ABCNews.com's The Note and the Politico's Playbook highlighted a Washington Times article titled "Obama has new flag frenzy: White House embraces a backdrop of red, white and blue," with ABC News describing the article as a "Must-Read," and the Politico's Mike Allen writing, "Cable's gonna go cuckoo over this WashTimes A1er." The Times article, however, rehashes several false and baseless claims regarding President Obama's presidential campaign and the American flag and uncritically quotes radio host Michael Savage attacking Obama as a "Neo-Marxist" and "street agitator" to whom "our flag is just a rag."
The February 18 editions of ABCNews.com's The Note and the Politico's Playbook both highlighted a February 18 Washington Times article titled "Obama has new flag frenzy: White House embraces a backdrop of red, white and blue," with ABC News describing the article as a "Must-Read," and Playbook author Mike Allen writing, "Cable's gonna go cuckoo over this WashTimes A1er." The Times article, however, rehashes several false and baseless claims regarding President Obama's presidential campaign and the American flag and uncritically quotes right-wing radio host Michael Savage attacking Obama as a "Neo-Marxist" and "street agitator" to whom "our flag is just a rag."
Washington Times reporter Jennifer Harper wrote that the Obama White House "has rediscovered -- or possibly reinvented -- the patriotic cachet of Old Glory as a perfect frame for the new president" and quoted University of California at Berkeley psychologist Jack Glaser appearing to suggest that for Obama to wear an American flag lapel pin and "appear before American flags" is a departure from what occurred during the presidential campaign. Harper wrote:
Oh, say -- can you see? Look. It's President Obama, and he's surrounded by American flags.
They're on the dais in star-spangled glory. They're at the town-hall meeting and the news conference, in bold folds of red, white and blue. The White House has rediscovered -- or possibly reinvented -- the patriotic cachet of Old Glory as a perfect frame for the new president.
That's the same president who once would not wear an American flag pin. Things have changed.
"The biggest factor is that Barack Obama is now the president," said Jack Glaser, a social psychologist with the University of California at Berkeley.
"He's around more flags now. They're behind him or on the podium. That's the reality. He's not running around on the campaign trail.
"Now that he's president, Mr. Obama most likely knows he's an American symbol. So he wears an American flag pin. He appears before American flags. That's part of the job."
In fact, Obama's use of the flag as a backdrop is neither a "rediscovery" or a "reinvent[ion]," nor is it a departure from the campaign. As Media Matters for America noted, Obama appeared in front of either multiple American flags or a prominent American flag at numerous campaign rallies, events, and speeches throughout 2007 and 2008. Media Matters also noted that Obama did, in fact, wear American flag lapel pins during the campaign.
Nonetheless, Harper characterized Obama's recent use of the flag as a "turnaround" and quoted Savage "question[ing]" it by smearing Obama. Harper wrote:
Some question the turnaround, however.
"Neo-Marxists recognize the power of Old Glory as they steadfastly pursue their agenda," said talk-radio host Michael Savage. "As Castro taught them, 'hasta la victoria siempre,' always towards victory. As the street agitators themselves know, 'by all means necessary.' To them, our flag is just a rag."
Harper continued, reviving Republican smears about Obama not saluting the flag during the national anthem and painting over an American flag on his campaign jet:
Mr. Obama has had some banner-based troubles in recent years. The issue arose in 2007 when he chose not wear a flag pin, defending his decision by saying that flag pins had become a substitute for "true patriotism."
There was another partisan ruckus when Mr. Obama neglected to salute the flag during "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a campaign stop, and again when an American flag disappeared from the tail of his campaign jet, replaced by an attractive red, white and blue "O."
The "partisan ruckus" was spawned by a smear e-mail attacking Obama for not placing his hand over his heart during the national anthem at an Iowa steak fry in 2007. Washington Post "fact-checker" Michael Dobbs wrote on November 2, 2007: "Asked whether Obama normally puts his hand over his heart while listening to the national anthem, Obama spokesman Bill Burton replied by e-mail: 'Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. In no way was he making any sort of statement, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous.' " Other photos show Obama with his hand over his heart during the national anthem.
Regarding the flag "disappear[ing] from the tail of his campaign jet," FactCheck.org noted on August 8, 2008, that the Obama campaign redesigned the campaign plane they had chartered from North American Airlines which, prior to the redesign, featured a large American flag on its tail -- an image that is "typical of North American Airline planes" because it is part of its corporate logo. The redesigned campaign plane still featured an American flag, and Sen. John McCain's campaign plane also had no flag on the tail, as noted by Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor: "I'd note that there is a flag on the side of Senator Obama's plane, near the center. I'd also note that there is not a flag on the tail of John McCain's plane. Lastly, I'd note that I don't think plane design should lead us to question the patriotism of either candidate."