I have been increasingly (and consistently) distressed by the number of arguments that are labelled "attacking someone's patriotism." To me, attacking someone's patriotism is a slur -- but so too is unfairly accusing someone of making that slur when in fact they have not. Too many people are too ready to pull that trigger far too casually, and they should be called on it.
As I write this, Senate Minority Leader Tom Dashle is on Meet the Press. Asked about the new RNC ad defending the President, he tells Tim Russert that ad should be pulled. "Pulled?" Russert seems to be shocked by this response. Says Dashle, "to question the patriotism" of someone "is very wrong." And just to make sure you're sure you heard it he actually repeats the claim.
Russert asks how the ad questions anyones patriotism. Dashle provides us a definition. Good for him for being upfront about what he thinks "questioning patriotism is."
"Questions about your commitment to the country or your commitment to the effort." He says again, thats questioning someones patriotism, "or your allegience to the fight itself."
He is dangerously conflating two different things, one of which is probably in the ad, one of which clearly is not. Questioning someones commitment to the effort, their allegience to the fight has absolutely nothing to do with questioning their commitment to the country. I talk all the time about people who don't want to think we're at war, and don't want us to think we're at war. That has nothing to do whatsoever with their commitment to the country.
It may well be that they are not commited to the country, are not in that sense patriotic, but it does not have to, and I'll thank you not to put words in my mouth. If I want to argue someone isn't patriotic I'll do it myself, thank you very much. What I'm arguing is that they're, you know, stupid.
Consider, for example, appeasement. (And I'm not saying this RNC ad talks about appeasement; I want to give an example.) If you argue someone is an appeaser, just as in the 1930s, you aren't arguing they aren't patriotic, aren't committed to the country -- you're arguing that they have chosen a model of strategic defense for the republic that is fatally flawed, that can't work. That doesn't mean that their end goal isn't still the defense of the republic, only that they are looking to go about it in a way that won't work.
Every criticism is not a charge against patriotism. And I'm tired of people turning up the heat and the volume by pretending with no evidence that it is.