Monday, February 25, 2008

... Miniature American Flags for Others ...

William Kristol takes belated note of the fact that Barack Obama stopped wearing an American Flag lapel pin at the time it became a leading example of Republican tokenism - that is, after the 9/11 attacks, when Republicans (including G.W.) who were rarely if ever seen to wear a flag pin on their lapels made it part of their standard wardrobe.
But Obama chose to present his flag-pin removal as a principled gesture. “You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest.”

Leave aside the claim that “speaking out on issues” constitutes true patriotism. What’s striking is that Obama couldn’t resist a grandiose explanation. Obama’s unnecessary and imprudent statement impugns the sincerity or intelligence of those vulgar sorts who still choose to wear a flag pin. But moral vanity prevailed. He wanted to explain that he was too good — too patriotic! — to wear a flag pin on his chest.

Kristol builds a fascinating false dichotomy here - between flag pins and "speaking out" as the only possible illustrations of patriotism, with declining to wear a flag pin being pitched as the wrong choice.

I think Obama's is a peculiar approach to the issue, but the explanation was not volunteered by Obama at the start of his silent protest. It was elicited when a reporter asked about the issue. And let's be honest, Kristol wouldn't care what answer Obama gave. Just as it doesn't matter to Kristol that his Republican masters are once again using the flag as a political prop. Wrapping yourself in the flag for political gain, I guess, is what Kristol would deem "patriotism." It's fascinating how quickly Kristol is willing to leave aside "speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security" as an illustration of patriotism - perhaps because the politicians he favors are so craven? At the end of his column, Kristol writes, "[McCain's] patriotism has consisted of deeds more challenging than “speaking out on issues" - an attack built off of the earlier false dichotomy. Are we to pretend Obama could have avoided this attack by wearing a flag on his lapel?

Kristol then proceeds to make the usual idiot's assertion about Michelle Obama's comments on pride.
Michelle Obama’s adult life goes back to the mid-1980s. Can it really be the case that nothing the U.S. achieved since then has made her proud?
Obviously it is possible to be proud in many specific accomplishments of a person, institution, or country without extrapolating that pride to the everything the person, institution or country does. For example, you can be impressed that Bill Kristol told the truth about G.W. driving the Iraq war into a ditch, while being appalled at his continued cheerleading of what he knows to be an incompetent effort. It goes both ways, as well. I'm sure a lot of people who work at the New York Times are proud of their paper, yet are horrified that somebody as willfully obtuse as Kristol now has a regular gig on the Op/Ed page.

The idea of an Obama "cult of personality" where the Democrats push forward a candidate who " tends too much toward the preening self-regard of Bill Clinton, the patronizing elitism of Al Gore and the haughty liberalism of John Kerry? Isn't that how a growing number of Republicans are presently describing G.W.?

In some senses, it's pathetic that the right-wing attack machine can find so little ammunition against Barack Obama that they are trying to turn Michelle Obama into Hillary, redux. How long will it be before she has to bashfully appear on daytime TV with a plate full of freshly baked cookies?

1 comment:

  1. Obama's response on lapel pins:

    “As far as the American flag pin, I mean, when we start getting into those definitions of patriotism, that’s a debate I am happy to have, because what I will come right back to them is: a party that resided over a war which our troops did not get the body armor they needed or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning or not fulfilling the veterans benefits that these troops need when they come home or undermining our constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary. That is a debate I am very happy to have.”

    Needless to say, that's not a debate people like Kristol are willing to have.... Although perhaps his next column will attack Obama for daring to raise those questions.