Jonathan Weisman writes for the Washington Post:
Dogged by persistent questions about his faith in God and country, Sen. Barack Obama today journeyed to Harry Truman’s birthplace to lay out his vision of patriotism, conceding that he has learned in this campaign “the question of who is — or is not — a patriot all too often poisons our political debate.”
“Throughout my life, I have always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given, ” Obama said. “It was how I was raised. It was what propelled me into public service. It it why I am running for president. And yet at times over the last 16 months, my patriotism [has been] challenged – at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for.”
Curiously, Obama did not name a single person that actually has attacked his patriotism. Is there any national figure who has actually done so? Sure, there are anonymous emails propounding fevered conspiracy theories, and there might even be more of them targeting Obama than others (although I sincerely doubt he can beat Cheney), but I’m not aware of any major media outlet or public figure who has done so.
No, I think that Obama has learned the value of attacking a straw man, as he has done on race and campaign finance. And, I think the reason he chose today is to distract from yesterday’s attacks by Wesley Clark — his campaign surrogate — on John McCain’s military experience:
“In the matters of national security policy making, it’s a matter of understanding risk,” [Clark] said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It’s a matter of gauging your opponents and it’s a matter of being held accountable. John McCain’s never done any of that in his official positions. . .
“He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world, but he hasn’t held executive responsibility,” Clark said. “That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded _ that wasn’t a wartime squadron.”
Clark is right I suppose; McCain didn’t command a squadron until after the war. During the war, his promotions got stalled for some reason. (I’m reminded of this again.)
POSTSCRIPT: Part of the reason Obama has had troubles in the area of patriotism is the ridiculous flag pin controversy. As the record shows, Obama manufactured that controversy himself, with his unwise decision to attack the patriotism of those who did wear flag pins. Too clever by half, it turned out.