Donald Trump has kicked up another Twitter storm, this time over the decades-old and always charged issue of whether it should be legal to burn the American flag. It will not surprise you to learn that Trump’s answer is “no.” It will also not surprise you that he’s concocted a novel penalty for those who do torch the stars and stripes:
Liberals erupted in outrage last night, wailing about assaults on the First Amendment, the dark night of fascism in America, etc., etc., ad nauseum, ad infinitum. It’s worth pointing out that there’s little Trump can actually do on this matter, as it’s already been settled by the Supreme Court, which in the 1989 case Texas v. Johnson overturned dozens of state anti-flag desecration laws in the name of free expression. The right to immolate the flag is the law of land. I suppose Trump and congressional Republicans could try to pass a contrary statute in the hopes of landing the issue before a more conservative Supreme Court, but that would likely crash into sufficient Democratic opposition.
Still, I’ll admit it’s unsettling that our next president hangs out on Twitter fantasizing about tossing flag burners in prison. Even more unsettling is that Hillary Clinton actually tried to make this happen. In 2005, she co-sponsored legislation to criminalize the desecration of the American flag, and in 2006, she enthusiastically supported another bill that would have done the same thing.
There is context here. Republicans at the time were trying to ramrod through a constitutional amendment that would have banned flag burning, and Clinton’s proposals, being mere statutes, were viewed as a sort of centrist compromise. But the effect was still the same: anyone who desecrated the flag to “intimidate any person or group of persons”—infinitely elastic language in the hands of a cunning lawyer; no one burns the stars and stripes for personal kicks—could face criminal prosecution.
Both of Clinton’s measures failed, but progressives still howled in alarm. Arianna Huffington accused Clinton of “stars, stripes and triangulation” and Richard Cohen torched her “star-spangled pandering.” Of course, we have no clue as to what Mrs. Clinton actually believes about the flag. She was mulling a presidential bid back then, too, and anti-desecration measures were in vogue, supported by roughly 70 percent of the public. It’s perfectly possible, in fact it’s likely, that she let her political calculations squash whatever her actual position might have been, just as she did with gay marriage.
But that shouldn’t distract from the fact that Hillary Clinton supported criminal charges for those who burn the American flag, and that most of the pompous leftists whinging about Trump’s tweet voted for her in spite of this. At what point does grandiloquent liberal hypocrisy in the age of Trump become so glaring as to be unbearable?