Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Obama and patriotism

John McCain has been subtly - and sometimes not so subtly - questioning Obama's patriotism. Obama hit back hard in a speech at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. Here's the video:

Josh Marshall is uncomfortable with this approach. He advises Obama to STOP BEGGING. I can see where Josh is coming from, but I think he's overly concerned. This is a tightrope that Obama is walking - he can't be seen as coming across as whiny. But I think Obama is striking the right tone. First, he choose a great venue - a veterans convention. He makes it clear that he respects their service to this country, and then demands that McCain do the same thing for him. But here's the kicker: he ties his demand to the fate of the country as a whole. He's not "asking" this for himself - that would be whining. He's demanding it for the sake of the country. There's a key difference between "asking" and "demanding." By tying his love of America to every other American's, he does several things. First, he reclaims the issue of patriotism from the right. For some on the left, being patriotic has occasionally been uncool, because it was associated with the right. I always thot that was the wrong approach. I think liberals are at their strongest when they claim that they love America so much that they want to do whatever they can to make it a better place, and that requires criticizing it.

So Obama is taking back the issue of patriotism. And he's essentially daring McCain to question his patriotism again. Obama is controlling the terms of this debate. I think he's putting McCain on the defensive. He's forcing McCain to address the issue head-on, which, of course, is the last thing that McCain wants to do. At some point, someone is going to force McCain to answer this straight up - does Obama love America as much as you do? And if McCain waffles or weasels, then he is the one who will look weak, and Obama is the one who will look tough.

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