Jonah Goldberg

Keith Olbermann, MSNBC’s answer to a question no one asked, declared this week that I’m the “worst person in the world.” This is not as bad as it might seem. It’s sort of like being called uncool by the asthmatic assistant recording secretary of the high school chess team.

I’m the worst person in the world — the designation is apparently a nightly feature of Olbermann’s show — because during a Fox News interview about the current idiotic Rush Limbaugh flap, I said that conservatives don’t actually question the patriotism of liberals, they merely call attention to the statements of liberals.

Olbermann lifted his objection to my statement from the group that launched this Limbaugh flap, Media Matters for America (you should read “for America” as “for the Democratic Party” and “for the Democratic Party” as “for Hillary Clinton”). Olbermann & Co. asserted I was wrong, citing a monologue on Rush Limbaugh’s show that later appeared on his Web site under the heading: “You’re Damn Right American Left, We’re Questioning Your Patriotism.”

To which I have to respond: Touché!

However, one could split some ideological hairs here. There is a difference between the “American left” and “liberals,” after all. And usually when fringe leftists openly denounce imperialist America or express hope that she will be bloodied abroad or at home, self-described liberals are usually the first to respond, “Hey, liberals aren’t leftists.” If Olbermann and Media Matters now want to ditch that distinction and hence claim every nut-job leftist as their own, fine by me.

Anyway, the point I’d been trying to make was that liberals routinely and righteously condemn the “questioning” of anyone’s patriotism — until they have a chance to do it themselves. For example, in the debates over the formation of the Department of Homeland Security and the passage of Patriot Act, Democrats accused George Bush and the GOP leadership of questioning Democrats’ patriotism. But they never did any such thing. Rather, Democrats asserted that Republican criticism of their opposition was tantamount to questioning their patriotism.

John Kerry was the all-time champ of this sort of thing. He routinely insinuated that criticisms of his positions on national defense were tantamount to McCarthyism. Indeed, like Johnny Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent, Kerry could psychically predict the reaction before it happened. Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations, he prophesied, “I know what the Bush apologists will say to this — that it is unpatriotic to question, to criticize and to call for change.”

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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