Sen. Barack Obama spoke on the subject of patriotism this past week in an effort to undo some of the damage he has already inflicted on his own image -- through his associations, his statements and policy positions -- and to obscure his liberalism.
Liberals rightly feel defensive about their patriotism because they always seem to find themselves blaming the United States for this or that, exhorting us to be more like the "enlightened" nations of Europe or forever shouting that we are a "laughing stock" in the eyes of other nations.
It was not a conservative who wrote in an editorial this week: "Tuck the soaring speeches in a drawer for another time. This year, America doesn't deserve to celebrate its birthday. This Fourth of July should be a day of quiet and atonement. For we have sinned."
It was Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Chris Satullo, who, like so many liberals, is angry at America because he sees it as standing for torturing prisoners, imprisoning enemy combatants without hearings, rendition and other denials of human rights. According to Satullo, America isn't safer because our alleged abuses have "spawned new enemies by the thousands, made the jihadist rants ring true to so many ears. So put out no flags. Sing no patriotic hymns. We deserve no Fourth this year."
Sorry, but you just don't hear much of this type of rhetoric from conservatives. And Obama and the entire Democratic establishment know it.
When conservatives reflect on America, the first things that come to their minds are not exaggerated tales about waterboarding or deliberately hatched lies about the National Security Agency spying on innocent old American ladies.
They beam with pride that America is still the greatest, freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world. They see it as a beneficent promoter and defender of what is right, not as a stingy, imperial bully.
Obama's patriotism problem isn't just related to his liberalism. He has earned demerits in this category in his own right by refusing to wear a flag pin and foolishly -- and defiantly -- trying to justify it. Also, there are the statements of his wife that she is proud of America for the first time in her life, his associations with William Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his contemptuous assessment of small-town America, and his typically liberal appeasement and blame-America-first orientation.
Doubtlessly realizing all this, Obama delivered his patriotism speech in Independence, Mo. -- the heart of that small-town America he consummately insulted and alienated. While I disagree with much of what he said in his speech, my main problem is that his words were carefully designed to mask the extent of his extreme liberalism.
His description of patriotism wasn't entirely objectionable. But as with all of Obama's flowery orations, we should look beyond the rhetoric. What we really ought to be asking is whether he qualifies as a patriot under his own definition of the term.
He said: "Patriotism is always more than just loyalty to a place on a map or a certain kind of people. Instead, it is also loyalty to America's ideals -- ideals for which anyone can sacrifice, or defend, or give their last full measure of devotion."
Yes, but do Obama-style liberals really get warm and fuzzy over America's ideals? Do they really share the predominant worldview of the Founders of this nation, as Obama implies?
America's Founders believed that owning firearms is a necessary and indispensable personal right. They did not consider abortion a sacred right of women. They did not oppose capital punishment and certainly didn't intend to outlaw it in the Eighth Amendment. They would have been horrified with the liberals' idea that we should fight wars through the courts instead of on battlefields and confer constitutional rights on noncitizen enemy combatants outside the territorial jurisdiction of this country. They did not believe in suppressing Christian expression or symbols in the public square or in selectively honoring free speech and censoring that which certain elites and malcontents consider to be politically incorrect or to be threatening to their liberal mainstream media monopoly. Their instinct was not to side with hostile nations or surrender our national sovereignty. They didn't believe that appellate judges should make law. Even the most radical federalists among them would have been mortified at the evisceration of states' rights that has occurred under expansive activist interpretations of the Commerce Clause and the use of the tax code to punish producers and radically redistribute wealth to the point that almost half the people don't pay income taxes.
Ask yourself: When it comes to his patriotism, does Obama protest too much?