Barack Obama gave a speech on patriotism today in Missouri. As always when Obama waxes “eloquent,” the media swooned. And, as always, the speech raised interesting questions if you actually read it.
The implicit premise of the speech was that Obama’s patriotism is being widely questioned. As far as I’ve seen, that isn’t true. What has happened is that Obama’s judgment and political ideology have been questioned because he has chosen to associate himself closely with people who manifestly are not patriotic, like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright.
In his speech today, Obama said that America “is the greatest country on Earth.” I’m happy to assume he means it, although whether Obama ever means what he says is an open question. But how, then, did Jeremiah “God damn America” Wright become Obama’s spiritual guardian for twenty years? And how do we reconcile Obama’s “greatest country on earth” rhetoric with the cynical comment by his political sponsor Bill Ayers on Ayers’ own acquittal: “Guilty as sin, free as a bird. What a great country!” Obama failed to acknowledge, let alone answer, the questions that are raised by these associations.
To the crowd’s applause, Obama vowed that “I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign.” That’s big of him, I guess–he won’t try to tell us that John McCain is unpatriotic. Although, actually, his campaign surrogates have done just that. And it’s worth noting that in the small-minded, partisan jabs against President Bush that he needlessly inserted into the speech, Obama came perilously close to questioning the patriotism of our current President. That kind of mean-spirited pettiness is sadly typical of Obama.
Finally, Obama’s surprising ignorance of American history, on which we have commented a number of times, was again on display. As a liberal, Obama sees patriotism mostly in dissent. In fact, rather than asserting that dissent may be patriotic, he seems to assume, perversely, that opposing one’s own government is always patriotic. His version of the history of the 1960s is hilariously inverted:
In the early years of the civil rights movement and the opposition to the Vietnam War, defenders of the status quo often accused anybody who questioned the wisdom of government policies of being unpatriotic.
Meanwhile, some of those in the so-called counter-culture of the ’60s reacted not merely by criticizing particular government policies, but by attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases the very idea of America itself, by burning flags; by blaming America for all that was wrong with the world; and, perhaps most tragically, by failing to honor those veterans coming home from Vietnam, something that remains a national shame to this day.
This is the reverse of what actually happened. Antiwar, anti-American activists burned American flags, blamed America for everything that went wrong in the world, and attacked veterans. Normal Americans concluded, correctly, that these anti-Americans were not patriotic. Contrary to Obama’s naive assumption, “dissent” is not always a good thing.
Then there’s this:
I remember, when living for four years in Indonesia as a child, I listened to my mother reading me the first lines of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they’re endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
I would have thought that pretty much everyone–certainly every Presidential speechwriter, and every Harvard Law School graduate!–knows that these are not the “first lines” of the Declaration, which begins, “When in the course of human events….” What, exactly, accounts for the fact that Obama is not a laughingstock?
As we begin our fourth century as a nation, it is easy to take the extraordinary nature of America for granted.
“Fourth century?” The United States of America came into being in 1789. We have just recently begun our third century. I suppose Obama would say that the 21st century is America’s fourth, just as Minnie Minoso played major league baseball in five decades. As always with Obama’s howlers, you should ask yourself: would the press have bought it if it came from Dan Quayle?
To comment on this post go here.