The proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration failed yesterday in the Senate by just one vote, 66-34. Sen. Clinton was one of the key votes against the amendment, as she’d always promised.
During her speech on the Senate floor she said, “I am proud to stand here today and speak out for protecting the American flag and the Constitution, of which our flag is a revered and honored symbol. Whenever I see the flag of our country, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have been born an American, born into a country that, at her best, nurtures our strengths and gives each of us the freedom to express our ideas, display our talents, and become the best we can be, to live up to our God-given potential.
"That is what the flag means to me. It represents the best of us — our ideals, our sense of duty and sacrifice: the American spirit. Those values transcend party, ethnicity, age, race, gender. Indeed, those values transcend even nationality. Around the world, our flag is a symbol of hope and freedom.
"I understand the outrage that is expressed today by my colleagues, and I agree wholeheartedly that maliciously burning or destroying an American flag is a deeply offensive and despicable act. It disrespects our Nation. It belittles the sacrifices of our brave veterans. It even sends a message to the soldiers who fight today protecting our freedom that their service is in some way to be disrespected and discounted."
But yet she opposes a constitutional amendment protecting the symbol she says she reveres so much. She explained, "The infrequency of amendments in our long history is telling. Constitutional amendments have historically met two sets of objectives. The first deals with the structure of our Government and the relationship between the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches — our system of checks and balances. The second protects fundamental rights, including the 13th amendment that bans slavery and the 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th amendments, all of which expanded the right to vote.
"The amendment we debate today meets neither of these compelling objectives. The Constitution to which we all have sworn an oath is about protecting our rights. I believe we do that by honoring the Constitution, which has never been amended to deny or limit the Bill of Rights. I don’t think we should start doing that today."
Then she spoke of a magical middle ground, one that would “protect our flag in a bipartisan and constitutional way,” and that would “prohibit people from destroying a flag with the intent of inciting imminent violence, threatening someone by burning a flag, damaging a flag owned by the United States and damaging a flag that belongs to another while on Federal land.” This was pretty the same language that she had been supporting with Republican Sen. Robert Bennett that had been causing her so much grief with her fellow liberals. But like the proposed constitutional amendment, this bill was also defeated.