Friday, May 16, 2008


Jeremy is absolutely right that this flag pin business is silly. I disagree with him, though, about the locus of Obama's mistake. Here's what he originally said:

This is just a poor choice of language. Obama's point, of course, is that it doesn't much matter whether or not you wear a flag pin because there are much better ways to evaluate patriotism (how you treat americans, how you live up to the country's founding ideals, etc.). But what Obama said was that he decided not to wear a flag pin so that he could demonstrate his patriotism by other means. He made the absence of the flag pin important.

That error in rhetorical framing has exploded into a distraction from what Obama was trying to say. Obama was not, as far as I can tell, convinced that politicians should not wear flag pins. He was, rather, more invested in the idea that there are better ways to evaluate patriotism. And because of Obama's mistake, the only way we've been evaluating patriotism thus far is . . . by talking about flag pins.

So Obama needs to wrest the conversation back to the terms he presumably prefers. How to do that? From what I can tell, Obama seems to have come up with this plan:

1. Start wearing the pin again.
2. Provoke the question of whether he's contradicting himself.
3. Answer with something along the lines of:
"Look, this has obviously become a distraction, and that's partially my fault. The truth is that I don't think it's very important whether someone wears a flag pin or not. What is important in this campaign is that we focus on real issues that concern the American people: How are we going to keep them safe? How are we going to get this economy going again? . . . [campaign theme] . . . [campaign theme]. . . [campaign theme]. So I'm wearing the pin to help us all get back to those crucial issues."

That seems like a reasonable approach to me.

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