(I think I've mentioned this issue once before) Rare it is when columnists mention one another's arguments. There seems to be some kind of agreement that you can't mention another columnist by name (although I seem to remember George Will doing this to Krugman once). So imagine my surprise when I read Harold Meyerson this morning. He writes:
This year, we can expect to see almost nothing but these kinds of assaults as the campaign progresses. The Republican attack against Obama all but ignores the issue differences between the candidates to go after what is presumably his inadequately American identity. He is, writes one leading conservative columnist, "out of touch with everyday America." His reluctance to wear a flag pin, writes another, shows that he "has declared himself superior to an almost universal form of popular patriotism."
The first quote is Charles Krauthammer, the second Michael Gerson (we talked about it the other day). In fairness to the columnists, who both write for The Washington Post, Meyerson ought to give more context. If he did, he'd be unable to argue that they assert these things themselves. Rather, they merely observe the fact that others will assert them. First Krauthammer:
It wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that she found the seam in Obama's defense. In fact, Obama handed her the playbook with Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Michelle Obama's comments about never having been proud of America and Obama's own guns-and-God condescension toward small-town whites.
The line of attack is clear: not that Obama is himself radical or unpatriotic, just that, as a man of the academic left, he is so out of touch with everyday America that he could move so easily and untroubled in such extreme company and among such alien and elitist sentiments.
Clinton finally understood the way to run against Obama: back to the center — not ideologically but culturally, not on policy but on attitude. She changed none of her positions on Iraq or Iran or health care or taxes. Instead, she transformed herself into working-class Sally-get-her-gun, off duck hunting with dad.
He's talking about Clinton, hardly a Republican. Whether Krauthammer's account of Hillary's position is true is another story. He certainly doesn't think it's true to call Obama unpatriotic. But he doesn't really care. Now Gerson:
The problem here is not that Obama is unpatriotic — a foolish, unfair, destructive charge — but that Obama has declared himself superior to an almost universal form of popular patriotism. And this sense of superiority, revealed in case after case, has political consequences, because the Obama narrative reinforces the Democratic narrative. It is now possible to imagine Obama at a cocktail party with Kerry, Al Gore and Michael Dukakis, sharing a laugh about gun-toting, Bible-thumping, flag-pin-wearing, small-town Americans.
Gerson doesn't care either. Meyerson would have a stronger argument had he directed it at the media types who will repeat these charges in just the way Krauthammer and Gerson have. Sure, they argue, they're not true. But still, will everyday, real Americans–who apparently have no regard for the truth and don't read Gerson or Krauthammer–be convinced by them?
After all, if everyday Americans read Gerson and Krauthammer, they'd know that such charges are baseless. Wouldn't they?