Accusing Obama Critics of 'Standing with the Terrorists'

Yesterday, I noted that the DNC accused the GOP of
having "thrown in its lot with the terrorists" and putting "politics
above patriotism" because -- just like the Taliban and Hamas --
some Republicans objected to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to
President Obama. Salon's Alex Koppleman described
how some progressive groups, incl

Yesterday, I noted that the DNC accused the GOP of
having "thrown in its lot with the terrorists" and putting "politics
above patriotism" because -- just like the Taliban and Hamas --
some Republicans objected to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to
President Obama. Salon's Alex Koppleman described
how some progressive groups, including Media Matters and some blogs,
embraced the same theme, even producing videos "suggesting that the
right has aligned itself with terrorists." Media Matters' Chris Harris
wrote a piece
entitled "RNC agrees with the Taliban," and actually labelled the mere
act of questioning whether Obama's Prize was warranted to be "unseemly
and downright unpatriotic."

I'm all in favor of applying disgusting political rhetoric and twisted political arguments to the purveyors of such tactics in order to demonstrate their hypocrisy and/orto neutralize those tactics.
If that's all that were going on here -- if it were made clear that
these tactics are unacceptable and dumb but that the Rovians on
the Right who have spent the last eight years wielding them should be
hoisted on their own petard -- I wouldn't have any objections to it.
But, plainly, that's not all that is going on. Instead, the DNC and
these groups are clearly arguing that it's improper and unpatriotic to
object to or even question Obama's award. After comparing
the Taliban's statements to the RNC's statement (which was actually quite innocuous and tame), this is what Harris argued:

the domestic political opposition party would echo the sentiments of
one of our nation's fiercest enemies is truly striking. The
global community honoring the American President with one of the
world's top awards should be a cause for national celebration
, not cheap political games.

could expect this reaction from our nation's enemies, but it is
unseemly and downright unpatriotic coming from American political

Leave aside the fact that the "global
community" didn't honor the American President; five Norwegians did.
Also leave aside the fact that many people from many different parts of the world
-- not just scary Terrorists and Arab Enemies -- questioned whether
Obama's Prize was appropriate; the "global community" happens to
encompass more than "Western Europeans," and many parts of the world beyond Europe don't swoon for Obama.
Also leave aside the painfully simplistic and Fox-News-mimicking
characterization of the Taliban as "one of our nation's fiercest
enemies"; a central prong of our current strategy in Afghanistan happens to be grounded in the recognition
that the Taliban are quite diverse, with many factions of it nothing
more than nationalists defending their homeland -- far from
"terrorists." And finally leave aside the fact that Fidel Castro yesterday praised Obama's Prize;
by the prevailing Democratic "logic," this means that Obama supporters
yesterday were casting their lot with Communist dictators.

particularly bothersome about yesterday's attacks is the premise that
it's improper, unpatriotic and even Terrorist-mimicking to do anything
but cheer -- have a "national celebration" -- when Obama is awarded the
Nobel Prize. Whether Obama is actually pursuing policies of peace
happens to be an extremely legitimate topic of debate. The same is
true for whether he's done anything meaningful yet to merit the award.
Numerous liberals in good standing objected to Obama's award -- from Ezra Klein ("It is undeserved. It is a bit ridiculous") to The Nation's Richard Kim ("I woke up, read the New York Times website and thought I had come to the Onion instead . . . Obama doesn't deserve the prize, yet") to Naomi Klein ("disappointing,
cheapening of the Nobel Prize"). While there are arguments to make in
his favor -- I even made some myself yesterday in the first two paragraphs of what I wrote
-- there is something unquestionably bizarre about awarding the Nobel
Peace Prize to a leader who did not merely "inherit," but is advocating, actively prosecuting and escalating,
a major war that is killing large numbers of civilians with no plans to
stop, while at the same time building prisons to house people who will
have no due process.

Unquestionably, those are and must be legitimate topics of debate. Some smart people yesterday made some reasonable arguments
for Obama's Prize. But to insist that it's the patriotic obligation of
every American to stand and cheer -- and that those who don't are
"casting their lot with the Terrorists" -- is creepy and
repugnant. It's also a very dangerous game to play.

In March, 2005, Joe Klein wrote an article inTime with this headline: "Look Who Has a Shot at the Nobel Peace Prize." He meant President Bush:

that is where the democratic idealism of the Bush Doctrine has led us.
If the President turns out to be right -- and let's hope he is -- a
century's worth of woolly-headed liberal dreamers will be vindicated.
And he will surely deserve that woolliest of all peace prizes, the

If George W. Bush had won the Nobel Peace
Prize as Klein suggested he might deserve, would it have been the
solemn obligation of every American -- including liberals -- to stand
up and cheer, to hold a "national celebration," to congratulate and
express support, happiness and patriotic pride? Or would it have been
appropriate even for Americans to make arguments about why that Prize
was wrongly awarded? If Bush had won, surely the Taliban and Hamas
would have objected, just like they did yesterday with Obama. Would
Bush critics have been guilty of "casting their lot with the
terrorists" if they echoed those objections? Karl Rove and Fox News
would have done so, but would Media Matters have condemned liberals who
questioned Bush's Nobel Peace Prize as "unseemly and downright
unpatriotic." Please.

More than any single policy issue, what
led me to begin writing politically -- what spurred my view that the
political culture had gone radically and dangerously off track -- was
the climate in this country that equated criticism of the President
with some sort of bad and improper act. It was Joe Lieberman's 2005 vile warning to Democratic war opponents
"that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our
nation's peril." It was the unhinged lynch mob fury provoked by
Natalie Maines' innocuous statement that she was "embarrassed" that
George W. Bush was from her home state. It was Chris Matthews' angry outburst on April 9, 2003 -- the day the Saddam statue was pulled down -- demanding that there be no criticism of the President on his Special Day:

Why don't the damn Democrats give the president his day? He won today. He did well today.

it was the constant McCarthyite attempt to depict criticisms of
the President -- or even insufficient praise for him -- as evidence
that one was aligned with the Terrorists.

Liberals should be the
last people eager to rejuvenate and legitimize those tactics,
regardless of whatever short-term political benefit they think they can
exploit (and I strongly doubt these tactics work, as both the 2006 and
2008 elections compellingly demonstrated). If the formula embraced yesterday by the DNC, Media Matters and some liberal blogs is valid, then here's what else is true:

Obama sides with Hamas on Israeli settlements:

Hamas Leader Khaled Meshal, September 17, 2009: "The [U.S.] should simply uphold international law - the occupation is illegal, the annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal, the settlements are illegal . . .

ABC, September 5, 2009: "The
United States has issued a rare public rebuke to Israel for its plans
to approve new settlements in the West Bank. . . .In a statement, White
House spokesman Robert Gibbs says: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop."

Washington Post, May 29, 2009: "President
Obama yesterday continued to press his administration's tough stance on
Jewish settlements in the West Bank, telling reporters after a meeting
with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that Israel must halt all settlement activity to build momentum for peace."

Obama sides with the Castros and Chavez on Honduras:

Raul Castro, July 30, 2009: "As
President Chavez rightly said last night, this is the moment to act
according to one's beliefs. . . In Honduras, there is and can only be
one president. Jose Manuel Zelaya must return immediately and unconditionally to the performance of his duties."

Bloomberg, July 28, 2009: "U.S. officials said they continue to regard ousted Manuel Zelaya as the legitimate president of Honduras and are working with other countries in the region to restore him to power peacefully."

NYT, July 30, 2009: "President Obama on Monday strongly condemned the ouster of Honduras's president as an illegal coup that set a 'terrible precedent' for the region..."

Reuters, June 29, 2009: "Cuba condemned Sunday's military coup
in Honduras as 'criminal, brutal' and demanded the immediate return to
office of deposed leftist President Manuel Zelaya. Former Cuban
president Fidel Castro called the coup 'a suicidal error'. . . "

Liberals (including Obama) side with Hezbollah and Syria in opposing the Iraq War:

NYT, August 20, 2003: "Hassan
Nasrallah, head of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, told a crowd of
150,000 in a March religious observance that the United States was
trying to create a 'tragedy for humanity and to spread chaos in the
world' and predicted that the people of Iraq and the region would
'welcome American troops with rifles, blood, arms, martyrdom.' The
occupation has given disparate groups from various countries a common
battlefield on which to fight a common enemy."

CBS News, February 15, 2003: "Millions
of protesters - from London to New York to Canberra - demonstrated
Saturday against a possible U.S. attack on Iraq. . . CBS News
correspondent Jim Acosta says organizers claim the rally drew five
hundred thousand people. There were certainly several hundred thousand,
Acosta reports, carrying signs that read "no blood for oil" and "get
the warheads out of D.C". . . .

In Damascus, the capital of
neighboring Syria, an estimated 200,000 protesters chanted anti-U.S.
and anti-Israeli slogans while marching to the People's Assembly.
Najjah Attar, a former Syrian cabinet minister, accused Washington of
attempting to change the region's map. "The U.S. wants to encroach upon
our own norms, concepts and principles," she said in Damascus.

The Left sides with Osama bin Laden on Bush and Halliburton:

ABC News, April 16, 2004: "The
voice believed to be Osama bin Laden's went through a list of familiar
enemies in the audiotape released to Arab television this week:
President George W. Bush, Spain, Israel. But though bin Laden
decried the fact that 'this is a war that is benefiting major companies
with billions of dollars,' he only mentioned one company by name:
Company, the Houston-based oil and gas services company.

Michael Moore, April 14, 2004: "Halliburton is not a "company" doing business in Iraq. It is a WAR PROFITEER, bilking millions from the pockets of average Americans. In past wars they would have been arrested -- or worse."

The Nation Editors, April 24, 2003: War
profiteering. Even before US troops arrived in Baghdad, looting broke
out--in Washington. . . . Bechtel's contract, worth up to $680 million,
to rebuild Iraqi roads, schools, sewers and hospitals drew a lot of
media attention, but it was chump change compared with the deal greased
through by Vice President Cheney's old oil-services firm, Halliburton.
. . . Congress dozes while the treasury is raided.

who argued yesterday that critics of Obama's Prize had "stood with
the Terrorists" -- merely because they both happened to be on the same
side of an issue -- have no ground for objecting to any of the above.
And that's what makes reliance on these tactics as stupid as it is
wrong: those who do it forfeit the ability to object when it is used
against them. You don't think anyone is going to remember that
Democrats and some progressives made arguments like this the next time
either they "side with the Terrorists" or object to "Rovian tactics" or
complain about "questioning one's patriotism"? Here's what The New York Times' Tobin Harshaw wrote yesterday about the attacks from the DNC and Media Matters:

Ahhh, takes one back to the debates over (and since) the invasion of Iraq in 2003,
with conservatives accusing those who were against an invasion of Iraq
of "siding with Saddam." At the time, liberal critics found such guilt
by association pretty despicable. . . .

We are born and raised to believe that dissent is, or at least can be, patriotic.
Over the last six years, liberals and conservatives have each accused
the other of breaking that link in the social contract. And in the
vortex of this week's Nobel debate, the lines between patriotism,
anti-Americanism, dissent and nationalism have blurred into triviality
-- Irving Kristol's neoconservativism has mutated into some meaningless
form of postmodernism. Obama's Nobel will soon be yesterday's news, but the argument over what it means to love America will be alive and well.

difference between 2003 and now, of course, is that Democrats are in
power and thus benefit from the rule that it's unpatriotic and
Terrorist-embracing to do anything but praise the President like some
sort of college cheerleader. But that isn't always going to be true.
And there are many times when it is progressives who are making
arguments similar to The Terrorists and Other Bad People; after all,
there are only so many sides of an issue, and that is inevitable.
Calling people unpatriotic and comparing them to Terrorists for failing
to fulfill their solemn duty to praise the President on his Special Day
and mindlessly support his accolades isn't clever or tough
politics. It's weak, counter-productive, unprincipled, dumb and

© 2023 Salon