What William Kristol Tosses Aside
But Obama chose to present his flag-pin removal as a principled gesture. “You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest.”Never, not for a single moment, Mr. Kristol.
Leave aside the claim that “speaking out on issues” constitutes true patriotism.
Did you notice, dear reader, that Kristol's paraphrase was a distortion of the quote? Obama didn't say, as Kristol asserts, that, in general, speaking out on issues constitutes true patriotism. Obama's remarks addressed a very particular context, namely the awfully disturbing morph of American solidarity post 9/11 into unthinking support of the awfully stupid idea to pre-emptively invade a foreign country.
Bet on it: William Kristol knew he distorted Obama's quote. But, being an awfully cynical, and awfully well paid, advocate of political stupidity, he did so anyway. Why? Read on, dear friends.
A few paragraphs down, Kristol intones:
Barack Obama is an awfully talented politician. Get it? Under the same rules of interpretive reading which Kristol uses to distort Obama's meaning of "true patriotism" - ie, lifting from context, and rearranging syntax - Kristol just called Obama "awful." And don't think that wasn't the intended meaning, dear friends. If he meant to say that Obama was a "really talented politician," he would have said exactly that. Instead, Kristol was making a funny - har de har har - slipping a pejorative into a description of Obama by punning on the ambiguous meaning of "awfully," either meaning "terribly" or the more obsolete, but still used, "astonishingly."*
Oh, Kristol well knew that Obama meant "true patriotism is speaking out on issues" within a specific context. Still unconvinced? Here's the silly zinger Kristol uses in conclusion:
[McCain's] patriotism has consisted of deeds more challenging than “speaking out on issues.” And there you have it, Kristol's money shot, the ejaculation - actually, more like a squirt than anything so exalted - his entire column is constructed to move towards. Let's take a moment to unpack the awful awfulness of its awful-osity.
First, Kristol transposed Obama's context from the specific to the general. From there, Kristol asserts that Obama meant that true patriotism consists only of speaking out on issues. This latter trick requires you to completely forget the context of what Obama actually said. And that is why Kristol urges us to leave it aside, to give us time to forget. Then, at the end of his little essay, Kristol can comfortably bring up not Obama's remark but his own distortion of it, knowing that few readers will do more than hastily check the original quote.
And he does so in the context of McCain's military service which - being the nasty piece of work that Kristol is - is invoked by inference, no less. That's an extra dollop of contempt heaped on Obama, that McCain's superior record needn't even be directly mentioned because it is so far beyond anything Obama's speaking out on issues might accomplish for his country.
And that, ladies, gentlemen, and Republicans, is one main reason you should never, ever agree to leave aside speaking out on issues. Especially when a paid conservative operative - Holy streewalker! Did I just call Kristol a rightwing hooker? - tells you to.
*Note to students of rhetoric: If there is a term to describe this tactic of Kristol's (preferably in Greek, which reads so groovily in a blogpost), please let me know.