obama and flag pin-gate part mmmdccxviii

Here we go again.

Geraghty in the Campaign Spot at National Review:

Sometimes, a mountain is made out of a molehill. It’s not a big deal when Obama won’t smile for the pushy guy who wants a picture, and there are bigger gaffes than sounding a little whiny when asking, “why can’t I just eat my waffle”?

But every once in a while, the mask completely slips, and Obama really sounds like a jerk. And I would submit that it occurred Saturday during an event in Indiana. (Hat tip, LGF.)

Here’s the entire Obama quotation:

“And the second thing, the way this has come up is the fact that I don’t always wear a flag pin. Now I don’t know if any of you who don’t have flag pins consider yourselves unpatriotic. I think you’re patriotic. The reason that I don’t always wear a flag pin is not that I disrespect the flag, it’s that when I started wearing a flag pin after 9/11, I gotta admit that sometimes I would misplace it and so I didn’t always put it on.”

Obama then referred to the time last October, when a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, TV reporter asked him why he didn’t wear a flag pin.

“Then I was asked about this in Iowa,” Obama said. “And somebody said ‘Why don’t you wear a flag pin?’ I said, well, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I said, although I will say that sometimes I notice that they’re people who wear flag pins but they don’t always act patriotic. And I was specifically referring to politicians, not individuals who wear flag pins, but politicians who you see wearing flag pins and then vote against funding for veterans, saying we can’t afford it.”

(What Obama said last October was: “You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. Instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.”)

Obama continued, saying “so I make this comment. suddenly a bunch of these, you know, TV commentators and bloggers (say) ‘Obama is disrespecting people who wear flag pins.’ Well, that’s just not true. Also, another way of saying it is, it’s a lie.

Geraghty again:

Bloggers aren’t lying. Back in October, Obama suggested that the wearing of the flag pin was “a substitute for true patriotism,” and he didn’t mention politicians, he didn’t mention votes for funding for veterans, he didn’t mention not referring to individuals. Only Barack Obama can retroactively insist that a statement is a specific reference to a particular group, without actually specifically referring to that particular group….

The strategy is clear: when you say something negative about Obama, you will be accused of lying.

As theorized 10 days ago by none other than yours truly, consider the following:

One thing people on the right who get upset about a statement like this miss in my book is he could have very well been attacking his own war hawk Democrats who started wearing flags like they were going out of style because of fear of looking “soft” on national security and having a “Come to Jesus” American patriotism moment as the President was (unbelievably and disgustingly imo) using the attack as a political weapon to humiliate opponents.

Or politicians more generally. Politicians (more of the Republican party in this case) who voted yea for war, nea for veteran funding. A Republican national security hypocrisy as it were versus the Democratic one I mentioned. But the political-national security-hypocrisy nexus there nevertheless.

As I also said in that post he, Obama, gets himself in trouble when he enters professorial mode and tries to think through things out loud in front of people, which is what I thought this was a case of. When he does so, his words can become vague and confusing.

Now what is clear is if you read the statement there is no reference to who the “we” in “we’re talking about the Iraq War” is…who is the we? Since he’s a politician, I surmised the “we” could have been politicians. Those on the opposite side like Geraghty assumed he meant regular citizens and now thinks Obama is just lying to cover his ass.

What no one ever asked him was who the “we” was in reference to–that got lost in a bunch of questions about whether he loved America more than Jeremiah Wright or not because it was assumed he meant anyone wearing a flag. Which is not an unreasonable assumption, but hardly a case-closed proposition either.

In other words, someone should have asked him–somebody like Geraghty perhaps–who he meant by the “we’re talking…”. Instead of jumping to the conclusion he meant everybody. He’s now clarifying his views and you can either take them to be genuine or not or partly genuine/partly not. But that pretty much is I would bet indicative of how one already feels about the guy.

Geraghty is flat wrong that Obama’s statement for sure, positively, no ifs ands or buts indicts non-politician flag pin-wearing citizens. It could have meant what he thinks it does. Could. But not necessarily did. The whole thing with the quotation is that it’s unclear. Is we the US? Is we the political circles he was running in?

If it’s the latter–as again I guessed it might have been–then that changes things pretty dramatically. He was then criticizing what he saw as politicians being hypocrites. One could also criticize even this more limited argument and that could be a legitimate point of debate. But those who want to use this politically wouldn’t get much out of that kind of statement I imagine.

But because it was immediately assumed he had meant everybody, no one asked him to clarify his comment in the initial response. So we will never know whether for sure whether his current clarification is true or not or just a political move. But to argue against that reading it seems to require that you already believe the dude is untrustworthy. And a jerk to quote JG. And certainly there are some so inclined and they find evidence for the position they’ve already taken. Not a real mind-bender by any stretch.

Obama now says that the “we” consisted of politicians–an argument which has plausibility or else I wouldn’t have come near to the mark in my guess….unless of course you think Obama and his crew are reading my blog for political advice (even I don’t have that high of an opinion of myself). In which case I want some attribution!!!

The reason I believe the argument has (some) plausibility is that he refers to patriotism as speaking out on “issues of national security”–which sounds like politicians and foreign policy experts to me. Speaking out as opposed to secretly being against the war but afraid to say so publicly (as Obama did) for wear of backlash. And that wearing a flag in that context–as opposed to actually thinking about, crafting policy for, and voting based on, the actual security needs of the US–is using the flag as cover, argues Obama.

Not folks on the street wearing a flag. The above is not something the average non-politician American does or is usually expected to do. Or judged based on.

Another point suggestive of this reading is the use of “we” in the first sentence, and then in the next, “The American People”. Again it’s inconclusive at best, but it could be read to point that the “we” was different than the People, i.e. politicians.

Now that’s not a lot to go on, to be sure. But there’s more there than assuming it’s automatically applicable to any flag-wearer. That’s the point–it’s way too vague a statement. And now too much time has passed and too much ink has been spilled in the political debate, the positions have already become too hardened, for him to give a clarification that will not be intrinsically suspect.

So the ramping up of the rhetoric with charges of lying also seems out of place to be fair on the other side. One one level, it’s simply a case of miscommunication. At least if you think his politician riff is sincere.  But given know-it-all blowhards assuming they can question and know for sure the reality of a man’s (un)patriotism because of one quotation, I can appreciate he’s pissed off about it.

On the other, it’s lying–or rather incorrect–to say that one knows for sure that his words referred to the larger populace and that one knows for sure that Obama is now lying and smearing opponents as Geraghty states. Even more so if one argues such action for sure tells us something about Obama’s “character”–especially something dispositive for the White House.

Lying implies knowing for sure one thing and consciously and intentionally saying another.  Lying about your age for example.  So it’s not lying; it’s just wrong (again assuming you know for sure differently than what Obama himself says.  Taking an educated guess is a different thing altogether.

We (You and I reader) don’t know any of this for sure–it’s possible he did mean what Geraghty says, possible he didn’t. You would have to weigh it with other things he has said and done. It’s subjective, no doubt about that, but there it is.

In other words, we (as in everybody involved in this) need to chill out a bit.  I don’t think he meant everybody who wears a flag is using that as a cover for real patriotism.  I can see how people took it that way and were rightly upset–if he had meant that it would have been offensive.  They were not crazy for thinking so. But I don’t that’s think what he meant.  He’s now said that wasn’t what he meant, so let’s all calm down and move on.

One more point: on the other other side, on whether the Democrats are wrong in their criticisms of McCain’s statement of 100 Years in Iraq, here.

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Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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