Trampling the Flag

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ayers twn.jpg
That’s William Ayers above standing on an American flag. Ayers is acquainted with Barack Obama — and I don’t feel that Obama should be responsible for the civil protest behavior of his acquaintances.
While I am not a fan of Ayers or his tactics and social views, I also think that Ayers should have the right to express himself and his views in this nation — including desecrating the flag.
But we’ve entered a weird vortex of flag obsessions — with criticism of Barack Obama for not wearing a flag lapel pin. We as a nation are sounding more and more like the old Soviet Union with antics like this.
But “flag respect” does matter for many. It’s a fact of American political life.
John McCain had a tough time with flag issues in South Carolina in his 2000 presidential bid when he condemned the Confederate flag flying over South Carolina’s statehouse and couldn’t bring attention back to the American flag. I thought at the time that he should have said that when he was in the Hanoi Hilton, the only flag he cared about was looking out and seeing the American flag.
My business cards for The Washington Note feature an American flag — and I made sure that the flag was highlighted in a website that I run some of my higher end foreign policy work through titled “America’s Purpose.”
I won’t forfeit the flag to the likes of John Bolton, Frank Gaffney, David Addington, Richard Cheney, George W. Bush, Katherine Harris, Mario Diaz-Balart, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Alberto Gonzalez, John Yoo, and many others who have metaphorically trampled the flag and who have undermined the essence and spirit of what America is and should be.
I wish William Ayers would not either — and I hope that Barack Obama agrees with me.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

87 comments on “Trampling the Flag

  1. David says:

    Oh, yeah, I forgot to prognosticate: John McCain will not be 44, Barack Hussein Obama will.

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  2. David says:

    So right now, I’m hearing the definitive version of The Star Spangled Banner in my mind’s ear. I’m talking about the Jimi Hendrix version, of course, complete with the scream of fighter-bombers like John McCain flew as they unloaded they homicidal greetings on women, children, and old men. Yeah, sometimes the war banner deserves respect, but other times, like Viet Nam and Iraq (and the bombing of Tripoli by Reagan), it needs to be recognized for the war crime banner it gets transformed into. The only material thing we Americans have which of itself can’t be sullied, only trashed (as by Bush and the neocons), is our Constitution. And it is quite clear that flag “desecration” is not a crime. The only issue I see in any protest is whether or not it is helpful, and because so many Americans are so easily rattled and driven in the wrong direction, what I can see clearly and legitimately as a statement of protest drives so many Americans over the edge that one is well advised not to do it unless one simply wants to make a personal statement, consequences be damned.
    I will not share what I did with a flag when we bombed Libya (ulitmately because Ghaddafi nationalized Libyan oil) – it’s my business and my flag, for my eyes only, and one of the only ways to release my rage without harm coming to anyone, including myself. I show it to personal friends. My father served in WWII. The flag for him, a pure flag, waves in my heart.

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  3. Kathleen says:

    Steve.. you’ve been buggred…. we’ve all had a great debate…Blue Sue.. a young highschool girl in Rhode island in ’04 washed a flag and the steps of an offical building, i forget which one, but I thought it was a great idea.

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  4. Jacques says:

    ha ha, you people are lunatics. it’s a piece of cloth, nothing more.

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  5. Steve Clemons says:

    POA — you got me laughing, definitely, on that one….
    steve

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  6. rich says:

    And . . the Prince of Darkness weighs in–though Robert D. Novak’s column on Ayers & Obama is fairly mild. (below)
    Re timing, Steve, my reaction was more about the pacing of reviving the Ayers’ thing, & not about its coincidence with the two critical primaries. GSteph was making sure Wright etc. didn’t go away–even though the electorate clearly didn’t get in a tizzy over it.
    Yet this’ll have to be actively straightened out. Misinformation will be broadcast; false accusations made. It was an art-mag shot, pre-9/11, not a protest; though it stood in for Ayers’ views.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/07/AR2008050703187.html
    “The test of Obama’s strategy may be his friendship with and support from William Ayers, an unrepentant member of the Weathermen terrorist underground of the 1960s and ’70s. Instead of totally disavowing Ayers as he belatedly did his former pastor, Obama potentially deepened his problem by referring to Ayers as just a college professor — “a guy who lives in my neighborhood.” ”

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  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Steve. I think you have Karma a bit confused.
    The swarm of termites ain’t the Karma.
    You being one of those termites, in your next life, is the real deal.
    Smile, brother.

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  8. TokyoTom says:

    Steve, it’s a bit puzzling to me that you seem to think that the most effective way NOT to concede ground to the right on issues of love of country and patriotism is to accept their meme that love of country requires either a slavish or fetishized love of the flag or a tiptoeing around those who feel this way – and thus rather baldly suggest that Obama and Ayers should not stand up to this nonsense but rather cringe before it.
    Shall Dems continue to accept all of the terms engagement offered by the right?

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  9. fljim says:

    Thank you Steve

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  10. ringo says:

    Dear Steve,
    Thank you for responding to all this. Best of luck with the termites.
    Today it seems likely the primary is drawing to a close; I’m sure we all will have more lively discussions ahead in the general. Given that the Repub/Dem policy differences will be wider, we can hope for more policy-based debate … and I look forward to them here.

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  11. Winston Walker says:

    Mrs.K8
    Here’s your answer Repectfully.
    TITLE 4 > CHAPTER 1 > § 8 U.S. Code Collection
    § 8. Respect for flag
    (g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
    Now here is all of Title 4, Chapter 1, S 8 US Code
    Complements of Cornell University Law School
    No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
    (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
    (b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
    (c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
    (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
    (e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
    (f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
    (g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
    (h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
    (i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
    (j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
    (k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.
    Note the third sentence of (j)
    Last I heard both of these men were asked to appologize for these and other past errors, only one has rendered any.
    Do not, Mrs. K8 mistake me for a Republican or a Democrat, I am neither. We have had a two party system for a long time, 4 years of this one, 8 years of that one and vice versa. It’s not the Bushs fault or the Clintons, its yours and mine. We as a nation have been to busy chasing our dreams instead of minding the till. Career politicians (humans) like a child with an unwatched cookie jar are likely to take a cookie when their not suppose to and we like bad parents have been indifferent as long as they have pandered to us in our paticular little group.
    I am an American of the U.S. varity. When I heard, as stated in another post, that there was not enough military medical personel going to Iraq I took my RN experience in ER and ICU and signed up for a 1 yr enlistment as a combat medic with a combat engineer battalion at 38 years old. I secured the cheapest $800,000 life insurance policy I could, I knew what was ahead, it was my third tour into “harms way”. My last tour in ’01 and ’02 lost our business while gone. After Iraq in ’05 a 20 year career 10 as a respiratory therapist, 10 as an RN, I’m out of it, too damn many memories and images. Last burn victim in a local ER got to me too much had to pull myself out once he was stable. I’m not bellyaching asking for some disability it was my choice to go so now I deal with the conseqences. Do they suck, yes. But I saw a situation where I could make a positive change even at a huge cost to myself and family.
    Wringing my hands, railing at the goverment, grandstanding that only gets more people doing the same. Finding some common ground under that old banner with some other medics we saved some lives even at the cost of some of us wounded and one of us who bled to death while directing other non-medically trained troops how to save another.
    That’s the point, finding common ground. Everyone is so polarized into left, right, democrat, republican, muslim, christian, O’Reily, Sharpton, Hannity, Combs, good grief. You’ve seen us all, there is hatred seething. But under “the Flag” that represents a living thing, us, we have something in common. This Nation clearly needs a change of course and no one side has the complete answer. Oh, they would like us to belive that very much like Coke and Pepsi. If you don’t think Republican and Democrat are a “brand” then we are lost.
    Its time we respect our selfs by first acknowledging our personal responsibility for this mess, and quit paticipating in the stupidity. Then demand the same of Bush, Ayers, et al.
    Those who can make you believe absurdities
    can make you commit atrocities.
    - Voltaire
    Are there any other Americans out there?

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  12. JamesL says:

    I reinforce what Rich and others wrote: The Ayers photo is staged and draws attention to the real issue: that Bush Inc has broken US laws and the US Constitution with impunity and has degraded the US military and America’s world reputation in FACT. Anyone who tramples the flag deserves far less acrimony than those who do what Bush has done. Bush is all about an addiction to power, and if the wreckage of nations or individuals is required for him to get more, he’ll not give a second thought. Knee jerk reactions to hot button issues are not an attribute of functional democracy.

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  13. Mrs. K8 says:

    Mr. Walker –
    I’d like to ask you a question, respectfully.
    Were you just as upset with George W. Bush when he used the white stripes on the flag to sign his autograph for his followers (those who proclaimed that he was “chosen by God” to be president) as you are now by Ayers? There were multiple pictures of him doing just that, with a big fat “Sharpie” pen, signing his name and “thanks for you support” across the white stripes of American flags the same size as the one shown in the picture which started this thread.
    There was also a famous (infamous?) photograph of George W. Bush and wife Laura standing, with all four of their feet, right on top of an image of the American flag (coincidentally, the same size as these large cloth flags) at the site of the “Ground Zero” World Trade Center “hallowed ground” on the anniversary of the attacks. The flag image on the ground at the WTC site was far from the only place where they could stand — in fact, it was in the middle of a wide open space where they could have easily stood with the flag before them. Not only that it was easy to stand elsewhere, it was such a large expanse of blank ground that it would seem impossible for them to have done anything other than willfully CHOOSE to tread upon the flag.
    Were you just as upset then by the disrespectful stance of Dear Leader and his wife as you are now by Ayers?
    If not, why not?
    And, more generally directed to everyone — isn’t it very curious that there was no public discussion in the mass media about how our Fearless Leader, GWB, desecrated the flag in these instances? And how “flag pins” are now so very, very important to question the patriotism of Barack Obama?

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  14. WigWag says:

    Steve, thank you for the illuminatig post and good luck with your termite problem.
    I hope you won’t let these aggressive supporters of Sentor Obama intimidiate you into silence about their annointed one. While this post might have gone too far, there are plenty of legitimate criticisms that should be made of the Senator and it’s great to have access to your site where the positions of all three active candidates are carefully scrutinized. The problem with Senator Obama’s supporters is that they get as incensed by legitimate criticism of their candidate as they get by over the top criticism. Maybe it’s just because so many of them are so young and so inexperienced themselves.
    Anyway, thank you for this post and for access to this site.
    PS: Steve when you submit a comment to your own site, do you experience the same captcha problem that we all have?

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  15. Blue Sun says:

    It is a common failure of reasoning for Americans to confuse the symbol with what it stands for – the map with the terrain. The idea of neoconservatives whining about desecrating the flag while they are busily desecrating everything the flag stands for.
    Anyway, as somebody once said, it would be a far more appropriate and effective way to protest the Bush government’s abuses by washing the flag, not burning it.

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  16. Winston Walker says:

    Posted by rich May 07, 12:51PM
    “I can defend your service, while calling to account the politicians who put money and vanity and hackery ahead of their country, ahead of the Constitution, ahead of our national security, and ahead of our soldiers.
    If it’s unity you want, demand adherence to our core legal principles. That’s the rupture in the body politic and in the social contract.”
    Rich,
    I maybe wrong, but I bet you and I are at opposite ends of the “political spectrum.” Even though, I will stand with you wholely on the above statement, but many seem to miss something.
    It’s that we’ve came to the point in the last 40 years if you find someone doing something you think is outrageous its perfectly fine for you to do something outrageous to bring attention to it. It’s not.
    I’ll liken the “Flag” to a lifeless body since both are inanimate yet both have been defended to the death by many; they both evoke strong emotions to those they have meaning to. For anyone to desecrate either is an act of indifference or directly attempting to evoke those emotions without regard to any pain they may inflict. That is heinous and undefendable. What, because I’m against murder I go out and murder a murderer.
    People like Mr. Ayers in my opinion are either lazy, spoiled or childish, in that they can’t get their way or make their point fast or easy enough, so they resort to whatever without regard to others. Putting his politics, views, wants…just like you stated,”(those) who put money and(or) vanity and(or)hackery ahead of their country, ahead of the Constitution, ahead of our national security, and ahead of our soldiers(policeman/citizens).
    To standby idly to this, is like watching an elderly or infirm person being beaten and robbed and not at least calling the police.
    I’ve gone back and read most of your post and I agree with alot of what you’ve written or atleast am open to “hearing” more. I don’t know what Mr. Ayers knows or what he may have “proof” of but he appears like a “pot calling the kettle black” with the way he acts. If he is so intellegent and has so much we need to know why is he so subversive and resorts to sensational brainless rockstar(ie Britney Spears)tactics. If its not brainless then he’s regardless and insensitive just like the other political ogres, he just on the oppisite side. Frankly I’m sick of both sides whether Dem or Republician 75% of them are panderers who rarely follow through. In this case the end does not justify the means.

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  17. Steve Clemons says:

    Greetings all –
    Despite my being raked over the coals by many above, I’m in a good mood.
    First of all, let me say that on occasion I write something because the pieces sort of come together, and I thought I could weigh in on issue in a credible, balanced way that few other writers/bloggers were doing. I got interested in the Ayers-Obama issue for several reasons.
    First, I don’t think Obama should be tainted because he has a relationship with Ayers. I wish I had a relationship with Ayers actually. I do know some pretty active liberal protesters and activists. I know some abroad who probably have been engaged in serious illegal activity. I like them and appreciate their passion. They make choices I might not — but there have been times I too thought about very dramatic protests given how horrible some of the decisions and policies of this administration have been.
    Second, this flag stuff interests me — not sure why, but it does. I tried to make a point in my blog post — and clearly I failed. From that stand point, the post was clearly a goof and a #&(@ up. Not what I intended. I have re-read it a few times, and hey — it still seems kind of cool to me.
    But that said, I agree with arthurdecco above….the marketplace is not even reading it the way I had hoped….so I do apologize for it. Not going to take it down — as this discussion is a useful corrective. But I also think that deep down, most of you know (I think) I was trying to make a deeper point. I may try and again someday to explain what I meant without references to Ayers, Obama or flags — well. . .maybe flags — as I think we are too easily seduced sometimes by flimsy veneer of patriotism and have a hard time discerning the difference between real patriotism and respect for the essence of the nation — and real betrayal. I think that the roster of those I noted at the bottom of the piece are those who really “trampled the flag.”
    On timing, well….that’s a bit of a fuck up. I didn’t write it that day on purpose. I’ve been too focused on other work issues and personal matters to have tried to tie the release of this piece to a particular voting day. Many of you won’t believe me — so I won’t try and defend myself, but the post was coincidental on timing, not purposeful.
    Despite the haranguing and the attacks by some on me, I think that this was a great exchange and surfaced some other important issues. I haven’t responded except one other time because I’ve been dealing with another big personal problem. Let me explain it as it will thrill those who are mad at me.
    My next door neighbor had a termite “swarm” a few days ago. I really didn’t know what that meant…and my house is a row house next to his — so two nights ago, my house had a “swarm.” For those of you who believe in karma and think I was naughty with this post, the universe has evened it out for visiting upon my tenants, me, my house, and my nerves a billion little critters….
    They die in four hours, and the problem is quickly rectifiable with treatment….and we seem not to have real damage…but the timing of the termite swarm and all of your reaction to this post — well, probably not coincidental.
    So, I’ve been punished. ;-) Best to all of you …look forward to some more debates, and I thank you for your feedback, and also thank those who read my post carefully and tried to sort out what I was trying to communicate — which perhaps in a dozen years or so, I’ll try to do again…..
    Now, let’s have some fun going after David Addington or something…
    As ever — the termite-chastened,
    Steve

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  18. rich says:

    Mr. Walker,
    We fight to defend, support, and honor you.
    To allow our glorious leaders to screw the Constitution & evade its formal dictates, abasing themselves and your service by using lies and manufactured ‘incidents’ to send honorable men to war in Vietnam and Iraq–is out of the question.
    This is a civilian question that stands fully in the civilian domain–and the requirement that Congress Declare War cannot be watered down through dissolute decision-making, nor legitimated through fatally flawed Irresolute ‘resolutions.’ By explicit, black-letter definition.
    American ships were never attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin. That’s a historical fact. The U.S. was running harassing raids into North Vietnam at the time. That’s an Act of War by any definition. Misperceiving the political cause in play and applying indefensible tactics only compounded the error—and put U.S. soldiers in a fundamentally, always already untenable position.
    That’s why we had an American Revolution. In which my ancestors fought. Yet George Bush reinstated the torture that George Washington banned. WE had a Revolution to put a stop to torture. Illegitimate force & tactics are not the answer.
    Fighting a populace instead of an army is not what America is about. That’s the untenable part: when you refuse to win the hearts & minds, you lose the war. And winning anyway is worse than losing–America CANNOT ask our soldiers to serve in wars without just cause or adequate provocation. That’s Vietnam—and Iraq.
    When you do, you wind up with ‘winter soldiers’—and the proof is on this website:
    http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=SRTIGERFORCE
    The Toledo Blade won a Pulitzer for that 23-article series. In the midst of the Kerry Swift-Boating, not that you’d know if by following…journalists. Read the book.
    “We had to bomb them to save them.” (Vietnam) ‘We had to Occupy the country to bring Peace & Stability & Sovereignty.’ (Iraq) Both Orwellian, fact-free, un-American statements.
    When Congress evades their lawful obligation to uphold the Constituion, & misuses our soldiers, it badly damages our national security. There’s no gain whatsoever. Several million dead Vietnamese.
    I can defend your service, while calling to account the politicians who put money and vanity and hackery ahead of their country, ahead of the Constitution, ahead of our national security, and ahead of our soldiers.
    If it’s unity you want, demand adherence to our core legal principles. That’s the rupture in the body politic and in the social contract.

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  19. susan says:

    http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/bagnews
    “UPDATE: 5/6/08 2:13 AM EST: The reader who informed me of the original Washington Note post was in communication with the photographer today and received the abbreviated notice that Ayers was, indeed, standing on the flag. This fact changes my reaction about 3%.
    What it doesn’t change is my protest and argument against the one-dimensional use of the portrait (any decent one having a complex and ambiguous nature, with multiple stories to tell) as a bludgeon to use against Ayers, and by direct association, Barack Obama. What it also doesn’t change — and perhaps even heightens — is my concern over reading this photo out of context. How this particular image resonates in the current political atmosphere is fundamentally and unimaginably different that what it meant for Bill Ayers and this photographer to articulate the past of Joe Citizen in a city magazine in pre-9/11 and pre-”wear your patriotism on your sleeve” America.
    God forbid that liberals somehow lose the ability to appreciate the sanctity and the license inherent in visual representation and expressive symbolism. Lose that, and then what’s the flag worth, anyway?”

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  20. susan says:

    http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/bagnews
    “Oh please, where does this all end?
    Apparently, the hysterical, formerly extreme right-wing “flag attack” on Obama has now wormed itself right into the liberal blogosphere, as evidenced by this image — and the knee-jerk reaction to it — on The Washington Note.
    (Sorry for the brief commercial, but this is a perfect example of why we all could use a little more skill when it comes to looking at political imagery.)
    Leading his post today, titled “Trampling the Flag,” Steve Clemons grabs a lead image from an on-line Chicago Magazine feature on Bill Ayers. (I’ll just insert, by the way, that the article and image lighting Steve’s fire in the middle of this stretch of blistering condemnation of Obama, and anyone linked to him, has been sitting there since August of 2001.)
    So, let’s talk about the picture, both formally and symbolically.
    First, Clemons assumes — as I’m sure many people will now, especially our wingnuts friends — that Ayers is stepping on the flag. Short of consulting with Ayers or photographer Jeff Sciortino, however, that’s an assumption. Taking into consideration the “depth of field,” what it looks like to me is that Ayers is either standing behind the flag, or standing with the flag at his feet with part of it looping between his legs.
    (Because I’m not that technically versed, I also look forward to comments here regarding the following point: If you notice how the walls in this photo — particularly the left one — seem to curve, there is a distinct barrel roll to the image. How that characteristic, as well as the focus effects the perception and orientation to Ayers and the flag also could also bear examination.)
    The larger point here, however, has to do with an attribute that perhaps did die on 9/11. I’m talking about irony and artistic interpretation. As a note to Steve, and anyone else who deems to project onto this image, consider that most intelligent people, in a less charged example, would choose to consider this image in context, as a posed portrait with a story to tell about a former member of the violent Weatherman who has since grown up.
    In those terms, where is the logic of depicting Bill Ayers stomping on or even stepping on the flag? How, for example, would that account for any passage of time or personal development from the time when Ayers did, effectively, stomp and piss on old glory?
    You see, with a photo like this, you still have to account for the story it’s telling, for what we call the “narrative.” If you read the article that accompanies and also underpins it, how does the reaction of Ayers wiping his feet on the flag square with the man who, although leftist and unapologetic about his past in many ways, has transitioned into a productive and even generative American citizen?
    What I see here is an eloquent representation of a guy whose past will always frame him as an occupant of the back alley. I see a man who has to stand before the public, before his history and also his country, and account for the tension that is always there at this feet.
    But then, I think the Clemons reaction forms a unique picture itself. It’s an image reflective of the current times, and especially, the poisonous, polarized and bigoted atmosphere choking us right now.
    Earlier, I mentioned the date of this photo. Let’s think about that more specifically for a moment. It was August 2001. That was just a couple of months before those planes hit the World Trade Center, causing Cheney/Bush/Rove to hit the paranoia and patriotism buttons equally as hard, which led to the kind of literal, manic, kindergarten, p.c. litmus-testing with the flag that has gotten to America, gotten to Obama, and has now infected the liberal sphere.”

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  21. Kathleen says:

    Steve certainly knows how to stimulate lively discourse…this post reminds me of the post on the rumor of John Edwards having an affair with is videographer..feel out of character for Steve.
    Tahoe Editor… would you please elaborate on your Kennedy-McGovern-Dukakis-Tsongas-Kerry-MoveON-Micahel Moore coalition? I have my own theory about those names but MoveOn and Michael Moore don’t fit into my construct because they did not hold public office or run for prezzz.
    POA… Captcha sucks.

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  22. Winston Walker says:

    Go ahead, the majority of you or though it seems and gloat. You have won, you’ve torn it down, this nation.
    Now quite melancholy I am 41 years old, have enlisted and been honorably discharged three times, multiple combat tours as a combat medic although I was and RN and Respiratory Therapist and could have stayed out of the middle of the fight or not gone at all. Finanicaly not going would have been the better move as we lost a business with me being gone in ’01 and ’02 and had to sell off everything to pay what we owed and not file bankrupcy. But, I’ve always thought if my fellow countrymen and women would stand and face the horror of war though the politics may not be perfect or even agreed on between us then as my “fellowman” they deserved to have an RN, the best I could give on the frontline. I’ve also had the opportunity to show love and compassion to “our enemy” some of the sick and injured detainees and insurgents in Iraq in ’05.
    I’ve seen Ol’ Glory, burnt, ripped, and blood soaked in the form of a soliders shoulder patch. I’ve seen it draped over coffins, folded in a triangle tightly embraced by grieving loved ones, seen men and women who are dog tired inspired to rise up and “move out” for just awhile longer at the sight of it, I’ve seen a nation one event at a time stand to pay some respect. For after all the respect they pay is to themselves and the people standing with them because thats what the U.S. Flag represents, you, me and yes even Mr. Ayers, the total population of the United States of America. Instead of writing or speaking the last sixteen words of the previous sentence you could just hold up a U.S. Flag. Right or wrong in agreement or not it is a symbol of the totality that is us the citizens of the USA.
    To see that anyone could be so flagrantly disrespectful to all of you, to us, with all we’ve gone through and all that we have ahead of us to try and get our Nation as “right” as we can and so many of us can just let that direspect go as unimportant, this Nation is probably lost the crumbling will just take awhile. With a major symbol that should identify us as one gone, trampled, we are on the way to becoming a fractured mass easily subdued one fracture one “diversity” at a time. One America whatever we decide that is will stand. A divided America will crumble on peice at a time.
    If it is not lost it will be up to you for I am spent and empty, I sit here aghast.

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  23. sdemetri says:

    William Schaap was called to testify under oath at the Martin Luther King conspiracy trial 1999 in which a jury ruled in favor of James Earl Ray. It was determined that Ray was not the killer of MLK, but that military sharpshooters, aided by the Memphis police, killed King, and framed Ray. During the trial Schaap testified that his years of research had shown that hundreds of millions have been spent by various US intelligence agencies manipulating the news that is publicly received in the US. This involved paid “plants” at media outlets, “friendlies” who assisted with dissemination of manipulated news, and even ownership of media outlets that distribute fake or manipulated news. The NY Times story on pundits cherrypicked by the Pentagon is hardly new or surprising. That “swiftboating” is so effective is just as unsurprising.

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  24. fljim says:

    Steve, by leaving all these comments unaddressed,you are in fact addressing them.

    Reply

  25. Karen says:

    I’m disappointed in you Steve. This connection is so strained, it was better left to wingnuts.

    Reply

  26. Mark says:

    Somebody started: “Flags I’ve seen:
    Painted on a dumpster
    torn, but displayed anyway
    large numbers of them at car dealerships….”
    I had a friend who used to send out all his mail with American flag stamps, then, anticipating the Post Office cancelling the stamp, wrote “Is this flag desecrated? Call 800-.”
    My wife and I adopted a daughter from China last year. A while later, we got citizenship papers in the mail, and I’ve only just gotten around to reading the cover letter (over GWB’s signature, no less). Here’s a para:
    “Americans are united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals. The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding promise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, and that no insignificant person was ever born. Our country has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by principles that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests, and teach us what it it means to be citizens. Every citizen must uphold these principles. And every new citizen, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American.”
    The US American myth is, of course, about a revolution of choice. At some level I think most Americans believe their allegiance is to a set of principles that are (perfectly? imperfectly?) embodied in the constitution and represented by the flag. I wonder how this affects these debates about flag desecration and loyalty oaths (like the NPR story yesterday about a Quaker teacher at Cal State who wouldn’t sign an oath to defend the constitution until she satisfied her conscience that it did not imply “defend by violence.”)

    Reply

  27. rich says:

    While I do recognize the original post assumes the the voice of reason, and asks people to be thoughtful, I’m still uncomfortable with the timing.
    George Stephanopolous paced himself transparently, waiting for the Wright non-story to die of its own accord, before spending an enormous amount of airtime to re-inflate it. It didn’t work the first time around, so George had to get to work.
    And just as that second-pulse of politico-induced Wright fever passes, along comes the next dishonest cudgel—Ayers. And a provocative photo, here, with mild words defending Ayers’ right to, supposedly, desecrate the flag. Kill him with kindness and implicitly reassert a canard.
    I know Steve’s sincere, but I think everybody’s hyper-aware of the common media tactic where somebody (Mark Penn) disingenuously denies the violation while maintaining the meme through repetition: ‘Why, nooo, I never meant to imply that cocainecocainecocaine, why would you think cocaine I certainly never said cocaine did I? I did? I said cocaine?’
    So perhaps commenters react to that prevailing MO rather than Steve’s intent. It’s a symbol: the service, the Constitution and our values—are what is sacred.
    I won’t cede that to Bolton or Gaffney either. It’s not enough to claim–”to not forfeit”–the flag; actively proclaiming and reclaiming the Constitution is imperative. And it shouldn’t be like Oliver Twist asking for a second bowl of porridge when it’s our birthright. Wouldn’t THIS be the golden opportunity to drive that home? Expicitly?
    Ultimately some aspects of this post are behind the curve of the electorate and tone-deaf to the the political dynamics in play. And it doesn’t insist that a proportional corrective of ostracization or what-have-you be meted out to those who’ve committed far greater crimes than Ayers. That is a problem.
    But ringo has it right–here’s why. Steve’s blog is viewed by diverse readers from widely varying backgrounds and divergent social contexts. Clemons has said he uses the blog to send specific messages to colleagues and to specific contacts. My sense is some will get the message, but that plenty just won’t see past the striking photo and contrived ‘association’ OR the misperception Ayers is a malign figure who’s desecrated anything. Rather than someone who holds America more sacred than those bent on abusing power and twisting the nature & character of this country.
    Not all intended recipients are equipped to ‘get it’ and by that I mean equipped to process the Ayers blip or the flag issue—or use either wisely.
    If every D.C. pol or pundit had to account for knowing To DeLay, or Henry Kissinger, they’d shut the place down. I see a double standard.
    The practice of assuming lawyers’ work isn’t influenced by their associations is ludicrous and has radically damaged this country. Same for lobbyists & consultsants.
    Mark Penn’s open conflict of interest re Clinton & his ‘day job’ lobbying for Colombia’s free trade agreement is a case in point. It’s another fatal blow to Hillary Clinton’s credibility—yet does not garner adequate media attention.
    That’s why the pretense–the lie–that Ayers is or ever was ‘associated’ with Obama is so galling. No one is holding D.C. to those same standards.
    All of us know people who are not our friends or our associates, but who don’t define or influence us or reflect our views. Millions of people bought smoothies from Karleton Armstrong’s stand on UW’s library mall–are they to be ‘associates’? Millions listen & support G. Gordon Liddy–yet I don’t see condemnation forthcoming. How about those who know Posada? Vang Pao? Or who lobbied for the endless list of bloody dictatorships? Their suites are admired and associations unmentioned, but they are not above reproach–and that’s an endemic problem.
    Steve wrote, “We as a nation are sounding more and more like the old Soviet Union with antics like this.”
    That’s right. If understatted. This is McCarthyism of the worst order. Time for a change in how American citizens are treated—and to the free pass the SOP of the status quo regularly receives.

    Reply

  28. ringo says:

    Let’s call a spade a spade. Fox-style attack sounds right to me. I know that you said other things in your text. Being provocative is one thing. Being totally in-step with HRC and conservative attacks in your images (the windsurfing pic being another) is hard to take.
    This is your blog and posting is your right (and we are your guests). But you’re losing my respect.
    Best,
    ringo

    Reply

  29. PissedOffAmerican says:

    50 some odd posts on one topic, in the course of one afternoon, is a hell of a lot of posts, unusual for this blog.
    I had to laugh this morning, as ten minutes after I posted my 10:13 AM comment, (7:13 my time),I was in my rig, headed out, and tuned in to Glenn Beck. (Who, of course, is an unmittigated asshole.) But guess what? Topic for the morning? Well, what else but Obama’s association with Ayers.
    Locally, we have two RW radio talk show stations. One, 1410 AM, is pretty much local in the morning, with two hosts, both doing 3 hr. stints. The first one, Scott Cox, is irritatingly “cute” in his commentary, and usually confines his rap to irrelevant and idiotic horseshit. But the second one, Inga Barks, is your classic RW mouthpiece, who can almost always be trusted to be right on cue with the national RW talk radio personalities, such as Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, Ingram, Beck, ETC.
    The other station, 1560 AM, pretty much airs the syndicated assholes such as Beck and Limbaugh during the morning hours, and puts the local yocals on later in the day.
    Anyway, what always intrigues me is that all these personalities always seem to be defecating the same subject material and propaganda, in much the same manner, in the same time periods. These last few days it has been Obama’s association with Ayers. It is so predictable that you can tune into, say, Beck, and with reasonable accuracy predict what Hannity or Savage, or Barks, will be saying on their shows. I am absolutely convinced that this is not a coincidence, and that there is someone providing these personalities with the “talking point d’jour”. It happens far too much for it to simply be a coincidence.
    So, imagine my concern when I logged onto The Washington Note this morning, and found Steve offering us up this week’s RW talk radio entree.
    I posted the inevitable a month or so ago. And I am going to post it again. Mark my words….
    John McCain is going to be our next President.
    Obama’s past associations are quite simply too swiftboatable, and these proffesional piece of shit swiftboaters on the right haven’t even pulled out their big guns yet. I guarantee you that they have enough apparent dirt on Obama that they are confident they can derail him. All they need do is get Hillary out of the picture, and McCain is a shoe-in. They will, at that time, bring out allegations against Obama that make the current attacks seem tepid and tame. They are simply seeding the field with this Wright/Ayers stuff.
    Hillary and Obama have screwed up big time with their two horseshit campaigns and inter-party finger pointing and back stabbing. The American public is pissed off at Bush and the Republican party, and either one of these candidates could have rode that anger all the way to the Oval Office, but they chose instead to nip at each other’s hamstrings.
    Factor in an event that cowers the populace again, which I believe is inevitable, (ala George the monster Cheney and his satanic flock of hungry vultures).
    Say hello to King McCain, the heir to Bush’s throne.
    (And isn’t it interesting that MarkL and Tahoe Editor are right on script with Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh?)

    Reply

  30. Emmet Sandberg says:

    With all the things we have to be anxious about, symbolic
    desecration and missing flag lapel pins don’t make the list.

    Reply

  31. arthurdecco says:

    …or a loquacious one, instead.

    Reply

  32. arthurdecco says:

    Tahoe Editor – it needs to be said – You’re an eloquent idiot.

    Reply

  33. Tahoe Editor says:

    Most of the posters on this item saw the picture and started typing — there’s no engagement with what Steve WROTE.

    Reply

  34. David says:

    I go back to the desecration of the Pledge of Allegiance, when under Eisenhower’s urging, “under God” was jammed in between “one nation” and “indivisible,” thereby rupturing the concept “one nation, indivisible.” We are spiralling deeper and deeper into the consequences of that desecration of a core American precept.
    Regarding the flag, which keeps being rendered a war banner, and in the case of Viet Nam and Iraq, a banner for a criminal enterprise, I wish we could recapture the flag for all Americans. But I don’t see how. And since it is a symbol whose meaning rests in the beholder, all the various conceptions regarding the flag are individually valid. But since Americans are most drawn to the flag when the issue is war, it is predominantly a war banner, and since the majority of Americans supported the misbegotten, unjustified war crime perpetrated against Iraq, at least until it was obvious we were losing, then it is predominantly a pro-war banner, not a universal symbol for Americans. The Constitution is our only unifier, and the one thing the Bush administration actually views as of no value, being just a “goddamned piece of paper.”

    Reply

  35. digdug says:

    This is a real low for the TWN.
    A FOX-style attack wrapped in pseudo “concern” that Obama really
    does truly love the flag.
    This very post would look right at home coming from the likes of
    Kristol, Goldberg, etc.

    Reply

  36. arthurdecco says:

    Jon: “This post is extremely disappointing.”
    Fljim: This post along with the mention of Obama on election day is beneath you Steve.”
    Al75: “Thanks for raising this really important stuff.”
    PissedOffAmerican: “Steve, sometimes I get these little pangs of paranoia, and wonder just who the hell you work for.”
    Don Bacon: “Well, Steve, Nixon had his dark side too. Did a little rub off on you? This is disgusting.”
    Rich: “William Ayers is a patriot.”
    WigWag: “Look, I won’t vote for Senator Obama because I don’t think he would be a good president, but this just isn’t fair.”
    Judy Carver: “If McCain and Clinton were treated similarly, Obama would look like a saint by comparison.”
    G Hazeltine: “Ayers is not desecrating the flag. If his character and his past are a concern, then fine. But to bring them up under this photo and the emotions it evokes is dishonest, or careless, in the extreme.”
    Seth: “The above post might be offensive, but right now it’s a perfectly unemotional dismayment that leads me to worry about the future salience of your coverage.”
    Beth C: “No anti-Obama story left on the cutting room floor here at the TWN this semester…”
    Kathleen: “Showing a photo of Ayers appearing to be desecrating the flag and defending his right to desecrate the flag is subiminal reinforcement of the perception that Ayers did desecrate the flag. Subtle….”
    Mrs. K8: “Steve, your use of this picture is disgusting. Kathleen is right about the subliminal effect — in fact, IMO it’s much more conscious than subliminal. And I can not possibly believe you, a politically savvy person, are not fully aware of it. I’m very, very disappointed in you.
    & the vote tally so far is…
    Mr. Clemons,
    I’ve been reminded, reading the comments, that “If it looks like a dog and it barks like a dog…then it probably is a dog.”
    Your post was regrettable. Think about those who have tried to play this to their advantage on this thread. Are they your targeted demographic?
    Of course not.
    And it never hurts to be reminded that apologies are a display of good character.

    Reply

  37. Kathleen says:

    GHazeltine..thanks for the link to bagnewsnotes…
    Speaking of one flag desecrator, John Bolton..
    http://www.thinkprogress.org/2008/05/05/bolton-iran-strike-prudent/
    Meanwhile, back in the Office of Special Plans, and I do mean “SPECIAL”..I think what former Attorney General James Comey thinks of impending martial law is more a pressing discussion…
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article/19871.htm

    Reply

  38. Tahoe Editor says:

    …setting bombs. And he wishes he’d done more.

    Reply

  39. Bartolo says:

    I’m with Judy. Do none of you remember the Viet Nam war, in which young Americans were drafted to die for nothing? Were none of you upset then? Do you not recall how powerless we all were in the face of evil? Ayers chose to fight the evil in the only way he thought possible.

    Reply

  40. neo controll says:

    Tahoe editor,
    grow up

    Reply

  41. Tahoe Editor says:

    Give Steve a break. Did you even READ what he wrote?
    Barack made the flag pin an issue, just like he made Jeremiah Wright an issue by using him to jump-start his political and literary career. Couple that with his coziness with an “unrepentant terrorist” as we’ll no doubt hear for the next six months if he’s the nominee, and the man’s “judgment” — supposedly evidenced by the 2002 antiwar speech he betrayed the day he arrived in the Senate — is seriously in doubt.

    Reply

  42. questions says:

    From the current (May 19) issue of The Nation (print edition) re Ayers and the Woods Fund:
    Established by Nebraska businessmen in 1941, with a current endowment of $68 million and annual grants totaling $3 million — a tiny figure in the foundation world — the Woods Fund has taken risks that larger foundations can’t. It awards hundreds of small grants a year, usually no larger than $50,000, to activistis, neighborhood groups, think tanks, and arts and culture projects in Chicago’s most-forgotten and blighted communities. It has funded ex-offenders to lobby for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences and unfair drug laws, organized senior citizens to advocate for affordable housing, pushed parents to get more involved in their children’s crumbling schools….
    In the late 1980s and early ’90s, the Woods Fund was at the forefront of the movement to reform Chicago’s public schools, stressing the need for more local control and community involvement. That focus on education led the fund to Ayers, a tenured professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a widely published expert on the subject… “[Ayers] had built a great reputation in that field.” — By Ari Berman
    Ayers doesn’t seem like a terrible un-American subversive. He actually seems like someone with some integrity who has worked within the system to help people with what needs to get done. So tell me how many flag pins on someone’s lapel will really help parents get involved with their children’s education…. Obama doesn’t wear a pin, but he has done work with a group that encourages communities to try to function despite social structures designed to impoverish and immiserate them.
    Which would you prefer to be, a pin bearer, or an organizer? I’ll take ten Ayers-like beings over any one who makes the pin/flag thing an issue in a disingenuous way. (This is not to contradict my sense that flag bashing is not the kindest technique, but rather to note that bashing flag bashers in a false way is ever worse…..)

    Reply

  43. DonS says:

    From the “Bag News” piece:
    “. . . all this literal, manic, kindergarten, p.c. litmus-testing with the flag got to America, got to Obama, and now has infected the liberal sphere . . .”
    Pretty much my point. The RW has effectively framed the debate. Niceties of civil liberties (“desecrating” a flag) have always been lost on the average Joe. The right to “desecrate” has always been an arcane minority concern, and probably always will be. All the more reason to guard that minority view and to not even seem to be lending credence to the fascists.
    These fascists don’t do subtleties, much less civil rights.
    Who knows where Steve’s piece will show up next in some twisted context.

    Reply

  44. Mrs. K8 says:

    Wow.
    Because of medical problems, I haven’t been able to come back to this blog until now.
    Steve, your use of this picture is disgusting. Kathleen is right about the subliminal effect — in fact, IMO it’s much more conscious than subliminal. And I can not possibly believe you, a politically savvy person, are not fully aware of it. I’m very, very disappointed in you.
    Now when medical problems prevent me from getting to TWN, I won’t feel bad about it.

    Reply

  45. Tahoe Editor says:

    The sad reality is, Barack has to deal with this because he CHOSE to make this an issue, making a point to go out there and say, “I’m taking my flag pin off because I see some in Congress wearing a flag pin but they won’t vote for veterans’ care so THEY are unpatriotic.”
    He started this. He could have just stopped wearing one. NOT ALL members of Congress do. But they also don’t go around saying, “Look at ME! I’m not wearing a flag pin.”
    Don’t start something you can’t finish, and don’t complain when it gets out of your control. The man is GREEN.

    Reply

  46. Tahoe Editor says:

    CeeH,
    As your clip points out, Hillary is opposed to a constitutional ban on flag burning, and both Hillary and Barack voted against the amendment:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/27/AR2006062701056.html
    Your clip says Hillary supports a bill making it a crime to burn a flag 1) on U.S. government property 2) to intimidate someone or 3) that belongs to someone else.
    That exactly matches the language of Dick Durbin’s “alternative amendment” — banning flag desecration “intended to intimidate or breach peace on federal land.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_Desecration_Amendment
    Here is Obama’s statement supporting Durbin’s amendment:
    http://obama.senate.gov/press/060627-obama_statement_29/
    “I cannot imagine anything more abhorrent to a veteran than seeing the flag they fought for being burned to make a political point. I too have great pride in our flag. I share outrage at the thought of it being disrespected. And though I have never seen anyone burn a flag, if I did, it would take every ounce of restraint I had not to haul off and hit them. … Senator Durbin’s amendment is a way forward to balance our respect for the flag with reverence for the Constitution.” — Barack Obama
    If centrism and bipartisanship are truly bankrupt, then you’d better not vote for Obama — he’s going to bring EVERYONE together.
    If Barack can get Bill Ayers and Anthony Scalia in the same room to sing “Kumbaya,” I’ll be the first to wish him bon voyage when he sets off on the First 100 Days Worldwide Dictator Tour he has planned.

    Reply

  47. G Hazeltine says:

    I was wrong. From Jeff Sciortino, the photographer: “he was
    standing on the flag”
    On the other hand, see this excellent post at Bag News Notes:
    “Bill Ayers, The Flag, Steve Clemons, And Going Off The Deep End”
    http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/

    Reply

  48. Kathleen says:

    Showing a photo of Ayers appearing to be desecrating the flag and defending his right to desecrate the flag is subiminal reinforcement of the perception that Ayers did desecrate the flag. Subtle….
    Stepford Patriots wear Flaf lapels pins, obsessively and have their little spazz attacks if you don’t wear one…
    Meanwhile back at the flag lapel pin factory, Pavlav’s Patriots are dutifully salivating simulataneously…
    Rich, TonyForesta, Beth, Ghazeltine, Cee…and others, loved your stuff today….
    So now we’re looking for a candidate to have a beer with, or throw back shots… maybe we should ask Cindy McPain what her favorite toss back is…personally, I’m looking for a candidate I’d like to pass around a peace pipe with.

    Reply

  49. rich says:

    Steve @ 3:08,
    Agreed that your post wasn’t knocking Obama as much as offering thoughts comments on the disproportionate violations of Bolton, Gaffney, etc. Today’s media tactics can prompt an adverser reaction. ..
    “–and I don’t feel that Obama should be responsible for the civil protest behavior of his acquaintances.”
    Good on ya–I don’t see how that can be read as knocking Obama.
    Dan Kervick’s hilarious rejoinder though, in the wake of George Stephanopolous’ utterly disingenuous and calculated revival of the Wright ‘story’, does strike a nerve.
    It prompts some unease–justifiably.
    Like you, Steve, Obama is willing to talk to and listen to all comers. That’s as it should be in a non-ideological, non-totalitarian America.
    More of us, though, should challenge our friends and associates–publicly and privately. When the electorate can count on that, I’m sure more candidates and public figures will get credit for being their own man.
    The Ayers thing makes me cranky. Housewives & veterans & factory worker were against the Vietnam War. It’s imperative that White House occupants are responsive to the people, and more engaged and more connected in shaping policy and steering course. When they’re not responsive, and they go off the rails, what are the options?
    rich
    p.s. A friend reports the Nixon Library currently has a sign in the (empty) Watergate Room, which reads “Pardon our Dust.”
    Is that true? Our current VeeP doesn’t need a job–perhaps he hopes to do some re-writing.

    Reply

  50. rich says:

    CeeHussein:
    Hillary’s exploitation of high-fear issues, at the expense of American values, goes way back and is extremely problematic.
    You cite Clinton’s support for “legislation to criminalize desecration of the United States flag.”
    She also joined with Lieberman to decry — decry! — video game violence. Yet she uttered not one whimper of protest againt the obscenity of the Iraq War and the process that got us into this Occupation.
    See how that works? Sex is a teacup-overturning problem: what’ll we tell our children? But the obscenity of 750,000 dead Iraqi civilians b/c Bush couldn’t get bin Laden dead OR alive, well, we don’t need to get into that, do we? Let’s just look the other way. Let’s talk about . .. Ayers!
    The real problem here is the bankruptcy of Centrism and Bi-Partisanship.
    When Clinton (or Tipper Gore) join with Lieberman to ban or censor or lynch the Dead Kennedy’s, they’re substantively betraying this country.
    Think about it: they’d gladly eliminate Frank Zappa’s First Amendment rights along with his right to participate in the free market, just to score some cheap political points.
    Those are quintessential American values & core legal principles they’re selling down the river.
    To protect the children? To privilege the fragile sensibilities of parents? (Parents lacking any & all personal responsiblity.) Or to cater to frightened churchgoers who’ve set aside American black-letter law for a theocratic power grab?
    This is an endemic problem. We cannot privilege the sophistry of hired guns over core principles. Leads to John Yoo. And Mark Penn. And Hillary Clinton–and the transparently conflicted ex-generals paraded in front of the TV to parrot the Pentagon’s ‘analysis’ even as veteran suicide rates reached historic highs.
    If bipartisanship means trashing the Constitution to fearmonger for political gain, there’s nothing reasonable or admirable about it. Same for a bleating centrism that listens to every nefarious actor, but heeds no established or faithful principle. America isn’t a license for anything goes; there some responsiblity to contribute to the general welfare. There is every obligation not to countenance men of bad faith.

    Reply

  51. lance peeples says:

    And, will there a piece about Obama’s diplomatic appeals to Nigerian activists?
    “”The MEND command is seriously considering a temporary ceasefire appeal by Senator Barack Obama. Obama is someone we respect and hold in high esteem. The period of halting attacks, we hope, when considered, will afford the Nigerian government the opportunity to address the issues with Henry Okah, including improving his living conditions and having access to a bible which he has requested for but was denied,” they said.

    Reply

  52. Steve Clemons says:

    Beth C — don’t be sure of that. I still have to run my piece on Kenya and Obama which I have been holding. Very feisty discussion above, much of which I disagree with — but not going to wrestle with it as I think I pushed out some interesting questions about patriotism and symbols of such — and knocked neither Obama nor Ayers in the way that much of the media have.
    more later, best regards to you folks — and I am absorbing and thinking about your reactions.
    best, steve

    Reply

  53. Beth C says:

    yeah, this is the key story of the day. Taylor Marsh thanks you for pushing the Ayers angle. Sheesh!
    No anti-Obama story left on the cutting room floor here at the TWN this semester…

    Reply

  54. rich says:

    I do think Steve can’t see the Foresta for the tease. The tease being the red flag of flag desecration.
    William Ayers is standing on principle, and standing foursquare behind the flag in support of everything it represents. The photo clearly contradicts the claim against Ayers: he is not on the flag. Rather, it looks like someone threw it at his feet, and he’s glaring right at them. Which has always been his stance: lying about being attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin in order to instigate full-scale war is a betrayal of that flag. Same with the WMD lies, and countless covert ops.
    We dont’ hear about McCain’s active solicitation of Rev. Hagee’s incendiary comments beaten to death. Nor that Bush’s close advisor is Kissinger, a man who can’t show his face without fear of arrest. We don’t hear honest talk here about the CIA’s active support for terrorists, including joint bin Laden-projects to implant wahhabist terrorism in Algeria. Or the real events that delivered blowback from their partnership in Afghanistan.
    Ayers has not desecrated the flag. He’s pointed out that Bush has bloodied and desecrated both it and the Constitution.
    Of course, Kissinger negotiated with the North Vietnamese behind the Prznt’s back to fix an American Przntl election–yet we actually find people condemning Obama’s willingness to speak to Achmedinejad. Double standard, anyone?
    Kissinger;

    Reply

  55. TonyForesta says:

    Let’s waste more time jabbering about inane flag issues, and ignore that fact that the fascists in the Bush government operated a disinformation warfare operation within the pentagon, whose “message-force multipliers” bruted propaganda and disinformation on the airwaves, that were dutifully and relentlessly parroted by socalled MSM. The fascists in the Bush government conducted disinformation warfare on the America people, and you people want to waste time babelling on about the flag.
    Pathetic.

    Reply

  56. CeeHussein says:

    No one wants to take away Ayers’ right to desecrate the flag
    Tahoe,
    Hillary does.
    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is supporting new legislation to criminalize desecration of the United States flag
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysHYyflqS6k

    Reply

  57. Seth says:

    Steve -
    I know I’ve come down hard on you a few times for what I think is bias in your political writing (and to reiterate: I have no problem with bias on a blog, just bias that comes in the wake of professed neutrality).
    I respect that you see your political writing as balanced. But the final sentence aboves sure seems to echo the sentiment in Clinton’s famous response that Obama was not a Muslim “as far as I know”…
    I used to recommend this site to friends in various branches of our government’s civil and foreign services, and in politics, as a solid, moderate and well-informed take on international affairs.
    It’s no longer an easy recommendation to make, despite your obvious strengths in many areas. I know you take real pride in your work (usually deservedly so), so as an avid reader of many years let me entreat you to step back and get a little perspective here. The above post might be offensive, but right now it’s a perfectly unemotional dismayment that leads me to worry about the future salience of your coverage.
    Best
    Seth

    Reply

  58. G Hazeltine says:

    Again – Ayers is behind the flag, not on it. The photo was staged
    for an article in Chicago Magazine in 1991. I imagine that the flag
    is not Ayers’, but a prop provided by the magazine, or the
    photographer.
    Ayers is not desecrating the flag.
    If his character and his past are a concern, then fine. But to bring
    them up under this photo and the emotions it evokes is dishonest,
    or careless, in the extreme.

    Reply

  59. MarkL says:

    Judy,
    Obama worked for Ayers, then he served on a board, with him; in addition, Ayers was instrumental in
    launching Obama’s first campaign, in 1996.
    He escaped prosecution for terrorism on technicalities.
    He is exactly analogous to those who set off bombs at abortion clinics.
    Put down the Kool-Aid, and stop misrepresenting Obama’s close relationship with Ayers.
    Did his bombs not kill people? Sorry, I guess he just maimed a few people, while others were killed while making nail bombs. My bad! That will sure help Obama in the GE!

    Reply

  60. Tahoe Editor says:

    Steve isn’t running for president, and Al-Faisal didn’t help launch his blogging career. He also thinks gas should be $7 a gallon.
    The salient point here is electability. No one wants to take away Ayers’ right to desecrate the flag. America is a land where anyone is free to run around with flag burners and those who would ask God to damn the country. The White House is another story with — like it or not — different standards.

    Reply

  61. Judy Carver says:

    Mark L.,
    No one was murdered by the Weathermen…certainly not during Ayers tenure with the group. Bill Ayers is not a murderer. Your assertion that Ayers is “similar to those who murdered abortion providers”, is totally inaccurate and silly.
    The group was a spin-off of the anti-war movement, so if we are going to talk about deaths, perhaps we should remember that nearly 60,000 young American soldiers died in the Vietnam War. Most were between the ages of 17 and 24. Just kids.
    Lets keep things in perspective, OK?
    William Ayers was never prosecuted for belonging to that radical group 40 years ago. Now he’s a college professor… and he has nothing to do with Barack Obama.
    Nothing.
    Why are we speculating, on election day, about Barack Obama’s opinion of Ayers standing on the flag? I think Obama has made his opinion on such matters absolutely clear.
    For some reason, Barack Obama is held to account for every transgression of every acquaintance. If McCain and Clinton were treated similarly, Obama would look like a saint by comparison.

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  62. WigWag says:

    Look, I won’t vote for Senator Obama because I don’t think he would be a good president, but this just isn’t fair. The Senator has, at most, a very casual acquaintance with William Ayers. Nothing Ayers does that’s positive or negative reflects on Senator Obama at all. To suggest otherwise isn’right.

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  63. Dan Kervick says:

    Here’s a picture of Steve Clemons shaking hands with Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-clemons/saudi-ambassador-prince-t_b_26279.html
    Al-Faisal was for many years close to Osama Bin Laden, who was often considered Al-Faisal’s protégé, and was forced out of his position as intelligence. Al- Faisal was also involved with the notorious Bank of Commerce and Credit International, which was implicated in money laundering, bribery, support of terrorism, arms trafficking, sale of nuclear technologies, the commission and facilitation of tax evasion, smuggling, illegal immigration, and the illicit purchases of banks and real estate.
    Al-Faisal was also responsible for the following anti-American accusation, which I trust will be deeply offensive to red-blooded flag lovers everywhere:
    “No matter how exalted the aims of the U.S. in the [Iraq] war, in the final analysis it was a colonial war very similar to the wars conducted by the ex-colonial powers when they went out to conquer the rest of the world.”
    But I don’t feel Clemons should be responsible for the behavior of his acquaintances.
    Yet I believe it was important for me to post this photo, so I can make my concern trolling point about acquaintances for whom Clemons is not responsible. Please look again at the photo.
    Here is another picture of al-Faisal. It turns out he is an Arab and wears funny Arab clothes, just like Bin Laden:
    http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2005/07/prince-turki-osama-bin-laden-and-aq.html
    But I hasten to add, this has nothing to do with Steve Clemons and any of his past handshakes with Saudi princes or his visits to Saudi Arabia, since he is not responsible for any anti-American statements or activities of these princes, or any corrupt business dealings of human rights violations of the former Saudi intelligence chiefs with whom he happens to shake hands.
    I can’t emphasize this point enough. The very irrelevance and blamelessness of these associations is an excellent reason for me to post these photos, and discuss Steve’s blameworthy associations with these figures.
    While I am not a fan of al-Faisal, the al-Saud family or human rights-violating Middle Easy intelligence chiefs in general, I think they should have the right to express themselves here in this country.
    But we have entered a weird vortex of obsessions, with others – not me, I once again emphasize – criticizing some Americans for their friendly associations with the Saudi royal family. It’s very distastefully Soviet, isn’t it? Please look, once again, at the pictures of Al-Faisal by himself and with Steve, and take time to reflect on how distasteful it is that others would call attentions to these associations and criticize Steve for them.
    Yes, it may be an obsession, even a vortex of obsessions. But respect for human rights is a fact of American political life. I make a point in my business life of not torturing or beheading people, and of not engaging in corrupt baking deals, money laundering, covert operations, and terrorism. My business cards say “Oppression and money-laundering free for 10 years!” And I don’t do bribery and arms trafficking.
    I wish Turki al-Faisal wouldn’t either – and I hope Steve Clemons agrees with me.

    Reply

  64. Linda says:

    I strongly recommending reading more about Ayers of today and not 40 years ago.
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080519/berman
    John Yoo is teaching at Boalt Hall Law School at Berkeley, and Ayers is teaching at University of IL in Chicago. So Ayers trampled on the flag–Yoo trampled on the Constitution. The First Amendment allows both of them to do that. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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  65. G Hazeltine says:

    I wonder about the perspective in this photo. The lens used was
    very wide – note the distortion of the building walls. That would put
    the flag well in front of Ayers. He is not standing on it. A metaphor
    perhaps, but not a depiction.
    Could an experienced photographer comment on this?

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  66. rich says:

    William Ayers’ point is that Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol and their ilk literally trample the flag—in substance.
    These neocons desecrated the process and political values defining America as an exceptional nation, and they did so in substance. Their violation is not metaphorical. What they did is a form of treason–and it must be repaired.
    Patriotism can’t be misused to justify betraying one’s country, and Exhibit A is the Bush/Cheney bottom-line legacy. Nor is national security any excuse for betraying the Constitution—or maintaining the secrecy fetish of the national security state. We’ve seen the results and the damage inflicted on us. Nor can fear or invoking the specter of external enemies justify betray American soldiers, though we’ve seen these flag-waving neocons continue to mis-use our GIs via stop-loss and denial of medical benefits—even as suicide rates among veterans soar to historic highs.
    William Ayers is a patriot.
    William Ayers’ act is also symbolic, a performative action designed precisely to call into question whether waving the flag is literally patriotic—or just an empty gesture when the Good Germans among us don’t have the guts to stand up.
    They haven’t stood up against torture, against bypassing a Congressional Declaration of War, against the naked abuse of power required to lie the country into an unprovoked war and Occupation. Next to that sheep-like right-wing docility, William Ayers is the patriotic in the room.
    These McCarthyite tactics have got to end.
    William Ayers clearly won’t cede the patriotic ground to right-wingers either. Nor the substance underlying the flag. Only when sufficient righteous anger is directed at Bush—not Ayers—will that photo lose the symbolic power and impact it wields.

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  67. ... says:

    americans seem duped by there obsession with the flag… it is supposed to represent their patriotism, another thing that they obsess about… they need a flag that represents what idiots they are for being obsessed over symbols for patriotism while forgetting or ignoring the principles their nation once stood for… once ‘proud’ nation is looking mighty negligent…no amount of obsessing about a flag is going to change that..
    i am disappointed that ayers name keeps up coming up, but it seems that with so little substance to focus in on, the media is left with dumb negative talking points and more conversations about flags…. that is depressing!!!!

    Reply

  68. Don Bacon says:

    The same photo appeared today on Hugh Hewitt (the primo neocon blogger) with this caption:
    OBAMA’S PAL BILL AYERS WIPES HIS SHOES ON OUR FLAG.
    http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/blog
    Well, Steve, Nixon had his dark side too. Did a little rub off on you? This is disgusting.

    Reply

  69. MarkL says:

    Wow, Steve. This is the most dishonest post I have ever read from you.
    Ayers is not simply a man who stepped on a flag—he is a domestic terrorist, similar to those who murdered abortion providers. He lies somewhere between Randall Terry and Terry Nichols. He is completely unrepentant for his acts of terrorism and murder.
    Please show more respect for your readership.
    I don’t care if you write about Ayers or not, but if you do so, include the pertinent facts.

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  70. CeeHussein says:

    Yesterday, Micheal Savage ran an interview with some yahoo that spent twenty minutes waxing about how Hamas is fully on board with an Obama presidency.
    POA,
    LOL! I read on another Clinton blog that Obama has an office in Gaza.

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  71. CeeHussein says:

    May God save me from the patriots
    When police arrived witnesses told them one important item was missing. “vandals apparently broke this glass and stole an american flag that once stood on display in this window” says Chattin. “One thing we know about the criminal that did this, first of all they are a criminal, second, that they’re a vandal, and third, they’re not patriotic because stealing a United States flag shows disrespect for the country” explains Chattin.
    http://www.wthitv.com/Global/story.asp?S=8274089

    Reply

  72. DonS says:

    When I was a kid, my parents, most folks actually, displayed the flag on certain holidays. It was paraded on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and there was kind of a good feeling that went along with it.
    Somewhere along the line, the good feeling got diminished, right along with the basic good feeling about the US and its neo-con manipulated and appropriated government. Now the flag has become more a wedge that pseudo patriots, such as Steve cites, use to claim a special fervor and purity.
    Much like Nazis.
    Now when I see the flag it gives me a bad taste. The simple innocnece it used to imply seems gone. The neos and, yes I would say the RW Republican party, have succeeded in capturing the message; they are so good at finding the lowest sort of appeal.
    Interesting that the UN, where flags of all nations fly, is considred anathema by these RW creeps.

    Reply

  73. JohnH says:

    Flags a car dealers…yes, and we should not buy from any business that does not clearly display the flag on the Chinese or Japanese goods it sells…
    I particularly like advertisements showing thin babes clothed in hot pants and bikini tops cut from the flag. Now there is real respect for the flag!

    Reply

  74. questions says:

    Flags I’ve seen:
    Painted on a dumpster
    torn, but displayed anyway
    large numbers of them at car dealerships
    over fast food restaurants
    displayed in the rain and snow
    on lapels
    on pants
    on coffins of war dead
    behind politicians while they tell lies
    on an exterior elevator at a construction site
    under someone’s feet
    Any particular instance of a flag is not THE FLAG (think Plato’s theory of forms).
    One loves something abstract — “the country for which it stands” — but loving an abstract thing is difficult, so instead people substitute something concrete — any particular flag.
    Are we mixing up the symbol with the thing symbolized? Are we worshiping idols? Are we fooling ourselves and each other by playing easy symbolic politics instead of doing the hard work of learning to love an abstraction?
    And what if you feel you have sacrificed FOR THE FLAG and the FLAG is treated badly? How can you maintain your own sanity if your sanity is dependent upon the very thing someone else treats badly?
    The commercial display of the flag is crass, the political display of the flag is corrupt, but the leftist trashing of the flag is unkind. I tend to think that corruption is the worst of these, but I do wish that leftists would think through the real pain they cause on this issue. There are ways to let the world know how corrupt our politicians are, how badly they serve the people whom they are supposed to serve well, ways that don’t tear at the souls of those for whom the symbol is the thing symbolized. A politics of kindness would go a long way towards attracting voters who feel disrespected.

    Reply

  75. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Yesterday, Micheal Savage ran an interview with some yahoo that spent twenty minutes waxing about how Hamas is fully on board with an Obama presidency. And lo and behold, also yesterday, a few media reports came out implying that Ahmadinejad’s recent comments were also an endorsement for Obama.
    Further, Sean Hannity’s big rap these last few days has been Wright and Ayers, and Obama’s associations with them. So too, has Laura Ingram’s talking points been formed around Obama’s past associations.
    Who can doubt that the scripted lines these media mouthpieces are fed come straight from Rovian politics, and are coordinated and orchestrated by the White House and the RNC?
    Steve, sometimes I get these little pangs of paranoia, and wonder just who the hell you work for.

    Reply

  76. Zathras says:

    Stipulating right up front that I am not really into jewelry of any kind, and am not a fan of using flags of any description to adorn anything other than flagpoles, I don’t think it ought surprise anyone that Obama’s personal associations and what we might call his “symbolic language” are getting a thorough review right now.
    After all, the guy might be President, and the American people really don’t know him that well. He doesn’t have much of a record in public life; he has education credentials (at a period in our history when these are, for some reason, very important in Presidential politics), but few real accomplishments. So who is this guy?
    There are plenty of people in politics who dwell on symbolic stuff just because it’s easy to get attention for them, especially from an electronic media that can treat this material as entertainment. A much larger number of Americans, though, is genuinely interested in a public figure who is still relatively new to them. If they are asking questions of Obama that they are not asking of more familiar figures — and I freely grant that not all the questions are the right ones — this is why.
    Truth is, neither Sen. Obama nor the other remaining Presidential candidates has much to complain about as far as their coverage by the media is concerned. All three candidates have been able to present themselves to the public pretty much as they wanted to. But Sen. Clinton is a celebrity of long standing, as Bill Clinton’s wife, so voters think they know her; Sen. McCain has a record in public life, as Obama does not, so people believe they know him.
    I’m not sure Obama’s campaign, as well as it has been run overall, has really come to grips with the fact that he is still tabula rasa for a great many of the Americans whose support he will need to become President. Obama himself prefers to think of everything from Rev. Wright to flag lapel pins as a “distraction.” This is a mistake. He has a bigger problem with voters who don’t know him than with voters who don’t like him, and he risks confusing one with the other by insisting that only he should decide which issues are important in this campaign.

    Reply

  77. al75 says:

    Gee, my issue is more like Hillary’s loose talk of “anihillating” Iran, the corruption of the Justice Department, the spiralling debt-driven corruption of the federal government.
    I guess I’m just an elitist, or sumpin’
    But is it really about flags — or flag-pins?
    I think it’s flag pins.
    Do a post on that.
    Thanks for raising this really important stuff.
    God bless.

    Reply

  78. fljim says:

    This post along with the mention of Obama on election day is beneath you Steve. Or, at least I hope it is.

    Reply

  79. jon says:

    Wow, Steve. What possessed you to run this? Good thing SNL
    just reran a bit that had a candidate wind up inadvertently
    wiping his ass with the flag to put this in the context it
    deserves.
    Last I checked, Obama was running for President, not Ayers.
    When Ayers runs for something, please feel free to focus on
    what his actions and beliefs are and have been. Perhaps you
    have some inside knowledge that Obama put him up to this
    stunt? If so, that would be some genuine news.
    Why did you state your principles and then post this in pure
    contradiction of them?
    Are you intending to run similar pieces about the acquaintances
    and/or supporters of the other candidates as well?
    The commenters above have nailed the problem.
    I come to this site regularly for extremely incisive foreign policy
    analysis and discussion, and some inside baseball looks at
    Washington politics and culture. This post is extremely
    disappointing.

    Reply

  80. lance peeples says:

    If my flag lapel pin is larger than your flag lapel pin, does that mean I am more patriotic than you? But, what if my pin is made in China by child laborers and yours is made in Mexico, am I still more patriotic than you? Since it is a violation of the US Code ((d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery,) to wear the flag, does exhibiting flag jewelry make you less patriotic?

    Reply

  81. PissedOffAmerica says:

    This is horseshit. When will the debate, from the candidates, and from the Washington insiders, get real, and get to the issues?
    Screw this effin’ idiocy of pastors, gas tax holidays, tarmac tittilation, and past associations.
    Nir Rosen’s piece was a breath of fresh air, and your post on torture is getting to the crux of it.
    These pieces of shit are gettin’ ready to either attack Iran, or hand us another “trifecta”, and if they do, you can bet it is going to be a doozy.
    We damn well better wake up here in America. Chertoff’s recent comments about needing more laws, and his statement that “the people” should stop whining about the implementation and enforcement of those laws is terrifying. Particularly considering these bastard’s utter and complete contempt for holding themselves accountable to the law.
    One day, in the near future, we’re liable to wake up and discover our comments here are against the law.
    Screw Ayers, he’s old news. You can bet that Bush has already wiped his ass with the Constitution this morning, at least once, and if Cheney has finished his morning prayers to the devil, he’s about to follow suit.
    Did you see where a citizen just got convicted and fined for calling Rice a “war criminal”?
    Wake up America.

    Reply

  82. Judy Carver says:

    After weeks of hearing about nothing but Rev. Wright, I didn’t expect to come to TWN on election day and find something like this.
    Maybe we should make posters lettered with: “ACQUAINTANCE OF BARACK OBAMA!!!!” and display them prominently at polling places.
    More than four thousand Americans (not counting suicides) and a million Iraqis have died in a war that Hillary Clinton voted for. John McCain voted for. Barack Obama said it would be “dumb” to go to war in Iraq.
    Barack Obama said this:
    “You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.”
    and..
    “The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not – we will not – travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.”
    But Barack Obama served on a board with a guy who stands on the flag! Boy, I sure hope Obama doesn’t stand on the flag, too. I’ll bet he does!

    Reply

  83. sanitysojourner says:

    The emphasis placed on the flag itself is distracting. Despite the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, in all honesty, I do not pledge allegiance to the flag. Yes, I know other words follow, but the priority is clearly stated. Rather I pledge allegiance to the Constitution and this county. Placing the flag first is a false god, IMHO.
    It would be like pledging my troth to my wedding ring (the symbol) first rather than to my marriage. Which is more important?
    There are salient issues of the day that are of much greater important than the flag, especially given the way this administration has misused and mislabeled patriotism. Focusing on the flag rather than the principles that are the underpinnings of this nation allows the meanings underneath that flag to become distorted and manipulated, exemplified by what this administration has done.
    Not trying to create a firestorm. Just suggesting that flag discussions take us away from those issues that are important — like war, education, health, NOLA, the economy, the environment, the corruption . . . to name a few.

    Reply

  84. jhm says:

    How exactly does one square an insistence on “flag respect” with
    respect for the flag of a group which disrespected it to such a
    degree that they came up with their own and abandoned the union
    for which it stood?
    Not that I think that the various lapel pin or “flag respect”
    amendment issues are anything more than buffoonery, but can we
    at least have a modicum of consistency?

    Reply

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