by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
On Fox News this week, Democratic operative Brad Woodhouse accused National Review editor Rich Lowry’s criticism of President Obama’s foreign policy of being “almost treasonous.”
“Rich, you sound like an apologist for Putin and almost treasonous against the United States,” Woodhouse exclaimed. “I mean, my God.”
Almost. Woodhouse later walked back his comment (sort of), but let’s be honest, questioning the patriotism of conservatives is nothing new, especially when it comes to foreign policy. If you were a Republican — or even someone temporarily and tepidly allied with Republicans, like Chuck Schumer — who opposed the Iran deal you were treated as someone actively working to undermine U.S. security. And if you happened to be a senator who signed a strongly worded letter to Iran’s leaders, well, hundreds of thousands of Americans would sign a petition demanding you be prosecuted for sedition.
This kind of accusation isn’t just bubbling up from a passionate left-wing base that was once rightly irritated by Ari Fleischer’s warning that Americans should watch what they say. It’s the president, too. “It’s those hard-liners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hard-liners chanting ‘Death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal,” Obama, confusing incidental alignment with a shared purpose, once claimed. “They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.” …
… Patriotism is nationalistic devotion to one’s country and the values that make it great. What are those ideas today? Liberals are a bit uncomfortable with overt displays of nationalism, which they tend to view as jingoistic, but they have no problem attaching the label “patriotic” to their own pet partisan causes. Instead of a Patriot Act we have “economic patriotism.” And if a person vigorously opposes “patriotism,” then logic dictates that he is contesting ideals that make this nation great.
So it makes complete sense when someone like David Plouffe feels comfortable accusing the GOP of committing “economic treason” or Hillary Clinton—who was once “sick and tired of people who claimed that if we debate and disagree with an administration somehow we are not patriotic”—compares Republican candidates to terrorist groups.
Democrats get away with these kind of ad hominem attacks without any hyperventilating media reaction for obvious reasons. Many editorial boards use comparable rhetoric. So do columnists in almost every major paper.