THE BLOG
09/02/2006 01:10 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Loyalty Oaths: Peter Feaver's Challenge to White House Critics

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During the Revolutionary War and during the founding years of the United States, many states required "loyalty oaths" to be sworn by those who joined a state militia. It was important to declare oneself a dependable patriot when so many in the then colonies might have otherwise been loyal to Great Britain, or to France in some cases. Loyalty oaths have made comeback appearances at various points in American history -- during the Civil War, again after WWII during the dawn of the Cold War, and perhaps again today.

We had an interesting discussion about patriotism and loyalty in a forum at the American Political Science Association annual meeting in Philadelphia this morning. This meeting was organized by Christopher Preble, Director of Defense Studies at the Cato Institute. On the panel we had the blogger you are reading now as well as Seyom Brown of Brandeis, Michael Desch at Texas A&M, and Peter Feaver who is now on President Bush's National Security Council staff and has been on the faculty at Duke University. The session was ostensibly about bipartisan foreign policy, a topic which brought out mostly civil but still pointed long knives politely but effectively carving up the notion.

To be quick on the bipartisan bit, I believe that we have had a bipartisan foreign policy, achieved largely through the leadership (or crusades) of Bush and Cheney in the national security decision making process and substantial complicity or abstention by both the Republican and Democratic conventional foreign policy establishments. The real debate is not between parties right now -- it is inside them.

Senator Chuck Hagel is the leader of alternative thinking inside the Republican tent. And the Democrats are deeply divided between faltering liberal internationalists, a rising crop of enlightened realists, and of course the neocon-lite crowd -- of which Senator Joseph Lieberman was one of the heaviest hitters.

During my own comments, I suggested that trust between competing camps between parties and within parties has so broken down that it's hard to just imagine a kiss-and-make up compromise that yields in the near term a broad consensus on what America's national security and foreign policy strategies should be. But I said that one of the early characteristics of the Bush administration during what should have been a time of discussion and inquiry about America's global objectives and great purposes is that the Bush team made critics or those who raised uncomfortable questions pay a serious price for their independent positions or queries.

People who demonstrated their independence often lost access to people in the White House or administration with whom they had long had contact. The large sprawling network of Republican influence also worked to reward loyalists and to block those disloyal -- in jobs, contracts, all sorts of fronts.

This is where it gets interesting. Peter Feaver basically took exception to those who had suggested that members of the Bush administration had been out frequently "questioning the loyalty" of their critics and those who posed agressive questions to the White House.

Feaver had two well constructed memoranda that he showed me and which I hope he will email me to post on the site. One of these was a roster of leading Democratic voices including John Kerry, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and others who had questioned the loyalty of the administration or some agent of the Bush White House. He also had a clever roster of quotes from President Bush, Bill Frist, and many others calling for a polite bipartisanship. I really do want to post these here.

And then he challenged the some 20 or so people in our audience to send him by email clear cases -- in quotes -- of instances where senior administration officials, the President, or the Vice President, or other Republican party officianados had actually questioned another American's loyalty or patriotism. He said that they might have questioned their "wisdom" -- but hardly ever their patriotism.

He made this request publicly, and I think it's an interesting challenge for the blogosphere to embrace. I would like those who can find the quotes and clear references to cases where Cheney and others have questioned the patriotism of their critics to post them on the comments section. Please stick to the empirical -- we don't need fabrications, innuendo or interpretations of what people meant. I'd like to see if we can compile a record here that the White House can consider.

I remember on September 8th last year, Senator Chuck Hagel gave a terrific keynote speech at the conference, "Terrorism, Security, and America's Purpose" in which Hagel's most powerful line was: "IT IS NOT UNPATRIOTIC TO ASK QUESTIONS OF THE PRESIDENT ABOUT THIS NATION'S NATIONAL SECURITY AND FOREIGN POLICY."

Hagel's statement implied that there was at minimum a "mood" that had developed throughout the political establishment that those who posed provocatively substantive questions or who disagreed with the President were unpatriotic, disloyal, and needed to be punished. Brent Scowcroft felt that when he was essentially shown the door as Chairman of the President's Federal Intelligence Advisory Board.

But Peter Feaver has asked for real cases and explicit statements.

I look forward to hearing from all of you who have time to search the archives of White House and Republican leadership statements on the war, on foreign policy, or other policy areas in which a critic of the President's policy position was undermined by accusastions of disloyalty.

-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note.