McCain Attacks Obama's Patriotism

12/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

John McCain unveiled a new attack on Barack Obama's patriotism Saturday, jumping all over - and taking out of context - remarks made yesterday in which the Democratic nominee said the Iowa Caucuses vindicated his faith in the American public.

Campaigning in Springfield, Virginia, McCain told the crowd that he had always had faith in his country and - dinging his opponent - claimed that the United States "has never had to prove anything to me."

For all the politics at play here - certainly, the GOP has won many elections painting their opponents as not loving of country - there is much to quibble with.

For starters, at various points during this campaign, McCain - whose surrogates and vice president have often gone after Obama on this front - has confirmed that he believes Obama to be a patriot. Moreover, the Republican nominee at one point in his life made comments similar to those offered by the Illinois Democrat.

Speaking about his experience in Vietnam, he described his time as a POW as one that tested and affirmed his love of country.

"I think it makes you a better person," he told Fox News' Sean Hannity in March 2008. "Obviously, it makes you love America. I really didn't love America until I was deprived of her company, but probably the most important thing about it, Sean, is that I was privileged to have the opportunity to serve in the company of heroes."

Past statements aside, if one actually takes a look at what Obama said, and what he has said before, it is hard to interpret in anyway that he doubted the United States. Just look at the sentences before his "faith" remark, in which he lavishly praises the American people, who he "knew" were "decent" and "generous."

"I had confidence in the people of Iowa because I knew that the American people are a decent people and a generous people, willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations," the Senator told a crowd in Des Moines on Friday. "No where was that truer than here in Iowa."

Those remarks, as the Obama camp pointed out Saturday afternoon, are almost identical to ones made by the Senator even before the Iowa caucus.

"Most of all, I believed in the power of the American people to be the real agents of change in this country - because we are not as divided as our politics suggests; because we are a decent, generous people willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations; and I was certain that if we could just mobilize our voices to challenge the special interests that dominate Washington and challenge ourselves to reach for something better, there was no problem we couldn't solve - no destiny we couldn't fulfill. Ten months later, Iowa, you have vindicated that faith."

There were no screams of treason then. Rather those comments were interpreted for what they were: Obama thanking the Iowa public for exhibiting the characteristics that he believes make America, America.

"It's pathetic that John McCain would take a statement Barack Obama has been making for a year about his faith in the American people and distort it to attack his patriotism," spokesman Bill Burton said in response to McCain's attack Saturday. "Sadly, this is what we've come to expect from a desperate, dishonorable campaign that will say anything in a failed attempt to win this election."

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