Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Democratic Party - Questions of Patriotism

James Taranto has a piece in the WSJ about the Democratic Party's patriotism problem:
To say that the Democrats have a problem with patriotism is not to say that they are unpatriotic. But they are awfully defensive about their patriotism. "Of course the vice president is questioning my patriotism," Michael Dukakis fumed during a 1988 presidential debate. "And I resent it." After Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia lost his 2002 re-election bid, it became part of Democratic (and journalistic) folklore that he owed his ouster to GOP attacks on his patriotism. And last month in Boston, Mr. Kerry declared: "We have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. . . . We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism."

In fact, these men had been criticized by their GOP opponents not over patriotism but over policy: Gov. Dukakis's veto of a Pledge of Allegiance bill, Sen. Cleland's vote against creating the Homeland Security Department over the absence of union privileges for workers in the new agency, and Sen. Kerry's 19-year record on defense, especially his vote last year against funding the military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Democrats continually claim that their patriotism is being questioned. When pressed for specific examples, they point to disagreements over their policies. Attacking someone's record on an issue does not equate to an attack on that person's patriotism. On the other hand, Democrats, as illustrated by the examples in Mr. Taranto's article, frequently resort to direct attacks on their opponents patriotism.
Contrast this with the way Republicans responded during the primary season when Democrats did question their patriotism. "I'm tired of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and a bunch of people who went out of their way to avoid their chance to serve [in the military] when they had the chance," Mr. Kerry declared in April. Earlier, Wesley Clark refused to renounce a supporter's claim that Mr. Bush was a "deserter." And Howard Dean flatly stated: "John Ashcroft is not a patriot."

Republicans didn't care--and why should they? No one seriously believes Messrs. Ashcroft, Bush, Cheney and Rove are unpatriotic. When Messrs. Clark, Dean and Kerry question their opponents' patriotism, it has some mild shock value but carries no real sting, like a child trying out a naughty word he's just learned.
I think psychologists refer to this as "transference".