By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Changing your mind is … unpatriotic?

You’re going to see a lot of this, unfortunately. McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers couldn’t manage a comment on Obama’s shift on Iraq without attacking his patriotism. Here is Rogers in the New York Times:

There is nothing wrong with changing your mind when the facts on the ground dictate it. Indeed, the facts have changed because of the success of the surge that John McCain advocated for years and Barack Obama opposed in a position that put politics ahead of country.

That last bit is so awkwardly grafted on that it’s obviously deliberate. And it’s going to happen a lot. Here we begin to see the real harm in Wesley Clark’s true but impolitic remarks about McCain’s getting shot down not being a qualification for president: they are so easily mischaracterized as an attack on McCain’s military service that they can be seen as justifying questions about Obama’s patriotism.

I recommend this David Greenberg essay in Slate on how patriotism has played out in presidential politics.

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  1. Esther

    Can’t we all just agree that Obama is patriotic and McCain is a war hero and move on to more important topics! The whole debate is tiresome.

  2. Don, American

    As long as there are politics, the nation will come second, at best. The founders sure didn’t create political parties. What would Thomas Jefferson say?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    You mean Jefferson the founder of the first opposition party? Hmmm … tell us, Don, what would he say?

  4. Don, American

    Oops, maybe I meant Jesus.

  5. Anonymous

    Clark’s comments weren’t “mischaracterized” as an attack on McCain’s military service. The were an attack on his service due mainly to the phrase “riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down,” which implies that A) McCain was some hapless passenger rather than a pilot who was trained in sticking landings on aircraft carriers [which, by all accounts, requires major stones] and B) he was an inept one at that since he, you know, got shot down. For someone with Clark’s background, that’s not an innocent slip of the tongue. Any normal military person would have referred to McCain as “flying a fighter plane and getting shot down.” He was being cute with his choice of words. Of course, he also failed to mention the years McCain spent years as a POW.

  6. Anonymous

    Obama’s shift on Iraq is so galling it’s almost laughable. I supported Hillary because I thought her position was grounded in reality. I thought Obama’s position was naive and reactionary. Now I see it was just a cynical ploy all along. I guess I should have known better because aside from a speech he gave before he was a Senator his Iraq record is the same as Hillary’s. How the hell am I supposed to vote for this guy? And don’t give me any lame “flexibile” or “thoughtful” excuses for Obama. I’ve heard them all and they don’t hold water.

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