John Boehner is a living metaphor for the political muddle in Washington over Iraq.
During a meeting of the Republican Congressional caucus yesterday, the House Minority Leader reportedly characterized Senate colleagues as “wimps” for backing away from unquestioning support of the Bush policy.
He was rebuked by Rep. Heather Wilson, a former Air Force officer, who expressed admiration for Sen. Richard Lugar’s speech about rethinking Middle East policy.
Boehner is an emotional man. In May, before debate about the Surge, he wept openly as Rep. Sam Johnson talked of his years as a POW in North Vietnam, describing how his captors would play tapes of antiwar protesters back home over prison loudspeakers.
The Minority Leader was strongly moved by Johnson’s analogy of his experience in hearing that opposition to any expression of Congressional disapproval of the policy in Iraq.
There is no reason to question Boehner’s sincerity or patriotism, but his judgment is another matter. He embodies a classic American debate.
In 1816, after a victory, Naval Commander Stephen Decatur proposed a toast: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.”
In 1872, Sen. Carl Schurz, a former General, amended that declaration: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”
George Bush has complicated that difference by re-defining patriotism as support for a mindless, belligerent foreign policy that has alienated our country from almost all of the civilized world.
In Boehner’s heart, it may simply be a question of patriotism, yes or no. But someone should explain to him that Bush’s Neo-Cons have hijacked American patriotism and that some of those in both parties who truly love their country are fighting to get it back.