An election year in America guarantees a debate about patriotism, particularly when the country is at war. It is not a political discourse about a citizen’s moral duty to do what they can to serve their country. I mean a debate in which patriotism is used as a weapon of attack in a brutish and nasty manner for character assassination, to depict a hitherto established politician as a dangerous or juvenile individual, who cannot be trusted with national security. Such tactics were deployed at their worst against Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election by his Republican opponent, George Bush Senior. Bush Junior, the current incumbent in the White House, used the weapon of patriotism against John Kerry, whose notable war record was disparaged by the neo-conservatives.
I have been an observer of US politics for well over three decades. Experience tells me that the Republicans have an advantage in this nasty, brutish fight and are willing to deploy the weapon of patriotism ruthlessly against their opponents. In the election campaign that has barely started, there have been some bruising episodes in the Democratic nomination battle as well. I recall Hillary Clinton’s warning that if the Iranian regime threatened Israel, she, as president, would obliterate the Iranian nation. I, a European, found the rhetoric frightening. Had President Ahmadinejad of Iran not used exactly the same kind of rhetoric, wishing that Israel was not on the map? So what was the difference? One meant to impress Iran’s Shi’a population. The other America’s Jewish voters. I do not believe either Ahmadinejad or Clinton was serious about obliterating any country. They know very well the consequences. More