Friday, June 20, 2008

Does McCain love America as much as Jeremiah Wright does?

MSNBC's Dan Abrams uncovered video of John McCain, as recently as a few months ago, admitting that there was a time in his life that he did not love America. Literally.

Now, how is that any different than the remark for which the entire right-wing universe, including Cindy McCain, is demonizing Michelle Obama?

The only difference I can think of is that in McCain's case, we have the Republican candidate for president of the United States stating explicitly and repeatedly that there was a time in his life that he did not love his country. Imagine the uproar from the GOP and the right-wing media complex if there had been video in 2004 of John Kerry saying over and over again that he didn't always love America. Imagine if there were video of Barack Obama saying such a thing. It would be the Jeremiah Wright circus on acid.

And there is no context in which McCain's repeated statements can be interpeted to mean anything but what they sound like. Before he was "deprived of her company (in captivity in Vietnam, presumably)," McCain did not love America. Afterward, he did. Fair enough. Sometimes you don't appreciate your blessings until you lose them.

The point is not whether John McCain is a patriotic American. The point is that arguments over which candidate (or which candidate's spouse) is more patriotic are meaningless distractions from what we should be discussing in an election as significant as this one.

I would much rather see Barack Obama required to explain his failure so far to speak out against the warrantless wiretapping/telecom immunity capitulation than forced to spend one more second defending his wife's love of country. The latter is literally irrelevant. The former will determine whether America remains a nation that lives under the rule of law. Which one is more worthy of debate?

I understand completely why the GOP feels it must gin up false controversies about patriotism in this election. Republicans have proven that they are incapable of governing. They have no record of accomplishment upon which to make an affirmative case for themselves. They must try to distract voters with these sideshows.

But as the McCain clip above demonstrates, anybody can fall victim to "gotcha" politics, especially in the age of YouTube and The Google.

Our Democracy will be stronger in the end if we focus on real issues, rather than scouring candidates' backgrounds for statements and stumbles on which to base sensational character attacks.

Are you listening, news media? I'm talking to you.

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