Friday, July 4, 2008

Obama, Patriotism, and Independence Day

Obama, Patriotism, and Independence Day

As we pause on the 4th of July to celebrate out nation’s freedom, and the brave deeds of our Founding Fathers, State Militias, and the Continental Army which won our independence, let us think about the meaning of patriotism today.

We need to do so because we are no longer to doubt anyone’s patriotism, indeed we cannot because patriotism is so broadly defined by some that it has no effective meaning.

Barack Obama just delivered a speech in Independence, Missouri (Oh, the symbolism) telling us what patriotism means. As far as I can tell it’s patriotic to dissent. The First Amendment certainly protects Freedom of Speech, but voters can still hold the candidate accountable on election day.

We are not to question his patriotism. Both Barack and Michelle love America.

Let me posit therefore that the issue for Obama is not one of patriotism, but of character, judgment, experience, expertise and accountability.

Many liberals in recent years have responded angrily to questions about their support, or more accurately lack thereof, for the military, missile defense programs, or almost any new military program that would improve national security, by asking “how dare we question their patriotism.” Barack was more sophisticated in the speech on Monday through his redefinition of patriotism.

The Democrats’ problem goes back to Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972 and their anti-national security wing of the Democratic Party.

Former Vice President Mondale ran for President against President Reagan in 1984. Mondale ran a TV ad showing him on the bridge of an aircraft carrier, thereby professing his support for the military. Reagan destroyed him in the debates by pointing out that Mondale had voted against authorizing the USS Nimitz carrier.

Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts vetoed in 1977 state legislation that would require teachers to lead students in the pledge of allegiance. Once again, that veto was not a lack of patriotism; it was simply Dukakis and Massachusetts – the only state to vote for McGovern. Dukakis had to answer in 1988 for that veto when he ran for President. The picture of him riding a tank did not change the perception voters had of him.

When Barack removed his American flag label pin prior to the Democratic primaries because it was simply “a pin,” or whatever, that was no reflection on his patriotism. Similarly, when he started to wear it again after clinching the nomination, he did not reacquire patriotism. No, those were simply acts of political expediency.

Barach pinch hit for Senator Kennedy at a recent graduation speech at Wesleyan University. He extolled the virtues of public service, going through a whole litany of commendable public service activities Americans can engage in. We are not to read into the speech a lack of patriotism simply because he omitted the most sacrificing of all public service activities, the military. That perhaps Freudian omission goes to judgment and values.

Hanging out with a domestic terrorist, William Ayres, who bombed the Pentagon in 1972, does not show a lack of patriotism. It shows either a lack of judgment or political opportunism.

When his personal minister, the Reverend Wright, pours out Anti-American, Black Liberation theology venom for 20 years, including “God damn America!,” and the Senator stays with him, then that too shows a lack of judgment, or once again political opportunism to get elected to office in the Black community of Chicago. Obama three months ago said he could “no more disown” Wright than his own grandmother. Of course, Obama later disowned him when the political heat rose.

No, Senator Obama, the question is not one of patriotism, no matter how you define it, but of character as you campaign in all 57 states.

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