Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 18, 2009

SO MUCH FOR THE WATER'S EDGE.... Two weeks ago, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) traveled to Israel to criticize the Obama administration and undermine U.S. foreign policy. As The Hill noted at the time, "Cantor's comments leave the high-ranking Republican open to Democratic criticism for criticizing the president while on foreign soil."

Since Cantor faced no pushback whatsoever, Mike Huckabee felt comfortable doing the exact same thing yesterday, traveling to Israel to condemn the U.S. approach in Israel. Huckabee's traveling partner, a state lawmaker from New York, said, "Obama policy in Jerusalem ... has just been a horror."

Now, there's obviously room for debate when it comes to U.S. foreign policy. I think Obama's right; conservative Republicans like Huckabee and Cantor think he's wrong. Fine. The larger point, however, is that the right is supposed to abhor American politicians criticizing the United States on foreign soil.

Glenn Greenwald takes a stroll down memory lane.

Here's what happened in 2006 when Al Gore gave a speech at a conference in Saudi Arabia in which he criticized Bush policies towards the Muslim world -- as summarized by The New York Times' Chris Sullentrop:

"As House Democrats David Bonior and Jim McDermott may recall from their trip to Baghdad on the eve of the Iraq war, nothing sets conservative opinionmongers on edge like a speech made by a Democrat on foreign soil. Al Gore traveled to Saudi Arabia last week, and in a speech there on Sunday he criticized 'abuses' committed by the U.S. government against Arabs after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A burst of flabbergasted conservative blogging followed the Associated Press dispatch about the speech, with the most clever remark coming from Mark Steyn, who called the former vice president 'Sheikh al-Gore.' The editorial page of Investor's Business Daily accused Gore of 'supreme disloyalty to his country'. . . ."

TigerHawk does the best job of explaining why speeches like this get some people so worked up:

"There is simply no defense for what Gore has done here, for he is deliberately undermining the United States during a time of war, in a part of the world crucial to our success in that war, in front of an audience that does not vote in American elections. Gore's speech is both destructive and disloyal, not because of its content -- which is as silly as it is subversive -- but because of its location and its intended audience."

The Wall St. Journal's James Taranto accused Gore of "denouncing his own government on foreign soil" and quoted the above accusation of "disloyality." Commentary was abundant all but accusing Gore of treason for criticizing the U.S. in a foreign land.

Put aside the question of whether you believe the president is right or wrong about the Israeli settlement issue, because in this case, that's a secondary question.

The central issue here is whether elected officials should travel abroad to criticize and undermine the foreign policy of the American government. If Huckabee, Cantor, and their pals want to trash the U.S. approach on Fox News, from the floor of the House, or in a press release, that's merely annoying. But these are the exact same conservatives who said it was treasonous for an American to go to foreign soil and work against the sitting president.

It's almost as if there are two separate standards in place.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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Comments

I don't know why you say "almost." There are two standards in place. IOKIYAR

Posted by: walldon on August 18, 2009 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

And this is why many of us who comment on this terrific forum complain that the Democrats are wusses.

They don't have to start hurling epithets and calling the Republicans nasty names. All they have to do is speak on the floor of the House or the Senate and repeat what Republicans said about Al Gore (or Nancy Pelosi, etc.) when they criticized U.S. policies while they were overseas. And then they ask, why Cantor or Huckabee's statements shouldn't be considered treasonous, too.

Instead, the Democrats keep trying for honest debate with people who believe that winning justifies anything, including lying.

Posted by: SteveT on August 18, 2009 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

http://www.wac.ucla.edu/cip/ahq/chpt1.htm

Posted by: theAmericanist on August 18, 2009 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Beacause no Republicans have been held accountable for any crimes war crimes or otherwise The Republican actios will ocntinue. OBAM is unable to control his own agenda!It is out of control. He will not harness those that make America look even more stupid.Obama needs to stand up to the Republicans and stop this nonsense. The republicans are leading us down the same alley as before and America will die because of it.

Posted by: MLJOHNSTON on August 18, 2009 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

I'm starting to think having a D next to your name means automatic spine removal with the complete inability to stand up for what's right - or even yourself.

The Dems, including the president, are a huge disappointment. Thanks for standing up for US, you weak-willed bastards. You're blowing what could make a Dem majority for a lifetime by playing nice with people who have nothing but contempt for both you and their own constituecy...US.

Thanks for nothing.

Posted by: MsJoanne on August 18, 2009 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

It's almost as if there are two separate standards in place.

Gee, Steve, ya think?

Worse, the media supports one set of standards (the GOP's), but not the other.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on August 18, 2009 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

If you swim in the same pool as the sharks the chances are if you are swimming you are a shark .

Posted by: FRP on August 18, 2009 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

Of course there are two standards in place.

Democrats think that there is nothing wrong with speaking critically of their own government. So they aren't going to get outraged no matter who does it.

Republicans like to pretend they're living in an occupied country with an illegitimate president. So they actually get extra credit for patriotism when they do it.

Posted by: Jinchi on August 18, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

GOPers are always insisting everyone else do as they want or they'll cry to momma. I'm willing to go along with them here and follow the Bush/Cheney tradition of sending traitors of the U.S. to a foreign black site.

Posted by: oh well on August 18, 2009 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Yes there are 2 standards. A standard for sentient people and a standard for stupid twits.

Posted by: Ronald on August 18, 2009 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

The media made a big deal out of Dems overseas because Reps brought it up and hammered it over and over. I want the Dems to say that they are very glad the Reps have changed their minds on this and will no longer be blasting Dems for doing the same. This whole idea of complaining that Reps are getting away with something reminds me why many non-conservatives hate the Dems anyway. I hate whiners. Stop being whiners.

Posted by: Th on August 18, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

When Nancy Pelosi visited Syria, the right had hysterics because she had even dared to go there at all. The loathsome cartoonist Chuck Asay suggested that she'd formed her own shadow government, with her own cabinet, to undermine Bush. Michelle Malkin had the vapors because she put a scarf over her head to visit a mosque. "She's wearing the uniform of the enemy!" Malkin screeched.

I think we need to push back in kind.

Posted by: T-Rex on August 18, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

To a lot of Republicans, the water's edge is the east bank of the Jordan.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 18, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

antagonistic armed citizens outside a public forum where the president is speaking; political leaders in foreign lands criticizing gov't policies (directed at that foreign gov't) -- things like this were called treason at one time, or criticized as such (as noted) less than a year ago when the right wing thugs were in power.

so how long before the mob takes over? wonder what color-coordinated shirts they'll start wearing?

and huckabee is the perfect asshole american to drape the flag over the bible and announce that "Jeebus is now the Leader of the United States," but til he comes back, I'll handle the details."

whatta country!

Posted by: neill on August 18, 2009 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

The media should be the entity criticizing the repugnant for being un-American. However, because the media is owned part and parcel by rich repugnant, there is only silence!

Posted by: Captain Dan on August 18, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Death panels! Obama's trying to set up death panels in the Middle East and kill Jews!! OMG!!

Posted by: Conservatroll on August 18, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

"...in front of an audience that does not vote in American elections..."

You see, that's why Cantor is okay, because Isreal DOES vote in U.S. elections.

Saudia Arabia only votes in Oklahoma.

Posted by: Lance on August 18, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

It is so quaint to think that Steve still believes that reason governs political discourse. Obviously a holdover from the naivete of John Locke and his ilk. Not reason but rhetoric governs political discourse, and rhetoric is a pure appeal to the passions. There is only one party that understands this, and it is not my beloved democrats. Politically, dems are as tone deaf as it comes. The only person I've seen that has any passion about healthcare is Howard Dean. He has been absolutely on fire. Bernie Sanders is also good. But they have convictions, they have actual beliefs. If you don't, it is really hard to be passionate, but easy to be corporate. Right, Mr. President?

Posted by: Scott F. on August 18, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Are you honestly shocked at the "leadership" of the democratic party refusing to engage, or are you Claude Rains shocked?

Posted by: JW on August 18, 2009 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

almost...almost like there are two separate standards...

Ya think? The Republicans never cease to amaze me with their double standards and hypocrisy. And you can never call them on it, because they just project it all back on you with false equivalences. Huckabee can say whatever he wants. He does not represent the US government. Cantor is another story, but he was not there to tout any official policy.

We just don't care as much because we do not have an authoritarian mindset. We don't believe speaking against the government is automatically treason.

But we damn sure need to be calling out these wingnuts who are threatening violent revolution. That IS treason. We need to get vocal about that and show that we cannot be intimidated or this will escalate into actual violence. We need to get tough about that, who frickin' cares what the ex-governor of Arkansas and Fox talk show host says to a bunch of right wingers in Israel. We should care about the very real threat of violence in evidence right now.

Posted by: ajaye on August 18, 2009 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

"it was treasonous for an American to go to foreign soil "

The key word here is "American." No one seriously claims that Cantor's primary loyalty is to the United States. He has made it clear that his loyalty is to Israel the same way as most of the other neocons from Kristol to Feith to Wolfowitz to Lieberman. As for Huckabee, his loyalty was never to the US. For him the US is an instrument to be used to promote his own agenda, a theocracy.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on August 18, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Greenwald also went on to quote these goobers as saying Obama does not have the right to tell Israelis where they can or can't live. Glenn mocks this by saying ...yes, then how could America tell Mexicans where they can or can't live or build their houses...or the Russians who are building in Georgia. The stupidity of Huck's Chuck Norris group in Israel is just sooo embarrassing. The whole world including Israel according to the treaties they signed are telling Israelis where they can and cannot build their homes... idiots,... not just Obama and America.

Welcome back Glenn Greenwald.

Posted by: bjobotts on August 18, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

USA......hasn't learnt its many lessons,and the Bible says because usa needs to be humbled !!!

usa most powerful nation in history cannot DEFEAT
Afghanistan, Iraq........or even North Vietnam/VietCong

Afghanistan - is becoming usa's "VIET NAM" all over again

Posted by: Viet Cong on August 18, 2009 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Steve T. The dems are a bunch of pussies. They caved when GWB wanted his way and they still don't have the nads to stand up to the Rethugs even when they are in the majority. I say if they don't grow some soon, it will be all over.

Posted by: don on August 18, 2009 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK
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