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COMMENTARY:

Is Barack Obama Patriotic? Is Any Politician?

by Walter Brasch

Every politician, even the most maverick ones, say they need to get elected to do whatever it is they want to do. But, once in office they continue to do whatever is necessary to stay in office and get re-elected.

Barack Obama spent the Fourth of July in Montana. A Red State. A state that few think he can win. A state that gave huge margins to George Bush the past two elections.

But here he was. On Independence Day. Marching in a parade. Hosting a picnic for hundreds. Trying to rally support for his Presidential run. Trying to show that he can appeal to voters of every political, social, and economic demographic. His web site tells us he “shook hands, kissed babies, signed autographs and posed for pictures.” Patriotism just oozed out of his every pore.

Barack Obama is now as patriotic as the electorate wants him to be. During most of the primaries, he didn’t wear a flag pin on his lapel. He didn’t think wearing pins makes one patriotic, or not wearing one makes someone unpatriotic. But, the right-wing lambasted him for that. Now he wears a flag pin.

And every speech he makes, he is now flanked by several American flags. Just in case anyone thinks he isn’t patriotic. Or is a foreigner. Or worse, a Muslim.

Barack Obama has changed in other ways. Once he said he would pull the U.S. out of Iraq. End that war. Now, he’s calling for a phased withdrawal.

Once, he opposed innumerable pieces of legislation sent to the Senate by the Bush-Cheney Administration—and which a Republican Congress rubber-stamped. Now, as the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, he voted for a bill that granted immunity to telephone companies that violated both established federal law and the 4th Amendment to the Constitution when they voluntarily gave personal data about subscribers to the government.

Once, he said he would accept government restrictions and decline the excessive private contributions that have muddied politics. Now, with a campaign war chest at least two or three times greater than John McCain’s, he changed his mind and is taking whatever he can get—and doesn’t have to report who gave what.

Barack Obama isn’t the only politician to forsake some of his principles for the greater principle—do whatever it takes to get elected. Hillary Clinton moved more to the center when she began to think she could be the next president, and even voted for the renewal of the unconstitutional PATRIOT Act. John McCain, by any standards a conservative, began playing even more to the right-wing when the evangelical Christians challenged some of his beliefs and voting record. Every politician, even the most maverick ones, say they need to get elected to do whatever it is they want to do. But, once in office they continue to do whatever is necessary to stay in office and get re-elected.

Barack Obama, like every other politician, needs to reflect upon the principles of what the Founding Fathers wanted. And maybe every politician should decide that on this Independence Day weekend, it is time to declare that once and forever they will follow their convictions, their beliefs, and declare themselves to be independent, now and forever, not only of special interests, but also of pandering for votes.


Walter Brasch has covered politics and presidential campaigns more than 30 years. He is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a syndicated columnist, and author of 17 books. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through amazon.com and other stores. He may be reached at brasch@bloomu.edu.

ED. NOTE: Patrick Radden Keefe, in his analysis of the latest FISA legislation, " Five Myths About the New Wiretapping Law: Why it's a lot worse than you think," published in Slate, observed: "Whatever Hoyer and Pelosi—and even Obama—say, this amounts to a retroactive blessing of the illegal program, and historically it means that the country will probably be deprived of any rigorous assessment of what precisely the administration did between 2001 and 2007. No judge will have an opportunity to call the president's willful violation of a federal statute a crime, and no landmark ruling by the courts can serve as a warning for future generations about government excesses in dangerous times."


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This story was published on July 7, 2008.