Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Barack Obama as re-imagined by Time's Joe Klein

Sigh. It seems like "lack of patriotism" is going to be the No. 1 knock on Obama, but of all the attack lines (how about aloofness, for example), I think this one is the weakest, even as Obama couldn't wear enough flag lapel pins to satisfy the likes of Klein.

Barack Obama as re-imagined by Time's Joe Klein

Honestly, if Obama showed up at his next rally dressed exactly like this, it probably STILL wouldn't be enough for the likes of Time's Joe Klein, who's here to tell us:

But there was still something missing. I noticed it during Obama's response to a young man who remembered how the country had come together after Sept. 11 and lamented "the dangerously low levels of patriotism and pride in our country, the loss of faith in our elected officials." Obama used this, understandably, to go after George W. Bush. "Cynicism has become the hot stock," he said, "the growth industry during the Bush Administration." He talked about the Administration's mendacity, its incompetence during Hurricane Katrina, its lack of transparency. But he never returned to the question of patriotism. He never said, "But hey, look, we're Americans. This is the greatest country on earth. We'll rise to the occasion."

Well, if that doesn't prove he's the Manchurian candidate, Klein adds:

"In this campaign, we will not stand for the politics that uses religion as a wedge and patriotism as a bludgeon," he said on the night that he lost Ohio and Texas. But then he added, "I owe what I am to this country, this country that I love, and I will never forget it." That has been the implicit patriotism of the Obama candidacy: only in America could a product of Kenya and Kansas seek the presidency. It is part of what has proved so thrilling to his young followers, who chanted, "U-S-A, U-S-A," the night that he won the Iowa caucuses. But now, to convince those who doubt him, Obama has to make the implicit explicit. He will have to show that he can be as corny as he is cool.

Am I missing something?...I guess talking about "this country that I love" must be a pretty deeply veiled reference to his patriotism. Sigh. It seems like "lack of patriotism" is going to be the No. 1 knock on Obama, but of all the attack lines (how about aloofness, for example), I think this one is the weakest, even as Obama couldn't wear enough flag lapel pins to satisfy the likes of Klein.

Perhaps the most appealing thing about Obama's candidacy -- even if you're not a supporter -- is his notion that thought-free token patriotism, in the form of lapel pins and the like, can be replaced with love not for symbols but for true American ideals -- like opportunity for all, and basic human and Constitutonal rights, the ideas that caused those supporters to chant "U-S-A, U-S-A."

It's been almost four years since Obama introduced himself to most Americans, but here's what he said that night:

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our Nation - not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

That is the true genius of America, a faith -- a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted -- at least most of the time.

 

Those words defined patriotism to a lot of people who watched it.

Now, if only he'd worn a lapel pin while saying them....

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Will Bunch
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