by Gina Cobb | February 23, 2008 10:34 am
You’ll find Peggy Noonan’s latest column linked at Conservative Grapevine. She articulates well the trouble with Obama’s candidacy that is beginning to percolate:
Mr. Obama did not really have a good week, in spite of winning a primary and a caucus, and both resoundingly. . . . . His problem was, is, his wife’s words, not his, the speech in which she said that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of her country, because Obama is winning. She later repeated it, then tried to explain it, saying of course she loves her country. But damage was done. Why? Because her statement focused attention on what I suspect are some basic and elementary questions that were starting to bubble out there anyway.
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Here are a few of them.
Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism? Are they more inspired by abstractions like “international justice” than by old visions of America as the city on a hill, which is how John Winthrop saw it, and Ronald Reagan and JFK spoke of it?
Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised–so raised in the liberal cocoon–that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think? And are they, in this, like those cosseted yuppies, the Clintons?
Why is all this actually not a distraction but a real issue? Because Americans have common sense and are bottom line. They think like this. If the president and his first lady are not loyal first to America and its interests, who will be? The president of France? But it’s his job to love France, and protect its interests. If America’s leaders don’t love America tenderly, who will?
And there is a context. So many Americans right now fear they are losing their country, that the old America is slipping away and being replaced by something worse, something formless and hollowed out. They can see we are giving up our sovereignty, that our leaders will not control our borders, that we don’t teach the young the old-fashioned love of America, that the government has taken to itself such power, and made things so complex, and at the end of the day when they count up sales tax, property tax, state tax, federal tax they are paying a lot of money to lose the place they loved.
And if you feel you’re losing America, you really don’t want a couple in the White House whose rope of affection to the country seems lightly held, casual, provisional. America is backing Barack at the moment, so America is good. When it becomes angry with President Barack, will that mean America is bad?
John Hawkins touched upon Obama’s patriotism problem as well. Obama acts like a man who has little use for his own country, and Michelle Obama seems to be in the same place. When pressed on the patriotism question, she can muster a weak smile and she can praise America for it’s “possibilities” as if the country is one giant underachiever, but that’s about it.
If you have about three minutes, watch the video clip here at CNN Political Ticker and tell me whether you think this is an adequate recovery by Michelle Obama from her gaffe of saying that “For the first time” she is “proud of” her country.
I think it’s a partial recovery, but not enough to dispel the doubts Michelle Obama has created. What I conclude from the video is that Michelle Obama can say the appropriate words, at least half-way convincingly. After realizing the fallout from her words and after having had her opportunities pointed out to her, Michelle Obama is capable of admitting that she has had opportunities in America that do reflect rather well on the country. In the interview clip, Michelle Obama makes the obligatory statement that she loves her country and acknowledges the educational opportunities she and her husband have had, but she also uses the word “possibilities” three times to try to explain how she likes America.
That’s condemning with faint praise. America is not just “possibilities” that have yet to be realized.
America is a dream come true. It is a dream long since realized and still going strong.
America has been delivering real freedom, real economic opportunity, real prosperity and more for a long, long time.
Just ask Bill Gates. Just ask Colin Powell. Just ask America’s astronauts. Ask the people of France, whom American soldiers fought and died to free. Ask the people of Afghanistan who no longer witness regular, arbitrary executions at soccer stadiums. Ask the people of Iraq. Ask the people of Japan, who were conquered after they attacked America, but then freed to govern themselves in a democracy — and who are living in great economic prosperity today as a result.
Ask the millions of men and women who have fled to America from countries all around the world. Why do you suppose that is? For the possibilities of America, or for its reality?
Just ask tsunami victims halfway around the world who were sent billions of dollars in aid from America. Just ask men and women and children in Africa who are alive today thanks to aid from the United States of America. Were they saved by America’s possibilities?
Just ask the millions of Americans who are alive today thanks to the outstanding quality of medical care that America provides to its own people, from vaccinations to open heart surgery to innovative cancer treatments.
The list goes on and on. I could point to a thousand corners of America, or corners of the world, touched beneficently by America. Almost everywhere you look, there is another miracle in progress. The computer that sits on your desk or in your lap or in your hand right now — another economic miracle owed largely if not exclusively to America.
America is not just “possibilities.” It is already a dream come true. If you don’t agree with that much, Ms. Obama, then I’m not sure you really do understand the “possibilities” of America, nor the source from which they spring.
I’m sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Obama, but I don’t just love America for her “possibilities.” And if you don’t love America for what she already is, I don’t think I particularly care about your grand vision for America.
If there’s something to the Obama patriotisim problem — and I think there is — it will come back to haunt Obama again and again during the campaign.
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