POLITICS
04/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Joe Klein On Obama: A 'Patriotism Problem'

Very few things fail to impress me more than sad arguments over a Presidential candidate's level of "patriotism." I am sufficiently convinced that all the candidates in the race, on all sides, have sufficient affection for this country. It's so hard to imagine that anyone would publicly declare their desire to serve in such a difficult job that questioning their patriotism is simply not a matter of discussion for serious men and women. It is the province of tinfoil hat wearing, "Manchurian candidate" suspecting loons and partisan hacks who lack the intellectual depth to wield a more substantive brickbat.

So, why Joe Klein, veteran of eleven kabillion presidential campaigns, would pick today to once again call Senator Barack Obama's patriotism into question is beyond me. There does not seem to be a news event behind the piece, other than the fact that Klein noticed Obama using different campaign tactics as he stumped through Pennsylvania. If you read the piece, expecting to find that moment where the candidate is caught, red-handed, desecrating a flag or something, prepare yourself to be disappointed.

And prepare yourself, maybe, to be a little insulted. "This is a chronic disease among Democrats," Klein says, "who tend to talk more about what's wrong with America than what's right." Oy. I can tell you from experience: I was raised by parents who spent plenty of time telling me about the things that were wrong with me. I hardly think it represented a "chronic disease."

At any rate, Klein leaves Obama with very little room to correct whatever affliction he is believed to have. He quotes Obama on the evening of his losses in Ohio and (then) Texas - "I owe what I am to this country, this country that I love, and I will never forget it" - but then insists that these statements are somehow, unclear, sublimated thoughts: "Obama has to make the implicit explicit." Saying so is not enough? Running for president is not enough?

It used to be said - in some circles, it still is - that uttering a discouraging word about our President's war effort was itself an unpatriotic act. And yet, only yesterday, Klein was offering riveting, essential criticism of an Iraq war and labeling its architects as "vicious, mendacious, naive, simplistic, unapologetic, neo-colonialist ideologues who promulgated [a] disaster." I wonder: how many flags will Klein wrap himself in today in order to make his patriotism explicit?