Lost in the Shufffle

Wesley Clark's rebuke of Senator McCain's military service couldn't have come at a worse time for the Obama campaign (which may, or may not - depending on how conspiracy minded you are - prove that Clark was acting independently of the campaign). Obama was in Independence, Missouri to give a major speech defending his patriotism.

All Clark's remarks did was undermine Obama's critical message that he as is as patriotic as John McCain or anyone else. And that rumors about him not reciting the pledge or singing the national anthem are incorrect.

Then, there's the flag pin controversy.

If Obama had stuck to his guns and continued his practice of not wearing the flag pin, people might be more willing to believe him when he talks so glowingly about how much he loves this country. But there is a rank cynicism at play when we suspect him using symbols like the flag pin to say one thing to one group and another thing to others.

Byron York at NRO has Obama before and after on the flag pin controversy:

 I keep seeing the flag-pin issue included among the alleged falsehoods about Obama.  But didn't he, in fact, actively refuse to wear a flag pin?  And didn't he have a specific reason for not doing it? 

Like this:

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 testament to my patriotism.

Later, without much explanation, Obama decided to wear the pin and claimed that he had never really been against it.  But is it accurate to include the flag-pin issue among the "false rumors" about Obama without saying what actually happened?

Mr. Yorrk's question can be expanded to include the very notion of Mr. Obama's patriotism and how sincere he truly is. Manipulating people's emotions is easy if you are a gifted orator. But cynically changing your position on even such a small issue as wearing a flag pin only to innoculate yourself against charges that you are unpatriotic is the kind of "old politics" Mr. Obama is so fond of saying he no longer represents.

I grant Mr. Obama's patriotism is real and heartfelt (See Peter Beinart's sterling column on patriotism of the right and left in Time Magazine here.).

But if Mr. Obama wishes to convince the skeptical about his patriotism and love of country, he best not manipulate symbols like flag pins and use them as political talismans to keep people from criticizing him.