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The Patriotism Dodge — Paul Krugman edition
Posted by: Jon Henke on Friday, July 07, 2006

The Patriotism Dodge — i.e., pretending your opponents are challenging your patriotism — makes a return appearance in Paul Krugman's New York Times Column...
Things have changed since then: Mr. Bush's ability to wrap his power grab in the flag has diminished now that most Americans no longer consider him either competent or honest. But the administration and its supporters still believe that they can win political battles by impugning the patriotism of those who won't go along.
Ironically, while Krugman argues that the Republicans are trying to "win political battles by impugning the patriotism of those who won't go along", it was Democrat John Kerry who explicitly challenged the patriotism of those who disagreed with his policies.
Patriotism means not just ending this war, but preventing the next one — to act now so that at some future date America will never have to fight for its economic security because we are permanently held hostage to foreign oil. Patriotism ought to be commanding us for the second time in our history to declare and win our independence, this time not from foreign rule but from foreign oil. To live out the patriotism of Abraham Lincoln who said we were the "last best hope of Earth," leaders should be insisting that we stop being the denier of global warming that endangers the Earth.
Once again, while they make inferences about Republican policy positions, it's invariably the Democrats who openly question their opponents patriotism.

UPDATE:

Brendan Nyhan and I have gone back and forth on this issue a bit in the past. He's cited today's Krugman column, adding to it "an updated timeline of Republican attacks on dissent since the 2001 terrorist attacks". By all means, check out his post and make up your own mind.

My own opinion, though — and I'm largely lifting this from my comment there — is that his examples seem to fall into the realm of normal political debate. Each statement listed was an assertion that a Democrats statements, policies or position would be bad for US security, harmful in the War on Terror, etc. At no point was their "patriotism" mentioned, even implicitly.

Democrats routinely argue that the Bush administation's policies are harmful to US security, that the administration is putting our troops at risk, putting politics before security or harming us/helping the enemy in the War on Terror. And that's fine. That's what political opponents do, else they wouldn't be opponents. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong, but that's just the nature of debates about important, complicated issues.

What would be left of political discourse if we eliminated any claims that one's opponent was advocating harmful policies?

I'm perfectly prepared to accept the possibility that the Bush administration or a prominent Republican has questioned the patriotism of a Democrat. But 'I disagree with my opponent and think his policies would hurt the United States' is not an equivalent. It's certainly not equivalent to these:

Show/Hide

By all means, show me. Show me a quote wherein an administration official has explicitly questioned the patriotism of a Democrat. None of this stuff about suggesting their policies are detrimental or counter-productive, either. It's become common knowledge that the Bush administration and/or the Republican political leadership has questioned the patriotism of Democrats, so I'd like examples of that.

Surely, producing some actual quotes to back up these long years of Democratic martyrdom will be an easy task...
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Jon, it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who regularly question the patriotism of their opponents? That’s so patently absurd that you risk losing all credibility.
 
Written By: Bob Griendling
URL: http://www.CommonwealthCommonsense.com
Follow the link, Bob. Here’s another handy list of Democratic 2004 Presidential candidates—and Ted Kennedy—explicitly questioning the patriotism of Republicans.
* "John Ashcroft is not a patriot." — Howard Dean


* "I don’t think it’s patriotic to put on a flight suit and prance around on the deck of an aircraft carrier looking for a photo op." — Wes Clark


* "We hear them in the cries of the false patriots who bully dissenters into silence and submission. These are familiar fights. We’ve fought and won them before. And with John Kerry and John Edwards leading us, we will win them again" — Ted Kennedy


* "The policy that the administration is following in Iraq is ... anti-patriotic at the core..." — Sen. Graham


* "we deserve a president who stands up for patriotism and its real definition, which is doing what makes our country stronger and safer and more secure." — John Kerry


* "a group of people around the President whose main allegiance is to each other and their ideology rather than to the United States." — Howard Dean
Now, I’ve no doubt that some blogger/commenter somewhere questioned the patriotism of Democrats. But can you find me a comparable example of the Bush administration doing that to Democrats?

Note: I don’t care about examples where the administration argued that the Democrats policies were bad for the country. That’s not even remotely the same thing.

I know it’s become such received wisdom on the Left that the administration is "questioning their patriotism", but the examples cited don’t seem to match the claims.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Jon, you can tell by the comments that they are in response to attacks on Democrats’ patriotism.

Some blogger/commentor somewhere? Come on.
 
Written By: Bob Griendling
URL: http://www.CommonwealthCommonsense.com
Jon, you can tell by the comments that they are in response to attacks on Democrats’ patriotism.
Heh ... gotta love it. Rationalization at its finest.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Jon, you can tell by the comments that they are in response to attacks on Democrats’ patriotism.
Perhaps I’m just not blessed with your keen psychic insights, but no, I don’t think one can "tell". You’re welcome to review the context of each statement to verify that point. Many/most of them occurred when Democrats were giving speeches or having a debate amongst themselves.

In any event, I’ve provided a list of prominent Democrats — Presidential candidates, no less — explicitly questioning the patriotism of the administration. In response, you’ve offered nothing. How is it that I’m risking my credibility?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
If those comments are in response to administration officials questioning the patriotism of Democrats, it should be simple enough to provide the quotes from administration officials calling them unpatriotic, or not a patriot, or anti-patriotic.
 
Written By: Anoymous
URL: http://

Perhaps this link will help refresh memories:

http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2006/07/playing_the_tre.html
 
Written By: Amused
URL: http://
Perhaps this link will help refresh memories:
The link contains not one example of somebody’s ’patriotism’ being questioned. The Republicans asserted that Democratic positions, policies or statements are detrimental to US security. That is not "questioning their patriotism", it’s commonplace political debate.

Are you prepared to stipulate that every time a Democrat says their opponents policies are bad for the US, that they are questioning their patriotism? That’s nonsensical. It would effectively rule out virtually all political debate.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Amused,
I invite you to join me and ignoring this post. What the post hopes to incite is a serious discussion about a ridiculous premise. But this is a tactic first perfected by Lee Atwater and then copied by Karl Rove: Take your opposition’s legitimate argument and make it your own. Accuse them of what they can fairly accuse you of, get the press to fall for the “fair and balanced” meme and then hope there are enough suckers to believe it. Think of it as in the same league as arguing that there really isn’t global warming, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence. Dredge up a few bought and sold scientists and crank up the echo chamber and bingo, the world is cool – and flat. Or Darwinism is a sham. Take your pick. It’s transparent and I’m done. Bye.
 
Written By: Bob Griendling
URL: http://www.CommonwealthComonsense.com
I know it’s become such received wisdom on the Left that the administration is "questioning their patriotism"


What you term "received wisdom" is a common rhetorical device among the Internet Left that I call a Left Wing Known Fact (LWKF).

A LWKF is like anti-matter in the realm of logic and argumentation. Ordinarily, we expect that one who asserts something to be true has the burden to defend it. LWKF’s, on the other hand, must be presumed true until proven false
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
I invite you to join me and ignoring this post.
He said as he commented on the post for the third time.

No problem Bob ... most of us have been ignoring your nonsense from the get go.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Jon,
Your update helps the debate. Still I think that to find in many of the statements provided by Nyhan merely the language of policy dispute is, for one thing, to sanitize them, and for another, to undermine your own point by granting the Democrats the same convenience. One can say, perhaps, that the Republicans have found a more palatable way to impugn the patriotism of their opponents or that they do so less crudely. But charging your opponents, repeatedly, with helping the enemy (whether by charging that their positions undermine the troops or play to the desires of the enemy) is not the same thing as saying that their position is wrong, misguided, or flawed — which judgments would leave the question of patriotism to the side. The difference, that is, between being called unpatriotic and being called, but for the word, treasonous — the insinuation of giving aid and comfort to the enemy isn’t hard to see — seems too fine.
 
Written By: Amused
URL: http://
Bob,

I didn’t see your comment until after I posted. I agree. It is odd, unfortunate, that we should find ourselves debating such a thing.
 
Written By: Amused
URL: http://
The comments by Amused are very useful in clarifying this issue. It is being exceptionally literal to require the use of the actual word "unpatriotic" or the phrase "is not a patriot" by a Republican politician before we can suggest that patriotism is being questioned. For instance, when Rep. Geoff Davis says that, because of their dissent, Democrats have "cooperated with our enemies and are emboldening our enemies", intentionality is implied. This is not the same as saying that he believes the Democrats’ actions would have the effect of aiding our enemies; it is saying that it is their intent to do so. Would cooperating with our enemies be unpatriotic? I certainly think so. Has Davis said, verbatim, "Democrats are unpatriotic"? No. Has he said that Democrats are acting unpatriotically? Absolutely.
 
Written By: Vince
URL: http://
I invite you to join me and ignoring this post. What the post hopes to incite is a serious discussion about a ridiculous premise.
Bob, I’m pretty disappointed in this response. Not only have you ignored the evidence I’ve presented and refused to present any evidence for your own side, you’re now accusing me of rank dishonesty for even entertaining the premise; a premise for which I’ve actually provided evidence. If the global warming analogy is to be applied — and incidentally, I agree that global warming is anthropogenic and have addressed it here numerous times — it would be more accurate to say that I’m adopting the position with the evidence, and you’re the skeptic who accuses me of dishonesty despite mustering exactly no evidence to support your position.

If you’d rather toss a bomb and run away, that’s fine. It’s certainly your right to do so. But it’s unpersuasive. You’ve decided to skip the facts or the law and pound the table. I suspect you know that.

As I said, I’m perfectly willing to entertain the notion that the Bush administration/equivalently prominent Republicans have questioned the patriotism of Democrats. Perhaps you’re unaware, but I hold no particular love for Republicans. But "did so!" is not a persuasive argument.



 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Still I think that to find in many of the statements provided by Nyhan merely the language of policy dispute is, for one thing, to sanitize them, and for another, to undermine your own point by granting the Democrats the same convenience.
I’ve got no particular problem with that. Democrats frequently claim that Republican policies help al Qaeda, hurt us in the War on Terror, etc. Carl Levin said that "the way we fought the [Iraq] war [has] played into the hands of bin Laden". Is that equivalent to questioning the Patriotism of the administration?

Of course it’s not. It’s a perfectly legitimate policy criticism. Some policies can have the unitended effect of helping our enemies, regardless of the intentions of the politician.

Perhaps Levin right. Reasonable people can disagree. It’s important that this kind of dissent not be stifled. If you genuinely believed a policy was helping our enemy, how would you say that?
For instance, when Rep. Geoff Davis says that, because of their dissent, Democrats have "cooperated with our enemies and are emboldening our enemies", intentionality is implied.
No, intentionality is inferred. By you. It is no more implied in Davis’ comment than it is implied in Levin’s comment.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Vince writes:
For instance, when Rep. Geoff Davis says that, because of their dissent, Democrats have "cooperated with our enemies and are emboldening our enemies", intentionality is implied. This is not the same as saying that he believes the Democrats’ actions would have the effect of aiding our enemies; it is saying that it is their intent to do so. Would cooperating with our enemies be unpatriotic?
Jon challenged Bob to provide an example of the Bush administration questioning the patriotism of Democrats. I don’t think that is unreasonable, since the usual formulation of the Democrats’ complaint is that "Bush" or "the Bush administration" is questioning their patriotism for opposing the war in Iraq.

Surely it shouldn’t have been too difficult to link us up with a few of the more recent examples, right?

Bob left in a huff, and Vince stepped in with a quote from....Rep Geoff Davis? Who is Rep. Geoff Davis?

Vince writes that Rep. Davis is objecting to Democrats’ dissent. Actually, the snippet provided by Brendan Nyhan does not provide enough context to indicate what, specifically, prompted Davis to make the remark, but it is clear that Davis is not objecting to generalized dissent, but to prioritizing politics over "sound fiscal and national security policy".

The quote from Rep. Davis doesn’t mention patriotism at all, but Vince insists that if we were not so literal-minded we would clearly see that word in the penumbra. I don’t see it there. To say that one’s opponent is unpatriotic is essentially a moral judgement. To say that prioritizing politics over national security plays into the hands of the enemy is not a moral criticism of an opponent’s character, but a criticism of tactics, and a reasonable one if we accept the premise that whatever the Democrats did that day was prioritizing politics over national security.


I personally believe that the debate over Iraq suffers not from an excess of literal-mindedness, but from a lack of it. Far too much has made made from reading between the lines and deconstructing the texts of administration speeches, finding hidden meanings by techniques like counting how many times the words "Iraq" and "9/11" appear in the same speech.


 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://

 
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