Veterans don’t get to decide what ‘respecting the flag’ means

Our service doesn’t entitle us to get offended by Kapaernick’s choices or anybody else’s.

This reasoning is rooted in a premise that is both wrong and dangerous. If kneeling for the anthem and the flag is a direct offense toward the military, that means veterans have a stronger claim to these symbols than Americans in general do. The argument insists that American iconography represents us more than it represents anyone else.

Yet the flag is not a symbol reserved for the military. It is a symbol of the United States of America, and it belongs equally to all citizens, including Americans who kneel during the anthem, or those who wear flag shirts (which is also in violation of the unenforceable flag code), or even those who burn the flag.

.. We are not an elite class of citizen elevated above our neighbors. When we start thinking of ourselves as a warrior caste, removed from the people we defend, we exacerbate the civilian-military divide. We indulge in an entitlement mentality that isn’t healthy, demanding special treatment, such as discounts or restrictions on fireworks that might upset vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. The message is, You’re welcome for my service .

.. We should be able to dislike something without seeing it as a personal affront. We should be able to oppose something without becoming frothy-mouthed and obsessed, as some veterans online have done over Nike’s ads. We should embrace Special Forces veteran Nate Boyer’s insistence that we show compassion for those we don’t agree with, while also acknowledging that everyone is free to boycott and destroy their Nike gear as they see fit.

.. What’s more, believing that we have a special claim to the flag conflicts with the fundamental values of the armed forces, which elevate service over self. Serving is an honor the American people grant us, and it is Americans — in their totality — whom we serve. This does not give us license to appropriate national symbols as our own exclusive banners. Service is a privilege, not a way to purchase greater moral authority.

Beto O’Rourke gets more attention than any other 2018 candidate. Will it translate to votes?

 He’s certainly the only politician to ever be interviewed by GQ, Town & Country, Politico and Ethan Hawke.

His is a candidacy born of the Trump era, testing whether the left can have an equal and opposite reaction to the 2016 presidential election, and whether the best way to achieve that goal is to figure out the memeing of life.

.. O’Rourke is betting that by broadcasting himself on a live stream while campaigning in places he isn’t supposed to show up and saying things he isn’t supposed to say, he can encourage new voters to go to the polls, and even win over some Republicans who may not agree with him on all issues.

“I’m really surprised by how well Trump was able to leverage his popularity and the fact that everybody did know him, and there was this thing they liked about him,” O’Rourke said in an interview.

.. O’Rourke has become the kind of reality-show character that thousands of people watch eat a hamburger (46,000 Facebook views), skateboard through a parking lot (161,000 views), do his laundry (44,000 views) or answer questions at his town halls about, for example, NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. (That one has been seen by tens of millions.)

.. Being on all the time — on TV, on for interviews, on live stream in the car — has helped make him famous. But can it make him a senator?

.. O’Rourke’s campaign is a throwback with a modern twist. He’s driving a pickup truck to every county. He’s knocking on thousands of doors and reciting the same stump speech thousands of times. He’s John McCain on the “Straight Talk Express” circa 2000, only now anyone watching O’Rourke’s live stream can come along for the ride.

.. The sophisticated candidate, while analyzing his own on-the-air technique as carefully as a golf pro studies his swing, should still state frequently that there is no place for . . . ‘public relations gimmicks,’ ”

.. he knew his low name recognition presented a challenge. But it also came with the opportunity to introduce himself however he wanted. By bringing the live stream into the equation, he hoped voters might see a person — a person who burps, swears, listens to music and has a family — and not just a politician.

.. It’s a gimmick but one that does come with some moral high ground: he’s able to say honestly that he doesn’t pal around with admen and has restricted access to political hired guns. And by not accepting money from political action committees or special interests, he can say he’s not being bought off. For years, O’Rourke wasn’t the type of candidate who could get billionaires to throw money his way, so why not, in his words, “turn a necessity into a virtue?”

.. like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) used to do, he brags onstage about his small-dollar donations, “33 bucks” to Sanders’s oft-repeated “27 dollars.”

.. He then tried to flee the scene before being arrested.

Ultimately, the charges were dismissed, a fact O’Rourke says probably had a lot to do with him being white.

.. Take his most viral moment of the campaign so far: his support for NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. “Reasonable people can disagree” on the issue, he said in a town hall, but he personally finds the peaceful protests aiming to “point out that black men, unarmed, black teenagers, unarmed, and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now” to be in line with the nonviolent movement led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis and Rosa Parks, and in that way “can think of nothing more American.”

..  it also gives ammunition for one of his opponents’ favorite attacks: that O’Rourke is an out-of-touch liberal, more Hollywood than Houston (“Most Texans stand for the flag, but Hollywood liberals are so excited that Beto is siding with NFL players protesting the national anthem that Kevin Bacon just retweeted it,” Cruz tweeted. “That means all of us can now win Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon!”). And as for the NFL video? Well, Cruz made a rough cut of it and has started showing that at his own rallies as a way to rile up his base.

.. It can be easy, then, to imagine how Cruz will take advantage of O’Rourke’s live stream. His team has already pieced together a 30-second video of O’Rourke leting curse words fly on the trail. They could highlight every time he doesn’t know the answer to a question at a town hall to paint him as unprepared, or, as they’ve done already, use the NFL video to say he doesn’t support veterans. Tracking your opponent has long been part of political tradecraft, and in this case, O’Rourke could be broadcasting his own opposition research.

.. “He interviewed me that whole time, and all he used was that f—ing line about dead armadillos?”

.. sometimes he’ll talk for 45 minutes, and the takeaway will be a quote about roadkill, much to his annoyance.

Straining to Keep Faith With America

Among the events of John McCain’s five-and-a-half years of imprisonment and torture in North Vietnam, probably the most heroic, and surely the most celebrated, was his refusal to accept an early release from his captors.

“I knew that every prisoner the Vietnamese tried to break, those who had arrived before me and those who would come after me, would be taunted with the story of how an admiral’s son had gone home early, a lucky beneficiary of America’s class-conscious society,” McCain recalled in “Faith of My Fathers,” his 1999 memoir. “I knew that my release would add to the suffering of men who were already straining to keep faith with their country.”

.. They strain to keep faith with America when the attorney general weaponizes the terror of children and the desperation of parents in order to pursue his vision of immigration policy.

.. They strain to keep faith when the president rains scorn on our closest allies at summits in Canada and Belgium, and follows each performance with epic displays of obsequiousness toward a North Korean mass murderer and a Russian assassin.

.. They strain to keep faith when the vice president publicly walks out of a football stadium because players bend a knee in silent protest of racial injustice just two months after the president loudly defended white nationalists at Charlottesville as “some very fine people.”

..  An American president who, in matters of both character and conviction, was low and vapid and mean-spirited and bottomlessly dishonorable — McCain’s opposite in every respect.

 

 

Call out his lies. He depends on them.

just calling out deceit is insufficient. It is essential as well to understand why Trump tells particular lies at particular moments and to be hardheaded in judging how effective they are.

.. Republicans on the ballot this fall should be asked if they see Pelosi as an “MS-13 lover,” and if not, whether they will denounce Trump for saying such a thing. I am not holding my breath.

.. Yet sometimes Trump engages in a perverse form of transparency. He signaled clearly that the whole point of his screed — during which he also re-upped his claim that Mexico would pay for his border wall — was about the midterm elections. Immigration, he said, is “a good issue for us, not for them.”

.. Why immigration? It’s not the central concern of most voters. A Gallup survey in May found that 10 percent of Americans listed it as the most important problem facing the country. And Trump’s wall is not popular — in a recent CBS News poll, 59 percent of Americans were against building it.

.. But currently, Trump and the Republicans aren’t focused on the majority of Americans. They are petrified that their own loyalists do not seem very motivated about voting in November.

..  just 26 percent of Americans strongly approved of Trump’s job performance, compared with 41 percent who strongly disapproved.
.. Trump and his party feel they need to screech loudly to get their side back into the game, and attacking immigration (going back to Mexican “rapists”) is the signature Trump talking point.
.. Republican House candidates are following Trump’s lead, according to a USA Today study published Tuesday, “blanketing the airwaves with TV ads embracing a hard line on immigration.” By contrast, health care was the topic most invoked in Democratic spots. The GOP’s emphasis may shift some after the primaries, but Republicans seem to know that wedge issues are more useful to them than their record.

.. Political polarization has many sources, but the prime cause of it now is the president himself. Polarization defines Trump’s survival strategy, and it means that demagoguery

  • toward immigrants,
  • toward crime,
  • toward special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe,
  • toward dissenting NFL players,
  • toward anyone who takes him on
— is what his presidency is all about.
.. What thus needs exposing is not simply Trump’s indifference to the truth but also the fact that he depends upon the kinds of lies that will tear our country to pieces.