Friday, July 7, 2006

Nobles: Americans, who, according to Agence France-Presse, have come down with a disease known as patriotism.

The day after Independence Day, the AFP informed readers that Americans’ love of their flag is a “true epidemic.” “It is a genuine phenomenon of American national pride,” the French-owned news agency reported. Words like “epidemic” and “phenomenon” are quite possibly being used in jest here, although one can’t help but notice a true feeling of confusion on the part of the reporter, as if somehow American patriotism is wrong.

To wit, there’s this telling sentence: “Patriotic flag-waving strengthened in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and increased even more with the beginning of the war in Iraq as a testament of support for President George W. Bush.” It apparently never occurred to this reporter that “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written almost 200 years ago, is about, well, the Star-Spangled Banner.

So as a bookend to this week’s Fourth of July festivities, during which Old Glory hung from every house and building coast-to-coast, it’s heartening to know that, at least in the eyes of the AFP, Americans remain, as ever, one patriotic bunch.

Knaves: Rep. John Murtha, who tried to back away from anti-American comments he made last month.

On June 24, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Mr. Murtha told a townhall meeting in Miami that the “American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran.” Newspapers across the country, including this one, as well as columnists, bloggers and pundits criticized Mr. Murtha based on the Sun-Sentinel’s article. Mr. Murtha, however, said he was misquoted and succeeded in soliciting a retraction from the Sun-Sentinel’s editors.

But despite the Sun-Sentinel’s backtracking, the initial characterization of Mr. Murtha’s comments was correct, as a video of the town hall meeting makes clear.

Here’s what Mr. Murtha actually said: “Every one of our allies think that the United States being in Iraq is more dangerous to world stability and world peace, every one of our allies; Great Britain, every single country… They think it’s more, uh, we’re more dangerous to world peace than North Korea or Iran. That says something.”

Mr. Murtha contends that since he was only citing polling data, it was incorrect for the Sun-Sentinel to attribute the belief that America is more dangerous than North Korea or Iran to him. Of course this begs the question of why Mr. Murtha, had he disagreed with “every one of our allies,” cited their opinions in the first place. Watching the video, it is clear which side Mr. Murtha is taking (e.g., the side of America’s critics), making the Sun-Sentinel’s original reporting of the meeting an honest summation of his comments taken in context.

Mr. Murtha should have the courage to stand behind his words. He doesn’t, which is why he’s this week’s Knave.

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