In the world of public policy there are liberals, there are hardened leftists, and then there's the hate-America crowd. In ordinary times it's sometimes difficult to separate these camps, or, to put it more bluntly, not enough is done to distinguish one from the others.
To suggest there is a hate-America crowd out there is a distasteful exercise. For one, it's clichéd; the term has been used for so long by so many that it's lost its punch. For another, it's vitriolic; it's been used to malign people whose politics may be on the fringes but who love their nation nonetheless.
But on Sept. 11 these stopped being ordinary times. Reading what some have said and done in the wake of the terrorist assault, I can only conclude that some people really do hate America.
The press has reported how Lehigh University officials ordered American flags to be removed from a campus bus, only to have the students rebel, causing the school to reverse its policy one hour later. Vice Provost John Smeaton tried to explain that Lehigh banned the flags "to keep from offending some of our students ... the message was supposed to be that we are sensitive to everyone."
Does this make Smeaton an America-hater? No. It just makes him one of the most moronic school administrators in history, and so long as his type is making policy at Lehigh no parent should consider sending a child there.
What about NCCI Holdings of Boca Raton, Fla., which forced employees to remove American flags from their desks, and suspended one employee for refusing to cooperate? CEO Bill Schrempf cited company policy against "divisive statements or actions ... that could mean different things to different people are not appropriate in our work environment."
How dare he. Perhaps that policy might be appropriate in an NCCI branch office in, say, Kabul -- but not here. To call such a display of patriotism "divisive" is not "insensitive," as some in the media have called it. It is flat-out anti-patriotic. Only someone who has no appreciation for his country, and no sense of allegiance to it, could think this way. Anti-American? Maybe.
Then there is that which is just not debatable. There are those who took advantage of the Sept. 11 monstrosity to deliberately underscore their disdain for their country, and whose commentaries can only be described as despicable. They are true America-haters.
Filmmaker Michael Moore has long been a darling of the left. His 1989 documentary "Roger and Me" propelled him to leftie stardom, including his own newsmagazine show, "TV Nation," which aired first on NBC and later on Fox. Moore regularly heaps disdain on conservatives like Ken Starr ("a forty-million-dollar pervert") and Ronald Reagan ("the beginning of the end of the political gene pool" whose legacy is that he "helped bring a crack epidemic into the United States").
A quick read of Moore's Sept. 14 commentary should wipe the smug look off every liberal's face. "Am I angry?" he asked on his Web site. "You bet I am. I am an American citizen, and my leaders have taken my money to fund mass murder. And now my friends have paid the price with their lives... Keep crying, Mr. Bush. Keep running to Omaha or wherever it is you go while others die..." Moore is holding (SET ITAL) America (END ITAL) responsible for the murder of more than 6,000 Americans. He is an America-hater.
Likewise the Nation's Katha Pollitt. She is not just a leftist; she is a committed America-hater, as is the Nation for publishing her vicious attack on her country. "My daughter ... thinks we should fly an American flag out our window," Pollitt wrote in her Oct. 8 column. "Definitely not, I say: The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war ...(The flag) has to bear a wide range of meanings, from simple, dignified sorrow to the violent anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry that has already resulted in murder, vandalism and arson around the country."
And there's Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson. On Sept. 12, with the Pentagon and the World Trade Center still burning, Jackson threw gasoline on the fire by placing America's values squarely on par with those of the terrorists: "With all the condolence that can be offered, it is incongruent to think that the world's leading exporter of the tools of death and destruction would not someday be visited with an evil in return."
A week later Jackson returned with another screed against his country: "When stock traders sing 'God Bless America,' and (New York Stock Exchange CEO Dick) Grasso says, 'America is ready to go back to business,' it is unclear how much of America's business is worthy of God's blessing."
It is precisely that kind of thinking driving the evil of Osama bin Laden.