Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Peek into the Republican View of How to Properly Love America

I have finished reading a fascinating, yet disturbing, article that gives frank insight into the Republican worldview and how to properly express love for America and proper patriotism, especially if you are President of the United States.  It's worth a read, but I feel it's necessary to almost interact directly with the essay to respond to it adequately.


The author, who chairs a lobbying and communications firm cofounded by Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi in 1991, starts by somewhat defending Rudy Giuliani's recent statement that President Obama doesn't love this country without exactly co-signing his remarks.  Then he starts trying to explain the Republican viewpoint:

The fact is that a lot of Republicans do believe that Obama doesn’t clearly and consistently demonstrate his love for America in a way that they can always relate to. 
The first sentence is helpful, and peaks my curiosity.  I relate to a statement that somehow Obama doesn't display his love of country in a way that Republicans recognize or relate to.  Tell me more! 

The media are in full-throttle attack mode against anyone who gives pause to Giuliani’s statements. Their blaring “how dare you” harangue reveals their defensiveness.
Here we go, the required attack on "the media", which does NOT include right wing radio or Fox News.  Any criticism of Republicans is part of an established conspiracy that just PROVES conservatives are right about everything!  *sarcasm*

 “Love” is a subjective term, and humankind has grappled with exactly what love is since the beginning of time. So who is to say who loves whom and who loves what?
Precisely the point!  That's the whole point of the "how dare you!" harangue mentioned earlier.  This is the President of the United States you are accusing of hating the very country he leads, all because he doesn't express his love of country the way you want him to.
Well, first of all, in politics, image matters.
Indeed, it does.  Too often, image is ALL that matters.
It’s easy to imagine Bill Clinton and either President Bush getting teary-eyed at the proverbial Fourth of July parade, as the veterans wave and flatbeds filled with 4-H kids roll by. It’s hard to imagine Obama in a similar situation. He has a cerebral, cool and aloof style that keeps him a little distant.
I seem to remember mockery of Bill Clinton for his "I feel your pain" personality and his ability to get choked up quite often.  It didn't become "OK" until Dubya started doing it.  Anyway, one of the reasons the country elected Obama was his detached sense of calm no matter the situation.  In case you forgot, the country was in full meltdown in the fall of 2008, and we needed someone calm who could get in there and FIX IT because the rest of us were just scared of what was going to happen next.  So Obama doesn't cry  in public when puppies, veterans, or children appear.  So what?  Grow the hell up. 

From the beginning, this president’s misguided approach to foreign policy has suggested something about what he sees as America’s place in the world. It goes all the way back to the 2008 campaign, when then-Sen. Obama said he would agree to meet unconditionally with America’s enemies, including the leaders of Venezuela, Iran and North Korea.
Once again, this statement about the 2008 campaign lacks any understanding of what was going on at the time.  We'd had eight years of "pre-emptive war" doctrine and F*ck-You, You-are-either-with-us-or-against-us diplomacy that had alienated just about everyone, especially our traditional allies.  Bush wouldn't even SPEAK to anyone who dared disagree to his face.  This kind of foreign policy had not served us well, and Obama understood that.  His willingness to simply listen, even to our enemies was a breathe of fresh air.  It seemed more reasonable than what we had been doing.   No where did Obama promise to concede anything to America's enemies... he simply expressed a willingness to not act like a big bully.  It's a shame conservatives think that is proof of hating America.
This willingness to accommodate America’s traditional enemies and at times, disregard old friends, has been a nagging and persistent pattern in the administration from when he was first elected to the present day.
Well, that's a loaded statement.  So talking to enemies is "accommodating" them.  I suppose it's better to just bomb them into submission rather than try to have a dialogue, right?  As to disregarding old friends... other than Israel (which is way more complicated than simply charging that Obama is dismissing that country), who else has Obama "disregarded" and how?

 Most recently, the president’s gift of recognition to our traditional enemy Cuba — while getting nothing in return — and his inaction as another traditional enemy, Russia, makes a mockery of peace talks and interferes in a country that wants the United States to come to its aid just add to the idea that Obama is quick to let America’s enemies have their way.
Here we have some specifics!  We have been aware since at least the 1990s that the whole Cuba embargo was an abject failure.  It did not bring Castro to his knees or end communism on the island.  Here again, we have Obama willing to own up to a policy that HAS NOT WORKED and say let's try something different and see what happens.  I'm not sure what Obama would demand "in return" for abandoning a policy that hasn't served our national interests.  Opening Cuba up to more interaction with Americans will change the island for the better.   We don't let a communist regime stop us from interacting with China, do we?  Why not see if we can't practice some cultural imperialism to open up Cuba?  

On Russia, I'd love to know what the Republicans would prefer Obama does.  Our traditional friends do not want a war exploding in Ukraine between Russia and the Allies.  There's way too many nuclear weapons involved, and Putin is just crazy enough to think about using them if he's pushed too hard.   Obama's philosophy appears to be to let diplomacy exhaust itself before using military force.  Yes, he can sometimes wait too long (see Syria) but again, we are coming from an era with Bush that was "shoot first, maybe talk later...but only if you agree with me".  Our allies are more likely to support Ukraine if all avenues short of war have been exhausted.   As with most messes in Europe, this Ukraine situation could get out of hand very quickly.   It's clear to me that Obama is doing all he can to keep that from happening. 

 And then there is the disastrous, continuing effort to avoid offending Islamic terrorists.... Yet the president won’t even put the words “Islamic” and “terrorist” together. Somehow the president manages to leave the impression that he doesn’t want to offend those who would like nothing better than to kill us. His refusal to call them out fits with the notion that he might not see the danger or apply all necessary means to fight these terrorist groups.
SERIOUSLY?!?  Sweet baby Jesus, save us!  He doesn't go on and on about "Islamic terrorists" because he's not trying to fan the flames of religious hatred or prejudice.   We have Muslims living in this country who are fellow American citizens.  Why should Obama qualify the terrorist groups as Islamic when we don't do the same for groups who happen to be Christian or some other faith?  Timothy McVey was a terrorist, not a "Christian terrorist".  Even President Bush was careful to stress that our gripes were not against Islam itself, but against terrorists who abuse and distort the religion.  Take your xenophobia somewhere else, conservatives. 
Many were left flat-footed and with jaws dropped after the president’s remarks at the recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he let the Islamic terrorists know that he is keeping their actions in context. Obama felt compelled to equate today’s Islamic terrorist butchers to the Christian Crusaders of 900 years ago. It was just another example of how the president appears willing to try to understand — if not justify — the actions of those who hate America.
Now he's just making me tired.  So by Obama reminding folks who seem to think that Christianity is above reproach that we too have a checkered history that doesn't accurately reflect our faith, he's giving the terrorists a verbal bear hug with a hand job?!?!?  REALLY?!?   It may be beyond the pale for conservatives to have a little reasoned perspective on emotional matters, but in the rest of the world, this is generally considered to be a good thing.   If we do not understand the history of these conflicts and grievances, they cannot be beaten.  Just because you acknowledge some really awful things Christians did in the name of the faith 900 years ago does not excuse what terrorists are doing in the name of their faith now, no matter how much Republicans say it is so.  Trying to understand what drives the hatred of these radical, unhinged terrorists is not to apologize for them...it is looking for insights to undermine, beat, and destroy them.   Obama gets this.  Heck, I get it.  Why can't conservatives?  Why is this concept so difficult?

In the meantime, the president is ignoring our loyal ally, the prime minister of Israel, and plenty of America’s most experienced foreign policy leaders in dealing with Iran — a country that has said it wants to acquire nuclear weapons to use against Israel and the United States. Obama’s evolving position on how much of a weapons infrastructure he will allow Iran to keep is frightening to anyone who fears for Israel, the United States and our other allies. It makes one wonder about the president’s commitment to ensuring that Iran does not ever have nuclear weapons.

Notice how the author shifts the focus from "disregarding old friends" (i.e. Israel) to "ignoring" Benjamin Netanyahu who is the current PM of Israel.  I don't know enough about the negotiations to have an opinion on what Obama is or is not willing to do to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.  I will cast a weary eye on whatever the deal is simply because I don't think Iran can be trusted.  It's leaders want a nuke in order to dominate the middle east.  The notion that Iran could fire a nuclear missile at the USA and get away with it, is ridiculous.  The ayatollah may have wet dreams about turning Washington DC in to a nuclear wasteland, but it is not going to happen.  Israel is in far greater danger, which makes the political games Netanyahu is playing even more dangerous.  He all but actively campaigned against Obama in 2012, which is not only a breach of protocol but a very dangerous game to play in a divided America. 

I will concede no ground to anyone in my support of Israel's right to exist.  Israel is not perfect, but the existence of this Jewish democracy needs to be protected.   I understand that average Palestinians have been brutally punished in an effort to defeat their leaders, and Israel has gone too far quite a few times.  But like America, Israel is not perfect.  Admitting this does not diminish support for Israel overall or its existence.  It is infantile to suggest otherwise.  The choices are not "Whatever Israel Wants is Awesome" or "We hate Israel and hope the Jews are Pushed into the Sea".    Again, other than direct war on Iran, what would conservatives do?

Obama also has a famously strained relationship with the military. His own former defense secretary, Robert Gates, was particularly pointed in his revelation that he didn’t think the president liked being around members of the military. And of course, for many Republicans, the U.S. military is the most revered of all government institutions. Lack of support for the military can be viewed not only as an indication of a lack of traditional patriotism but also as a lack of commitment to America’s strength.
Here's a theory:  Conservatives will always believe that anyone who is NOT a Republican in the White House is illegitimate.  Bill Clinton was considered illegitimate by the right since he never got 50% of the overall vote despite his overwhelming electoral college victories.  The right cried foul when many of us considered Bush illegitimate after the 2000 election since he got a half million FEWER votes than Gore and only won with a handy assist from 5 Republican members of the Supreme Court.  Of course, once 9/11 happened, we put those concerns aside and supported Bush's actions (remember his 90% approval?) until he pushed fake evidence to get us into a war in Iraq that was really about avenging his daddy.  Clinton was hit with the "disrespect" charge for his less than crisp salute.  Technically, the President of the United States is not to return a salute since he is commander-in-chief.   It was Reagan who started this practice, and it was incorrect then and is incorrect now.  But since His Holiness, Ronald Wilson Reagan, did it, every president since has done it (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/opinion/01winfrey.html)   It doesn't mean Obama hates the military, and just because Sec. Gates thinks Obama didn't like to be around military members does not make it so. 

The real issue is here is the unquestioning reverence that the GOP has for the military that the author admits to.  When it comes to things like healthcare, social security or any domestic spending, conservatives love to claim "fiscal discipline" but if the military wants it, we should give it unquestioningly.  America's military should always be strong, but it also needs to be smart to avoid the pitfalls that history shows happens to great militaries who are unquestioned by the people.  To me, Obama shows proper dedication to the military and its mission.  The charge that he doesn't like military people or the military in general has not basis in fact.

The author wraps up his explanation of the Republican worldview complaining about a hurried salute holding a coffee, the fact that Al Sharpton is welcome in the White House (the horror!  He might as well have Bin Laden over for tea...except Obama is the one who killed Bin Laden) and that a civil rights lawyer was appointed Secretary of Labor instead of some Chamber of Commerce type who sees the worker as a tool rather than a human being.

All this combines to give people plausible reasons to think that Obama doesn’t exactly see America as the light in the darkness or as the world’s best hope, and he even had to be shamed into acknowledging American exceptionalism. So is it reasonable to wonder whether his heart is really in it? Is it ridiculous to think this president is biased toward seeing America’s flaws and imperfections first and that he doesn’t see America as the worthy leader of the world?
Allow me to answer your questions, Mr. Rogers (yes, that's his name). NO, it is not reasonable to wonder whether his heart is really in defending and protecting this country based on what you've written.  YES, it is ridiculous to think that President Obama is biased toward America's flaws and imperfections and would rather that America not be a leading nation.  Obama recognizes that the world, and the United States place in it, is a complicated and nuanced picture.  It does not mean we aren't a great nation, because we are.  It doesn't mean we are perfect either, because we aren't.  We should constantly challenge ourselves to be better.  Obama understands that, why can't you?