Joe Klein falsely suggested Obama's focus on patriotism is new

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

In his Time column, Joe Klein claimed that Sen. Barack Obama is aware of the "potential problem" of his "patriotism," as "patriotism replaced hope as a theme of his [March 4] concession speech [in Texas]." As evidence, Klein wrote that Obama "echoed John McCain in citing Abraham Lincoln, and called America 'the last best hope on Earth.' " Klein then falsely claimed: "That was the only 'hope' he mentioned -- a fascinating calibration." In fact, Obama mentioned "hope" at other points in the speech, and he has repeatedly used Lincoln's "the last best hope on Earth" line during his presidential campaign.

In his March 6 Time magazine column, Joe Klein claimed that there is a "largely scurrilous" issue of "[Sen. Barack] Obama's patriotism" and later added: "It seemed clear on primary night that Obama was aware of this potential problem, as patriotism replaced hope as a theme of his [March 4] concession speech [in Texas]." As evidence, Klein asserted that Obama "echoed John McCain in citing Abraham Lincoln, and called America 'the last best hope on Earth.' " Klein then falsely claimed: "That was the only 'hope' he mentioned -- a fascinating calibration." In fact, Obama mentioned "hope" at other points in his March 4 speech, and he has repeatedly used Lincoln's "the last best hope on Earth" line during his presidential campaign.

Additionally, Klein wrote of Obama: "There is a segment of the American populace that just can't get past his name. There are Internet sleaze purveyors -- a few, sadly, with roots in the Jewish community -- who have exploited this fact to spread slanderous nonsense about Obama. Hillary Clinton disgraced herself by playing into these innuendos by telling 60 Minutes that Obama isn't Islamic 'as far as I know.' " However, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, Clinton did not characterize the issue of Obama's religion as unresolved. In fact, she did the opposite. During the March 2 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, correspondent Steve Kroft first asked Clinton if she "believe[s] that Senator Obama is a Muslim," Clinton replied, "Of course not. ... [T]here is no basis for that. You know, I take him on the basis of what he says. And, you know, there isn't any reason to doubt that." Kroft then asked: "And you said you'd take Senator Obama at his word that he's not a Muslim," to which Clinton replied, "Right. Right." It was only after Kroft asked, "You don't believe that he's a Muslim ... or implying, right?" that Clinton stated: "No, there is nothing to base that on, as far as I know" [emphasis added]. Then reinforcing her prior assertion that she recognizes that the Obama-Muslim rumors are false, she compared them to false rumors that have circulated about her: "Look, I have been the target of so many ridiculous rumors. I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody who gets, you know, smeared with the kind of rumors that go on all the time."

Examples of Obama saying that the United States is the "last best hope on Earth" include:

  • At the February 2, 2007, Democratic National Committee winter meeting -- before he officially announced his candidacy, but after he formed a presidential exploratory committee -- Obama stated: "We all have a responsibility to articulate a new foreign policy for the 21st century, one that refocuses our strengths on the wider struggle against terror and renews America's image as the last best hope on Earth."
  • In an April 23, 2007, speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Obama stated: "I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth. We just have to show the world why this is so. This President may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open. And it's time to fill that role once more."
  • At the April 2007 National Jewish Democratic Council Washington Policy Conference, Obama stated: "We know these are not the best of times for America's reputation in the world. We know that this war in Iraq has cost us an enormous amount, in lives, in treasure, in influence and in respect. And we know that over the last six years much of world opinion has turned against us. But I still believe and I think most of the people here believe that America is the last, best hope on Earth." Obama also stated later that "[t]he world needs America to lead again. [It's] time for us to turn the page and show the world why we are still the last, best hope on Earth, why we are still a force for good, still a place where weary travelers can come from all corners of the globe and find hope and opportunity at our doorstep."
  • At the June 19, 2007, Take Back America Conference, Obama stated: "It's time to show the world that America is still the last, best hope of Earth. This President may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open."
  • In an October 8, 2007, energy speech in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Obama stated: "We are a land of moon shots and miracles of science and technology that have touched the lives of millions across the planet. And when that planet is challenged or when it is threatened, the eyes of the world have always turned to this nation as the "last, best hope of Earth."

Obama has also frequently referred to Lincoln during the campaign. For instance, Obama -- who wrote a June 2005 essay about Lincoln for Time -- chose Illinois' Old State Capitol, to announce the start of his presidential campaign on February 10, 2007. During his speech, Obama stated: "It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people -- where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America. And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a house divided to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America." He referred to Lincoln twice more during that speech.

Klein also wrote that Obama's use of the "last best hope" line "was the only 'hope' he mentioned -- a fascinating calibration." In fact, during the introduction of his remarks, Obama used the word "hope" at other points in the speech:

OBAMA: You know, decades ago, as a community organizer, I learned that the real work of democracy begins far from the closed doors and marbled halls of Washington. It begins on street corners and front porches; in living rooms and meeting halls with ordinary Americans who see the world as it is and realize that we have within our power to remake the world as it should be.

It is with that hope that we began this unlikely journey -- the hope that if we could go block by block, city by city, state by state and build a movement that spanned race and region; party and gender; if we could give young people a reason to vote and the young at heart a reason to believe again; if we could inspire a nation to come together again, then we could turn the page on the politics that's shut us out, let us down, and told us to settle. We could write a new chapter in the American story.

Obama also said, "It is now my hope and our task to set this country on a course that will keep this promise alive in the twenty-first century. And the eyes of the world are watching to see if we can."

Klein further wrote that Obama has "given ammunition to the smear artists" because, among others, during a February 26 debate, he "played political word games before rejecting the support of the bigot Louis Farrakhan. The hesitation was noticeable -- and unacceptable." But, in fact, before stating he "would reject and denounce" Farrakhan's support, Obama had denounced Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments and said: "I have been very clear in my denunciations of him and his past statements."

From Klein's March 6 Time column:

There was another issue bubbling, which I hesitate to raise because it is largely scurrilous. It has to do with Obama's patriotism. There is a segment of the American populace that just can't get past his name. There are Internet sleaze purveyors -- a few, sadly, with roots in the Jewish community -- who have exploited this fact to spread slanderous nonsense about Obama.

Hillary Clinton disgraced herself by playing into these innuendos by telling 60 Minutes that Obama isn't Islamic "as far as I know." Over the past few weeks, though, both Barack and Michelle Obama have given ammunition to the smear artists. Michelle's moment was her extremely unfortunate statement that the success of her husband's campaign had made her "proud of my country" for the first time in her adult life. The Senator's moment came in the Ohio debate when he played political word games before rejecting the support of the bigot Louis Farrakhan. The hesitation was noticeable -- and unacceptable.

There are other guilt-by-association problems floating out there: the occasional over-the-top racial statements by Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright; the fact that Obama has been described as "friendly" with 1960s dilettante-terrorist William Ayers. It seemed clear on primary night that Obama was aware of this potential problem, as patriotism replaced hope as a theme of his concession speech. He echoed John McCain in citing Abraham Lincoln, and called America "the last best hope on Earth." That was the only "hope" he mentioned -- a fascinating calibration.

Network/Outlet
Time Magazine
Person
Joe Klein
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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