On Saturday, President Bush met with Democrats at their annual Virginia retreat, the first time in his two-term Presidency he has shown up at the event. His opening words were warm and endearing, reassuring the concerned souls in the room that, much to their eternal relief, they are not unpatriotic. That disagreeing with him doesn't mean "you don't share the same sense of patriotism I do."
(Precisely why Mr. Bush thought this was at issue is unclear, but it was a joyous Presidential moment none-the-less.)
It is in that same benevolent spirit that Democrats everywhere should carry forth the equally-swelling thought. Indeed, starting today, all Democrats, liberals, progressives, moderates and independents in America should say with similar charity in their hearts to conservatives:
"Those of you who support the Administration's Iraq war, you are not unpatriotic! Supporting George Bush's war policies does not mean you don't share the exact same sense of patriotism that the other 70 percent of Americans do."
Let that be the mantra of peace, bringing a nation together once again.
Those of you who believe that sending 20,000 more American youth into another country's civil war is a good thing are not unpatriotic.
Those of you who support draining $800 billion from America into Iraq doesn't mean you aren't as loyal as 70 percent of Americans who think otherwise.
Those of you who stand by this war that has caused over 3,000 American deaths, you love America just as much as anyone else.
Those of you who agree with the White House not allowing the caskets of the returning dead soldiers to be publicly honored doesn't mean you don't share the same sense of patriotism as three-quarters of America.
You just have a different way of showing your patriotism. A funny, quirky way. Known only to you. And to those in your club. You probably just use one of those secret decoder rings to understand.
But it doesn't mean you're not patriotic. Please don't take criticism by 70% of America to suggest otherwise. Disagreement is what America's about. It's the ultimate patriotic act, to speak you mind freely in the face of an overwhelming tsunami of spirit-crushing opposition. If you support a maniacally-unpopular President's war policies that have disgraced America in the eyes of the world and 70 percent of America, that doesn't mean you are unpatriotic.
As the President himself said on Saturday, "You know, I welcome debate in a time of war and I hope you know that." And we do know that, because the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said exactly the same thing - that Republicans there "welcome the debate and are happy to have it"
Okay, sure, it would have meant more if Sen. McConnell had not just led a push to stop debate about the war, but you can't have everything. It's the thought that counts - even if it's the votes that get counted. Democrats in favor of actually debating and not merely "welcoming debate" were in the majority, 49-47. Unfortunately that fell 11 votes short of what was required to continue the actual debate.
(On the positive side, rumor has it that Republicans are considering a resolution to welcome debate. Though it still isn't expected to pass, if only two Republicans vote for it then the Minority Leader will have been honest: "Republicans" will indeed welcome debate. Just not "all" Republicans. Or most.)
So, it's good to know that the White House memo "welcoming debate" has made the rounds. To be clear, there is a reason elected Republicans now "welcome debate" after not welcoming it for the past four years. That's because they no longer are in the majority. Democrats could therefore cram withering confrontation relentlessly before the angry eyes of the 70 percent of Americans who deplore the Republican policies in Iraq. In the face of that, who wouldn't "welcome debate"?
It's the same reason the President "welcomes debate." And why he is attempting to tell the very people who he's been suggesting for four years are unpatriotic that, now, after they've returned to majority control in Congress, they aren't unpatriotic. Anymore.
Not that the President means it, of course. But everyone understands that. There's no reason to believe anything that manages to escape his lips. That ship has long-since sailed. But at least it's nice to see that he recognizes the need to lie. Rather than just do it for sport.
And that doesn't make him unpatriotic either. We shouldn't think George W. Bush is unpatriotic. Or that he doesn't share the same sense of patriotism as 70 percent of the other Americans who disagree with him. George Bush is patriotic. Just as patriotic as the day he likely went AWOL from the National Guard.