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Barack Obama denounces the patriotism

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July 1, 2008

Barack Obama denounces the ‘poison of patriotism’ after attack on McCain

Tom Baldwin in Washington

Barack Obama declared that exploiting patriotism “too often poisons our political debates” as he sought yesterday to answer doubts about his love for America and distance himself from supporters who have demeaned John McCain’s military service.

In a speech in Independence, Missouri, the Democratic nominee said: “I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.” His remarks came a day after General Wesley Clark told a Sunday talk show that Mr McCain – despite his much-decorated service as a tortured prisoner of war in Vietnam – had never commanded the military in battle. “I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president,” he said. The Republican nominee’s “truth squad” swiftly seized upon the comments to accuse Mr Obama of hypocrisy that undermined promises of “a new type of politics”. Mr McCain, speaking after his campaign unveiled a new TV advert with the slogan of “putting country first”, told a press conference yesterday: “I’m proud of my record of service.”

He pointed out that the criticism of his military record by General Clark – who has been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential running mate for Mr Obama – was “not an isolated incident”. Liberal websites have begun detailing allegations that Mr McCain was responsible for war crimes by bombing civilians in Hanoi during the 1960s, or even that he collaborated with the enemy by appearing in propaganda films after his torture.

But Mr Obama went out of his way to praise his presidential rival, saying Mr McCain “endured physical torment in service to our country”, adding: “No one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides.” The venue for his speech, the city of Independence, was designed to reinforce his patriotism message before the July 4 celebrations. He is seen as vulnerable to attacks on his patriotism, not least because of a background as the son of a Kenyan goatherder and the stepson of an Indonesian.

Yesterday he said: “At certain times over the last 16 months I have found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged – at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for.

“Surely we can agree that no party or political philosophy has a monopoly on patriotism. And surely we can arrive at a definition of patriotism that, however rough and imperfect, captures the best of America’s common spirit.” Mr Obama said his “deep and abiding love” for America had come to define his life and was an ideal which “wove its way throughout the lessons my family taught me as a child”. He sought to define his patriotism in the context of a generational change, or healing some of the divisions that have scarred American politics over the past 40 years – and on which Mr McCain remains focused.

Full story, source: The Times

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