over it.

Or, get left behind. Consider again what happened last week: Put aside NASCAR, the NBA and Angie’s List: Walmart is, for better and for worse, the very embodiment of Middle-American values. To rephrase what Lyndon Johnson said of Walter Cronkite under vastly different circumstances, if you have lost Walmart, you have lost the country.

On gay rights, conservatives just lost Wal-Mart.

The adults on the right (there are some) understand that they are out of step with the mainstream, which is why they’d just as soon call a truce in the so-called “culture wars.” The fanatical, id-driven children on the right (there are far too many) would rather drive the GOP off a cliff than concede. Somebody needs to sit them down and explain that when you have taken an execrable stand and been repudiated for it as decisively as the right has been, you only have two options: Change your stand, or shut your mouth.

At this point, either one will do.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 8, 2015

April 9, 2015 Posted by | Culture Wars, GOP, Religious Freedom Restoration Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Not Worry About Civil Rights In This Country”: Tom Cotton; Opponents Of Anti-Gay Law Need ‘Perspective’

I’m starting to long for the good old days, just weeks ago, when nobody had to think about Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas.

Mr. Cotton, you will remember, was the primary author of the constitutionally outrageous and substantively mindless letter from Republican senators telling the leaders of Iran that they shouldn’t negotiate on nuclear weapons with President Obama. Now, he is adding his voice to those who are telling gay Americans that they shouldn’t get too pushy about their civil rights.

Mr. Cotton was asked by Wolf Blitzer on CNN yesterday about a law passed by legislators in his home state that is clearly intended to permit businesses and individuals to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“In Arkansas,” he began, “we believe in religious freedom.” Mr. Blitzer, to his credit, pointed out that “everybody believes in religious freedom.”

Mr. Cotton countered with the irrelevant fact that President Clinton signed a federal law on which the current assault on gay rights is based. (The comically named Religious Freedom Restoration Act). That’s true. He also signed the Defense of Marriage Act, an outrageous infringement on the constitutional rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. And he signed the bill that turned military policy against gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces into the moronic law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

So Mr. Clinton was lousy on this civil rights issue. What’s Mr. Cotton’s point?

“It’s important that we have a sense of perspective about our priorities,” he said. “In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay.”

So, let’s not worry about civil rights in this country, which Mr. Cotton and other lawmakers can actually protect, but rather in Iran. Why Iran?

I’m so glad you asked — because Mr. Cotton wanted to turn the conversation to his current propaganda campaign about Iran. “We should focus on the most important priorities facing our country, right now,” he said, adding that the prospect of a “nuclear-armed Iran” is one such priority.

So why is Mr. Cotton trying so hard to scuttle the talks in Switzerland that could actually lead to limits on Iran’s nuclear programs?

 

By: Andrew Rosenthal, Taking Note, The Editorial Page, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, April 2, 2015

April 6, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights, Iran, Tom Cotton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Freedom To Discriminate”: We’ve Been Here Before; “No Negroes, No Mexicans, No Dogs Allowed”

In 1942, with the United States newly entered into the Second World War, the Lonestar Restaurant Association in Texas printed flyers for its members to paste on their windows that read: “No Negroes, Mexicans or Dogs Allowed.”That iconic and painful reminder of America’s history of discrimination came to mind in recent days as I listened to Indiana Governor Mike Pence struggle through a mind-numbingly contorted defense of his state’s recently enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Law. Let’s be clear that what Gov. Pence singed into law has little to do with religious liberty and a lot to do with the desire to discriminate against entire sectors of our society but especially gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans. We’ve been here before.

In the ’40s and ’50s, as the civil rights movements in Black and Latino communities gathered steam and pushed against the barriers of public and private racism and discrimination, some state governments and businesses responded by claiming that desegregation was an attack on their freedom to choose with whom to share classrooms, bathrooms, restaurants, train stations and the like. In short, they equated their freedom to discriminate with other Americans’ claims to equality. Looking back, we can take great comfort and pride that when faced with this false choice, Americans almost always chose equality.

Yet the battle for equality isn’t over; it never is. This time, the targets of discrimination are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. This time, the discrimination cloaks itself in the mantle of religious liberty and “freedom of conscience.” This time, the forces of discrimination have cast themselves as a persecuted minority, fending off attacks against their most sacred religious values. Nonsense. No law in this country compels a religious person to act against their religious values and ideals. No law compels that churches or mosques celebrate marriages for gays and lesbians. No law compels a rabbi, pastor or imam to give a religious benediction to homosexuality.

What the law does compel, however, is that one not discriminate in business or in government against a person for their appearance, their nationality, their color, their creed, and, yes, their sexual orientation. That’s not an attack against religious liberty; it’s a defense of American values.

For many Latinos across the country, gay and straight, this Indiana law and its companion in Arkansas, are a painful reminder of our own struggle for equality in the United States. When we see what is happening in Indiana and Arkansas and other states across the country, we recognize the discrimination because we have been and are still its targets. We see it today with attempts to pass anti-immigrant laws in Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. And because of these historic and ongoing struggles, we cannot be silent in the face of these deeply un-American acts. We will not be silent.

The defenders of discrimination and bigotry may control many statehouses and governor’s mansions in this country, but they’re on the wrong side of history. Americans of good conscience will always rise up in defense of equality. We know. We’ve been here before.

 

By: Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation; The Blog, The Huffington Post, March 3, 2015

April 4, 2015 Posted by | American History, Discrimination, Religious Freedom Restoration Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Don’t Wreck Religious Liberty’s Brand”: A New Commandment Now Trumps Some Of The Others; ‘Thou Shalt Not Spoil The Brand’

We are all obsessed with our brands these days, and no one more so than states competing fiercely for jobs and businesses. Some of them are quickly learning that being seen as anti-gay is dangerous to their images.

As controversy engulfed Indiana over its religious liberty law that would give legal recourse to those who discriminate against gays and lesbians, leaders of North Carolina, which has one of the most conservative state governments in the country, were getting cold feet about passing a comparable statute.

“I think we need to show that if we approve this bill, that it will improve North Carolina’s brand,” said Tim Moore, the Republican Speaker of the state House of Representatives. “Anything we do, we have to make sure we don’t harm our brand.”

A new commandment now trumps some of the others: Thou shalt not spoil the brand.

Republican governor Pat McCrory went further the day before on a Charlotte radio show, saying that a religious liberty law “makes no sense.” Meanwhile in Arkansas, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson called on state lawmakers to recall a religious-liberty bill they had passed.

This turn of events is coming as a shock to opponents of gay marriage. They thought that moving the fight to the ground of religious liberty was a politically shrewd fallback position now that courts are ratifying marriage equality. In our rights-oriented country, the best way to push back against one right is to assert a competing one.

Conservatives have a fair claim up to a point — and now they have barreled past it. The legitimate argument is that the country has rapidly changed its mind on gay marriage even as many religious traditions continue to see homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage as sinful.

Most supporters of gay marriage are willing to acknowledge (and should) that the law cannot force religious denominations to participate in activities they regard as deeply wrong. Most marriage equality statutes have thus included broad exemptions. An objecting church, for example, cannot be forced to bless a same-sex union, nor can it be required to let its facilities be used to celebrate one. Those who want their faith communities to change their view of marriage have to work the matter out on the inside and not rely on the coercive power of the state.

But opponents of gay marriage wanted more. Going far beyond what the original Religious Freedom Restoration Act had in mind at the federal level, they want a baker to be able to refuse to confect a cake for the reception after the ceremonies and for a florist to decline to provide the bouquets.

Now, I truly doubt that there are a lot of gay couples who would give their wedding business to vendors who regard what they are doing as an abomination. As a Catholic, I might not be enthusiastic about having an anti-Catholic baker involved in my wedding festivities. Not every battle has to be fought, and I suspect that many same-sex couples will voluntarily turn to bakers and florists who can share in their joy and don’t have to be forced to come kicking and screaming to the party. Supporters of gay marriage are winning, so they should consider the virtue of graciousness toward those who still oppose it. This would be good for social peace.

But consider my example: I do not think the law should give someone who sees the pope as the anti-Christ “religious liberty” grounds to use in justifying discrimination against me. Gays and lesbians are justified in feeling the same way. By taking reasonable religious liberty claims and then pushing and twisting them into a rationale for discrimination, opponents of gay marriage have picked a fight that will weaken religious liberty arguments overall. Where would this end?

Carefully thought-through religious liberty exceptions make good sense. They involve balancing when it is appropriate to exempt religious people from laws of general application and when it doesn’t. But turning religious liberty into a sweeping slogan that can be invoked to resist any social changes that some group of Americans doesn’t like will create a backlash against all efforts at accommodating religion. Forgive me, but this is bad for the brand of religious liberty.

It is, however, entertaining to watch conservative politicians be jostled this way and that between their business constituencies who don’t want this kind of trouble and their supporters among social conservatives who insist upon it. They thought they had found a way around the country’s increasing openness to gay rights. They’re fretting about brands because they now know they were wrong.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post; The National Memo, April 2, 2015

April 3, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Religious Liberty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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