Ed Driscoll

'Progressives' Peculiar Sense of Patriotism'

“The best thing Obama can seem to say about the country is that it elected him into office,” Jonah Goldberg writes in his latest G-File:

Look, it was like a week ago that we were talking about Obama’s inability to criticize the Islamic State without first going out of his way to flagellate the West and America over the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, and Jim Crow. Is it really so crazy to think a guy who feels compelled to warn his own countrymen not to get on their “high horse” about child rapists and slavers (who are also beheading and/or immolating and/or burying alive Americans, Christians, Yazidis, and fellow Muslims) might subscribe to an, um, unconventional form of patriotism?

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More than any other president, Obama was raised with a detachedly critical view of America. He grew up abroad and in Hawaii, which is as close as you can get to growing-up abroad and still be in the United States. (Sorry, I love Hawaii, but it’s true.) At school he hung out mostly with the foreign-exchange students from Pakistan. “For years when Barack was around them, he seemed to share their attitudes as sophisticated outsiders who looked at politics from an international perspective,” David Maraniss writes in his biography of Obama. “He was one of them, in that sense.”

Byron York writes in his piece on the Maraniss book:

But Obama was ambitious. Appalled by the “dirty deeds” of “Reagan and his minions”* (as he wrote in “Dreams from My Father”), Obama became increasingly interested in, as Maraniss writes, “gaining power in order to change things.” He couldn’t do that as an international guy hanging around with his Pakistani friends; he needed to become an American.

So he did. One of those Pakistani friends, Beenu Mahmood, saw a major change in Obama. Mahmood calls Obama “the most deliberate person I ever met in terms of constructing his own identity,” according to Maraniss. The time after college, Mahmood says, “was an important period for him, first the shift from not international but American, number one, and then not white, but black.”

Mahmood, Maraniss writes, “could see Obama slowly but carefully distancing himself as a necessary step in establishing his political identity as an American.”

His early political years involved similar strategic positioning, from joining Jeremiah Wright’s Church to (according to David Axelrod) lying about his opposition to gay marriage. And it paid off. And when he finally burst on the national scene, he could use his detachment to his advantage. Indeed, his whole approach to politics has been, “People of Earth, stop your bickering. I’m Barack Obama and I’m here to help.” The slogan “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” implies the building-up of a seething desire to make this country different than it is and throw off the dead weight of the past. Whenever he talks unapologetically about patriotism, it is invariably in the context of trying to get the country to rally around some new government endeavor (and, more importantly, himself).

Read the whole thing, which condenses a century of “Progressive” history down to a handful of easily-digestible paragraphs, and notes along the way, “culturally and psychologically, what endures is the pious progressive conviction that the government is better than the people it serves, at least when the right people are running it — and that the job of progressives is to bring the bitter clingers up to the government’s ideals, as best they can.”

Which, along with Mr. Obama’s own hatred of Reagan, makes this Reagan-Obama comparison by former AP man Ron Fournier such a non sequitur.  But then, as a obedient Democrat operative with a byline, Ron’s not above questioning the patriotism of those on the other side of the aisle himself.

On the other hand, we can say this about Mr. Obama:

And this response from the left is fun…

…When you consider the improbable career arc of the source. But then, as Moe Lane writes, “the Left isn’t screaming about this because they think that the charge is unfair. They’re screaming about this because they agree with the charge, but were unpleasantly surprised to see that we picked up on it, too. …Oops?” Oh and incidentally, note this little poke at Mr. Obama’s predecessor from the Obama White House:


You stay classy, young White House turks!

* Paging Ron Fournier to the red phone, please.