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WSJ: Democrats and Patriotism

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by basso, Aug 30, 2004.

  1. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    excellent essay by best of the web's james taranto in today's journal on the democrat's obsession with the patriotism issue, and why it's not a winner for them.

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/pl/?id=110005545

    --
    PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP
    The Democrats' Patriotism Problem
    Whining about imagined attacks is not a winning approach.

    BY JAMES TARANTO
    Monday, August 30, 2004

    NEW YORK--President Bush may or may not get a "bounce" out of his convention here this week, but one suspects John Kerry is grateful for a respite after weeks of pounding by Vietnam veterans angry over his past antiwar activities and his present war-hero braggadocio. Before we turn our sights to the festivities at Madison Square Garden, it's worth pausing to consider how the Democrats ended up in this mess. Why did they nominate a candidate whose almost obsessive invocation of Vietnam made it all but inevitable that this decades-old war would become a central issue in the campaign?

    The answer, simply put, is that the Democratic Party has a problem with patriotism, a problem that Mr. Kerry's status as a decorated Vietnam veteran was supposed to obviate.

    To say that the Democrats have a problem with patriotism is not to say that they are unpatriotic. But they are awfully defensive about their patriotism. "Of course the vice president is questioning my patriotism," Michael Dukakis fumed during a 1988 presidential debate. "And I resent it." After Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia lost his 2002 re-election bid, it became part of Democratic (and journalistic) folklore that he owed his ouster to GOP attacks on his patriotism. And last month in Boston, Mr. Kerry declared: "We have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. . . . We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism."

    In fact, these men had been criticized by their GOP opponents not over patriotism but over policy: Gov. Dukakis's veto of a Pledge of Allegiance bill, Sen. Cleland's vote against creating the Homeland Security Department over the absence of union privileges for workers in the new agency, and Sen. Kerry's 19-year record on defense, especially his vote last year against funding the military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Surely it is fair for any politician to take issue with his opponent's official acts. And if those acts were motivated by something other than antipathy toward America--as any fair-minded observer must presume they were--they could have been defended on their merits. Instead, Democrats themselves raised the issue of patriotism by defensively denying that they lacked it. A cardinal rule of political communication is never to repeat an accusation in the course of denying it ("I am not a crook"). These candidates "repeated" a charge no one had even made.

    Contrast this with the way Republicans responded during the primary season when Democrats did question their patriotism. "I'm tired of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and a bunch of people who went out of their way to avoid their chance to serve [in the military] when they had the chance," Mr. Kerry declared in April. Earlier, Wesley Clark refused to renounce a supporter's claim that Mr. Bush was a "deserter." And Howard Dean flatly stated: "John Ashcroft is not a patriot."

    Republicans didn't care--and why should they? No one seriously believes Messrs. Ashcroft, Bush, Cheney and Rove are unpatriotic. When Messrs. Clark, Dean and Kerry question their opponents' patriotism, it has some mild shock value but carries no real sting, like a child trying out a naughty word he's just learned.

    So why do Democrats feel so vulnerable on the issue of patriotism? This question takes us back to the 1960s and, yes, Vietnam. That war, which a Democratic president escalated, split the party, costing it the presidency in 1968. By 1972 the countercultural left was firmly established as a part of the Democratic coalition--and it remains so. A significant and vocal minority of the party, that is, believes that America is imperialistic, racist, militaristic, oppressive, etc. These views aren't necessarily unpatriotic; it is possible to love one's country and also be a harsh critic of it. But if dissent can be patriotic, assent is far less complicatedly so.

    That's especially true during wartime, when domestic disunity can aid the enemy. Several men who were prisoners of war in Vietnam have said their communist captors used tapes and transcripts of Mr. Kerry's antiwar testimony in an effort to demoralize them during interrogation sessions. These days, overseas opponents of America's war effort cite the agitprop movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" as if it were authoritative--and the Democrats treated the maker of that film as a hero at their convention, where he was an honored guest of Jimmy Carter.

    After the Sept. 11 attacks, it seemed possible that the antiwar counterculture was a thing of the past. But old habits die hard, and for the most part the Democratic left soon returned to its Sept. 10 mindset. Democrats nominated John Kerry, respected on the left for his antiwar agitation, on the theory that his war-hero pose would establish his patriotism and be sufficient to compensate for his lack of a muscular foreign policy.

    Instead it has raised questions about his character. One veteran quoted in "Unfit for Command" puts the matter pungently: "In 1971-72, for almost 18 months, he stood before the television audiences and claimed that the 500,000 men and women in Vietnam, and in combat, were all villains--there were no heroes. In 2004, one hero from the Vietnam War has appeared, running for president of the United States and commander in chief. It just galls one to think about it."

    The Democrats' problem goes deeper than their flawed nominee. Just as in 1968, they are a party divided on questions of war and peace. This didn't matter during the seemingly placid 1990s, but today it puts them at a severe disadvantage. It's difficult to see how they can overcome it.

    It should be clear by now, though, that whining about imagined attacks on patriotism is not a winning approach. If it were, Michael Dukakis would be a former president and Max Cleland would not be a former senator.

    Mr. Taranto is editor of OpinionJournal.com and co-editor, with Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, of "Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House" (Wall Street Journal Books, 2004), available from the OpinionJournal bookstore.
     
  2. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    Whining is not the answer. Attacking is.
     
  3. plcmts17

    plcmts17 Member

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    And yet Bill Clinton gets elected even though he was branded as unpatriotic and shrub does probably the most "unpatriotic" thing in not going to Vietnam to fight for his country.
    The last time I checked both Kerry and Gore went to serve their country when nothing was on the line. No election,no gallup poll, nothing but serving their country.
    This smear campaign will not work against Kerry like it didn't work against Clinton. But when you got nothing,I guess you got nothing to lose...except your self respect.
     
  4. DonnyMost

    DonnyMost not wrong
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    y'all started it

    [/thirdgrade]
     
  5. GreenVegan76

    GreenVegan76 Contributing Member

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    Love of country is not the same as love of government.

    I love my country and I consider myself a proud patriot. I'm also a proud liberal, which evidently invalidates my "defensive" patriotism.

    It's because I love my country that I criticize our government. When I see a friend do something I think is dangerous, it's my responsibility as a good friend to tell him so. When I see a government do something I think is dangerous, it's my responsibility as a good citizen to tell it so.

    Criticizing government is not the same as criticizing America. Taranto intentionally confuses the two and then asks the reader to only consider one particular viewpoint as "true" patriotism. That's simply dishonest.
     
  6. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    I think the reason this resonates with some people is that criticism CAN have external, as well as internal effects. See homeland protests during vietnam and its effects on Ho's decisions, see al queda attacks in spain, etc. Critics want to only acknowledge the good points of self examination (and those are undeniable - certainly an involved citizen can criticize policy and be patriotic), but scoff at contention that there can also be a downside. That's not dishonest, just mistaken.
     
  7. No Worries

    No Worries Contributing Member

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    When 9/11 happened, the Bush WH was pimping long range missles and an anti-p*rnography agenda, ignoring terrorist attacks on home soil (despite being warned otherwise). The Bush Admin dropped the ball. Had Gore won and also dropped the ball, methinks the WSJ et. al. would be ripping Gore a new one the size of the WTC. Excellent essay, indeed.
     
  8. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    think you've missed the point, the essay was about why the democrats are so defensive about their patriotism that they continue to make it an issue, even when it isn't, or shouldn't be. for instance, this year, rather than nominate someone with a sound policy on the WOT and iRaq, they've just grabbed the nearest guy with medals on his chest. to me, it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues.
     
  9. wouldabeen23

    wouldabeen23 Contributing Member

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    It's telling that the author should mention the Democrats split during the Vietnem conflict. Where we had an old "yellow-dog" southern Democrat from Texas who exploded the war in Vietnam(Johnson) and dragged the Democratic party and the south, through sheer force of will, into passing civil rights legislation.

    The growth of the Republican party and the "jumping ship" of hard-line Dixiecrats during that time was a direct result of states rights, and for all intents, racisim. Make NO mistake, this is where the Republican base started in the South. Hell, GWB was the second Republican govenor in Texas since Reconstruction!!

    But the Democratic party was PATRIOTIC enough to recognize that change was needed and followed the right path. INCLUDING protesting their own president against an un-just war. It's amazing how we have let the Radical Right define our patriotism and rule this debate--NO LONGER
     
  10. SamFisher

    SamFisher Contributing Member

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    Unpatriotic?
     
  11. No Worries

    No Worries Contributing Member

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    My point was a bit of an aside. I tried to imagine what that bastion of journalism WSJ would being writing in their op-eds if Gore had won.

    Back to the article's point, patriotism is an issue for this race. Kerry's war record viz-a-viz GWB lack thereof is getting traction with the voters. That is why Kerry is pushing it so hard and why Rove is attacking it so hard. Thus, it is the Republicans that are vulnerable on patriotism and not vice versa.
     
  12. GreenVegan76

    GreenVegan76 Contributing Member

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    You're right: patriotism *shouldn't* be an issue in the election.
     
  13. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    I think the answer is that Dems wouldn't mind it becoming one of the issues, if it was dealt with in a credible manner.
    Actually the Republicans had a problem with the Dems patriotism. I believe that the dems were trying to take that issue off of the table so the focus could be on other real issues. Perhaps, to a lesser degree, they were hoping to give the GOP a dose of their own medicine.
    This is only partially accurate. By using images of Osama and Saddam when talking about Cleland's record it certain was questioning his patriotism. Kerry's vote against that bill was a vote against the Bush proposal which didn't specify how the money was going to be spent. In hindsight Kerry was very wise to vote the way he did since Haliburton(funded by that bill) has already been found to have been bilking the tax payers. Kerry did a great job looking out for us by wanting to put accountability into funding.
    no charge was made against these candidates the exact same way that poll taxes weren't racist because they didn't singal out race, or literacy tests given weren't racist.

    Where is the questioning of patriotism here? Kerry is responding to attacks, and hyprocrisy.
    This is at least arguable, considering Ashcroft could have been brought up for contempt of congress earlier, and his enforcement of the patriot act if not provisions of the act itself could be considered contrary to our constitution. But, depending on the context, I'm willing to let this charge slide.

    The enemy may take comfort from it, but that isn't really the point. The point is that people should speak out against injustice, and war crimes, and causes that are contrary to our nations values. In the case of Viet Nam that testimony was part of an effort that helped end an unjust war, and bring our troops home, saving many of their lives, and the lives of others which would have been called up for the draft. If it also helped comfort our enemies, that isn't a good thing, but it's a sacrifice in a just cause. I do wish that any of it which turned out to be false wouldn't have been used. I wish that not only because it wasn't true, but because there were things that were true that were equally as gruesome and horrendous going on.
    Thank goodness it wasn't a thing of the past, or the faulty intel, and scrapping the idea that we use war as last resort, and only when necessary would have gone unquestioned. It's still up in the air whehter we allow certain principles our nation has always stood for will be forever changed or not.
    What a huge misrepresentation, since the democratiac was initially hugely in favor of the invasion of Afghanistan. The problem being the invasion of Iraq which had nothing to do with Sept. 11th. For some reason the author of the piece keeps on bringing it up in connection with anti-war protests.

    First of all Kerry being a war-hero isn't a pose, and nothing the swiftboart folks could come up with has changed that one bit.

    Secondly his foreign policy in regards to terrorism has the exact same muscle that Bush's does, plus a plan for better intel, and even has more muscle than Bush's policy as far dealing with actual terrorism, and having more allied help in our battle. As Clinton said having a 'military might' only foreign policy isn't smar, and we can't whip everybody with our military every time there is a disagreement.
    This only goes to show how little that particular Viet Nam vet understood of what Kerry was actually saying.

    It should also be clear to the GOP that whining about being caught and crying out 'we aren't calling them unpatraiotic. Why are they being so mean?' is not only whining as well, it's also untrue.

    P.S. I agree with some things in the essay, and some things I disagree with.
    I only left in the parts of the article I had any real disagreement with.
     
    #13 FranchiseBlade, Aug 30, 2004
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2004
  14. Sishir Chang

    Sishir Chang Contributing Member

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    True, there is a downside to freedom, particularly freedom of speech, assembly and the press. Still there is a good reason that those are enshrined in the very First Ammendment to the Constitution. The Framers understood that without the freedom to dissent even in times of great crisis there really can't be a free society.

    What good is freedom if it is only exercised when there is no consequence to it?
     
  15. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    Exactly. Along the same lines some people condone the loss of civil liberties for American citizens who are held without constitutional rights as enemy combatants, because we 'at war'. That's a war that Bush himself says won't ever be won. So in essence some of our rights are gone?

    What is the use of having those rights if they are only good when the sailing is smoothe. What's the use of fighting terrorists or anyone else for those rights and freedoms if they are so inconsequential that they are scrapped at the first sign of trouble.
     
  16. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    Depends on what the consequence is. If the consequence gets soldiers killed on the ground then I'm not sure I'm for that too much. Which all an aside anyway. My point is that some say they cannot understand why people feel this way. I understand why. Many people don't want freaky protesting types getting soldiers killed by emboldening our enemy. Many of the people who feel that way have family or friends in the military.

    FB,

    There is a tightening of 'rights' in every crisis, and yet we're still here. It always swings back.
     
  17. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    THere is but that tightening isn't always the right thing to do. I don't believe it was right to put Japanese citizens into internment camps. That did swing back afer the war, but in this case Bush admits the war will never be won. We always be fighting it, so when are the rights supposed to swing back?
     
  18. No Worries

    No Worries Contributing Member

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    November 2, 2004.
     
  19. HayesStreet

    HayesStreet Member

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    True, but even that decision was confirmed by the Supreme Court as constitutional. That's the way the system was built to work. Extengencies might dictate a tightening, but the do come back when the crisis is over or public sentiment changes or when leadership changes. I agree that doesn't make some of the tightening (you'd have to be ultra specific if you want to break it down) 'right,' but its also normal in the system we're in, and in the one the founders envisioned.

    No Worries probably has it right, though. I can't help but thinking Bush is going to win again, so it may be 2008 instead of 04.

    My original post though, is more about self limitation rather than government intervention. If its true than internal dissent can embolden external enemies then that is a negative consequence dissenters should acknowledge and be aware of. It also is a point of view they should acknowledge instead of just saying 'it's the most patriotic thing in the world to protest' and acting incredulous that someone would resent it.
     
  20. Sishir Chang

    Sishir Chang Contributing Member

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    Again as I said though there are almost always dangerous consequences to free speech and dissent in times of crisis especially too the leadership. The British shut down presses and arrested outspoken Colonists during and right before the Revolutionary war because they understood that that was a threat. To Monarchists it was despicable and traitorous that British citizens in the colonies would dare to criticize the British crown during a time of extended war with France yet if those then British citizens hadn't stood up to criticize the British government we wouldn't have the United States. This is why the Framers recognized that dissent expressed through free speech, free press and free assembly was not just a good thing but necessary to democracy as a check on government. Even when the government argues that such actions only put the safety of the state or its troops at threat.

    For Vietnam what this comes down to is that for a democracy to effectively fight a war it needs to sustain the overwhelming support of an overwhelming majority of its population.
     

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