Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, OBAMANIA!, Politics — Rick Moran @ 10:54 am

Allow me to state at the outset that I believe that a vast majority of liberals believe themselves to be as patriotic as anyone else and that Republican efforts to portray this or that candidate as “unpatriotic” is wrong.

It is wrong because we cannot gaze into the hearts of our countrymen and establish their true feelings about America. Nor should we even try. A citizen’s relationship with his country is as personal as his relationship with God - and only pharisees in the temple and some TV preachers would have us believe that they love God more than others.

It is silly to say that this liberal or that one does not love this country enough - as if there is a scale on which all American’s patriotic feelings are placed and weighed, the result judged fair or foul according to explicitly subjective criteria.

“Do you put your hand over the heart during the playing of our national anthem?”

“Do you wear a flag pin?”

“Do you say the Pledge of Allegiance?”

If this be the measure of a patriot, gag me. I almost didn’t vote for George Bush #41 in 1988 because of his obsession with making it a requirement for schoolchildren to say the pledge of allegiance. It was embarrassing for any thinking person to watch the elder Bush tour flag factories and otherwise bring the issue up at almost every campaign stop. It was a transparent attempt to place his idea of patriotism above that of anyone else and by extension, accusing his opponent Michael Dukakis of being less patriotic than he.

At the time the Obama flag pin controversy first surfaced, I wrote what I believe to be a logical, sensible defense of liberal patriotism:

I think it is apparent that some on the right love America in a different way than some on the left. Think of the right’s love of country as that of a young man for a hot young woman. The passion of such love brooks no criticism and in their eyes, the woman can do nothing wrong. They place the woman on a pedestal and fail to see any flaws in her beauty, only perfection.

On the other hand, love of country by many liberals is more intellectualized – perhaps the kind of love we might feel for a wife of many years. The white hot passion may be gone and her flaws might drive you up a wall at times. And it is difficult not to dwell on her imperfections But there is still a deep, abiding affection that allows you to love her despite the many blemishes and defects they see.

It isn’t that most on the left love America any less than those on the right. They simply see a different entity – a tainted but beloved object that has gotten better with age.

There is some obvious exaggeration in both definitions but I believe they ring true at a basic level of understanding. It certainly makes it easier to acknowledge Senator Obama’s patriotism which the Washington Post examined today:

“You want to know about my patriotism?” Obama said last week in Chapel Hill, N.C. “My patriotism is rooted in the fact that my story, Michelle’s story, is not possible anywhere else on Earth. That the American dream, despite this country’s imperfections, has always been there. . . . That there are ladders of opportunity that all of us can climb. That we’re all created equal. That we’re all endowed with certain inalienable rights — life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. . . . That we’re willing to shed blood for those liberties, we’re willing to speak out for those liberties. . . . That we can make this country more just and more equal and more prosperous and more unified. That’s why I love this country. That’s why you love this country.”

Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist unaffiliated in the primary, said Obama’s patriotic talk early in the campaign was a shrewd attempt to reshape the debate to guard against a future vulnerability. “In successful campaigns, you recognize your potential liabilities and figure out how to turn them into strengths,” he said.

Obama’s patriotism then, is as exceptional as anyone’s on the right. This stands in stark contrast to other liberals and Democrats who belittle the idea of American exceptionalism or simply refuse to acknowledge it. It doesn’t mean that you are less patriotic if you reject the idea that America is different than anywhere else on earth. But since most Americans share the belief that we are an exceptional people and nation, it is a legitimate campaign issue to point out that a candidate does not share a belief in the same values as most voters.

That avenue of attack is not open to Republicans with Obama. Hence, the creation of non-issues like the flag pin and the demonstrably false issues of his not saying the pledge or putting his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem. They have not resonated with the voter because people aren’t buying it - until now.

Enter Jeremiah Wright and his “damning” America. To ask the question is Reverend Wright a “patriot” or is he a “patriotic” American stretches the notion of love of country far beyond where a vast majority of ordinary voters wish to go. If Wright is patriotic - and indeed, I do not believe him to be, proving an exception to the rule above - then it is a kind of patriotism never before seen in America. Wright’s critique goes far beyond dissent and attacks the very reasons America exists in the first place. Can you hate America and love it at the same time? That’s the kind of nuance only a liberal could embrace.

Obama has a different kind of problem with Wright than any Democrat has had in the past with their own personal patriotism being questioned. And making matters much worse for the candidate are his other radical associations with individuals who, like Wright, have attacked the foundations of American democracy and the existential reasons for America’s being. Unrepentant terrorists like Ayers and Dohrn - who I predict will become a huge problem for the candidate once it is revealed that he lied about the nature and extent of his relationship with those radicals - as well as his close association with other radical figures like PLO apologist Rashid Khalidi and radical Liberation Theology priest and warm friend of Louis Farrakhan Father Michael Phleger raise serious questions not about Obama’s patriotism but rather his values and judgement.

What is it about these people that attracts the candidate? There are just too many radicals in his background not to make this a legitimate question of the campaign. My own personal view - highly speculative - is that Obama is drawn to the certainty of their beliefs as well as their outrage. Obama’s emotional makeup makes it very difficult for him to share the radical’s certainty about their worldview while he yearns for that kind of black and white outlook. And since his own worldview is informed more by his intellect than his gut, he perhaps envies the radicals ability to express their outrage at perceived injustices in America.

A guess to be sure but better than what the candidate has offered as an explanation. And lest someone take me to task for my observation about so many radicals in his past, there is this from the Rolling Stone profile written last year:

This is as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from, as much Malcolm X as Martin Luther King Jr. Wright is not an incidental figure in Obama’s life, or his politics. The senator “affirmed” his Christian faith in this church; he uses Wright as a “sounding board” to “make sure I’m not losing myself in the hype and hoopla.” Both the title of Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, and the theme for his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 come from Wright’s sermons. “If you want to understand where Barack gets his feeling and rhetoric from,” says the Rev. Jim Wallis, a leader of the religious left, “just look at Jeremiah Wright.”

And the RR profile didn’t even mention Ayers, et.al. It is this “radical background” about which American voters are confused regarding Obama. His heartfelt rhetoric about his love of America cannot be denied. There is nothing about which to disagree with Obama when he talks about our race problems “not defining America” - the first black leader in a long time to make that point. There is nothing to criticize when Obama talks about the American dream and American opportunity and how it is a shared goal of all.

So why, in a Pew Research poll, did only 61% of of voters view Obama as patriotic, compared with 76% for Clinton and 90% for McCain? It can’t be the way that McCain or even Hillary Clinton have been hammering away at his patriotism in ads and in campaign appearances. Hillary has raised the issue that Obama’s associations will be attacked by Republicans in the fall and that because of that, the Illinois Senator is unelectable. But she hasn’t directly criticized him for his relationship with Wright or anyone else. (Update: An emailer reminds me that Clinton said at the Philadelphia debate that the Ayers relationship “raised questions.” - hardly a hard hitting attack.)

Something else is clearly at work and it goes to the heart of how people perceive Barack Obama’s relationship with Reverend Wright. Quite simply, voters place themselves in Obama’s shoes and ask themselves if they would act the same way as the candidate has acted for the last 20 years. They ask themselves would they allow an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers host a fundraising event in his home. The left would love to dismiss these concerns as typical ignorance on the part of the yahoos but for good or ill, this is how Obama is being judged. And a significant number of people are coming up with answers detrimental to the candidate’s standing in the polls.

I would love to see a campaign this fall where everyone acknowledged everyone else’s commitment to America and love of country. But Obama’s high minded, patriotic rhetoric will fall flat unless he can explain and thus distance himself from people he made a conscious choice to embrace in one way or another and who give the lie to that pretty talk about patriotism through their poisonous and yes, unpatriotic view of America.


  1. What is patriotism? It must have a definite meaning in order to convey what it in fact does mean.
    One definition is love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it. Another is love of and devotion to one’s country.
    You can meet these requirements and still have some very antagonistic feelings toward your government.
    Wanting to cause harm to your country to the extent that your country would be vulnerable to overthrow by an outside force could seemingly be un-patriotic.
    It would seem that anyone who doesn’t actually want the destruction of their country and/or the complete dissolution of those basic fundlemental ingredients that made it what it is can still be patriotic. No matter how disconnected they may be from the current political trend.
    Many Russians fell back on their patriotism for Mother Russia and fought like crazy to defeat the Germans all the while in effect protecting their Communist overlords. Stalin even removed all outward signs of Karl Marx during the German campaign to remove any semblance of connection to that country.

    Comment by edward cropper — 5/4/2008 @ 12:45 pm

  2. Greetings:

    When I was a youngster, my father had a summer cabin in upstate New York. Down the road, we had a neighbor who was a professional magician. One of the secrets he shared with me was not to look where the magician wanted you to look.

    Senator Obama is quite expert at getting people to look where he wants them to. He can wax poetic about his patriotism when he wants to, but the proof of the pudding is elsewhere. Verbally, he can affirm his willingness to shed his blood but I don’t see any discharge papers or Purple Hearts. He wears no lapel pin but has no compunction to line up eight flags behind him when it serves his purpose. He and his wife have benefited from opportunities available to only a few and yet his wife’s comments about paying off student loans, this country being mean, and her being proud of her country don’t survive the consistency test.

    Senator Obama would have us believe he is a uniter, but his associates seem only to be from one (far) end of the political spectrum. We are to believe he is post-partisan yet his voting record is the most liberal in the US Senate. We are to believe that his lack of managerial leadership experience is an asset in a time of war on two fronts. If his judgement can be so far off on these issues, why should anyone accept his self-assessment of his patriotism?

    Comment by 11B40 — 5/4/2008 @ 8:16 pm

  3. The only things I can add to Edward Cooper’s and 11B40’s excellent comments, are some questions.

    Where is Obama’s allegiance to the most essential principle serving as the soul and spine of America, “We hold these truths to be self-evident , that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”?
    How can he be believed to be patriotic when he has not supported our military while they have been under fire in defense of innocent Iraqis and Americans?
    How can he be patriotic to find no moral/ethical problem in AGAIN betraying and abandoning the majority of Iraqi civilians and our democratically-oriented Iraqi military allies?
    Obama’s positions in these crucial areas spits in the face of our Declaration of Independence.

    Comment by FamouslyUnknown — 5/4/2008 @ 10:45 pm

  4. It is unfortunate that more complex arguments inevitably become compressed into the unsatisfactory term “patriotism”. In most cases the discussion is really about value systems, and whether the other side of the argument shares sufficiently in the same value system to coexist comfortably.

    Both sides in an argument may love “America” and be “patriotic”, while having very different and perhaps incompatible conceptions of what America is and should strive to be.

    I fear there is no way to condense the discussion sufficiently without it degenerating into a battle of symbols, and those symbols then take on completely different meanings by each camp.

    Comment by Seppo — 5/5/2008 @ 9:51 am

  5. 99% great post! Agree with you on everything, except… I hate it when you make sweeping, matter-of-fact statements like “His heartfelt rhetoric about his love of America cannot be denied”. The very judgment that he used to ally himself with Wright and Ayers allows a reasonable person to question his love of country- after all, his two buddys are unashamed of their contempt for this country I love.

    It seems to me that you are explaining (eloquently) why us “yahoos” question his patriotism in one sentence(”voters place themselves in Obama’s shoes and ask themselves if they would act the same way as the candidate has acted for the last 20 years”), then in the next sentence, hope for everybody to ignore those questions and simply acknowledge that he is a patriot. By my definition of patriot, I cannot, and I am somewhat surprised to see that it passes muster with you.

    The point is well taken and each must decide for themselves about what Obama feels. My sense is that it Obama doesn’t see Wright or Ayers as unpatriotic or “mainstream” because of the elitist liberal circles he runs in. And that goes back to we all have different ideas of what constitutes patriotism. Imposing your view or my view of patriotism just can’t be done for the reasons I explain above.

    ed .

    Comment by Michael B. — 5/5/2008 @ 11:41 am

  6. It strains credulity to believe that any person of moderate intellect could not see Wright as out of the mainstream… it shatters credulity to believe that any person of ANY intellect could believe that Ayers is not unpatriotic (what part if “I hate this country” would they not understand?). You’re giving him a pass.

    I’ve read your blog long enough to know that you don’t really give a crap what I, or anybody else thinks about you, and I admire that part of you as much as your keen insight and elequent pen. But if you will forgive me for my armchair psychoanalysis (in other words, don’t flame me for this, I already know you don’t care), I think you suffer from white guilt. For some reason, you seem to give him the benefit of the doubt on every non-provable question, when on every PROVABLE question he has demonstrated either overt dishonesty (”I never heard those issues”) or extreme evasiveness/dismissiveness (”that’s a distraction”). Since I have never seen you give others, even conservatives a pass, I have concluded that you want to make up for past failures of our ancestors. Or something. Neither I nor my ancestors ever owned a slave (I’m betting your ancestors didn’t either). Whatever racial sins I have ever committed have been atoned for by 38 years of affirmative action. I am proudly color-blind, and will NOT give him a pass simply because his skin is darker than mine.

    Look, I don’t hate the man, I fear him- I fear higher taxes (both personal income and capital gains), I fear mass murder in Iraq after he pulls out our troops, I fear a president that will forego 225 year of precedence by holding one on one, face to face talks with terrorist nations, I fear the appointment of 3 more Souter clones, etc. (he has promised all of these, and more!). I think it is your duty (and mine, and every conservative in this country) to NOT give him the benefit of the doubt, because he has proven that he doesn’t deserve it.

    Comment by Michael B. — 5/5/2008 @ 5:00 pm

  7. Allow me to state at the outset that I believe that a vast majority of liberals believe themselves to be as patriotic as anyone else and that Republican efforts to portray this or that candidate as “unpatriotic” is wrong.

    Rick, you are an uncommon genius! Duck the flack and continue…I am not Abu Manzanar fodder.

    Comment by bobwire — 5/6/2008 @ 12:12 am

  8. Patriotism is really quite simple: It is a dedication to the history and principals on which your country was founded, and the willingness to make sacrifices to preserve, protect and defend both the nation and its people.

    Liberals are, for the most part, too mired in their own self-importance to be able to spare much time, effort or attention to something like that! That does not, however, prevent them from having contempt for people who are patriotic!

    Comment by Gayle Miller — 5/6/2008 @ 3:34 pm

  9. As far as white guilt is concerned - I’m am so freaking sick and tired of hearing that bilge spouted, I cannot even begin to express it. I am white. Some of you are not white. Who gives a shit. When the bomb drops - it doesn’t pick one color of skin to kill, does it? Sheesh!

    Comment by Gayle Miller — 5/6/2008 @ 3:35 pm

  10. As a Supreme Court justice said he could discern pornography when he saw it. I think most people know what patriotism is and what latte sipping “patriotism is.

    Its the difference between those who live their faiths and those who profess to believe in God and then shaft their neighbors, bear false witness and cheat the poor.

    Obama patriotic? Sure doesn’t everyone hang out with communists and terrorists?

    Comment by Thomas Jackson — 5/9/2008 @ 5:42 pm

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