Conservative analyst Jonah Goldberg’s article The Adventures of Captain America emphasize on criticizing President Barack Obama for unveiling “what many believe will be his new reelection theme: Country first.” Mr. Goldberg quoted Mr. Obama as saying that “There is nothing that we’re facing that we can’t solve with some spirit of ‘America first’” and claimed that the latter “borrowed” it from “1930s isolationists and the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan,” probably trying to make the nowadays economic situation look like the 1930s during the Great Depression in the eyes of the reader. In this short article I will point out three misinterpretations in Jonah Goldberg’s article regardless of whether or not they were done on purpose.
First of all, ‘country first’ was the official campaign slogan of U.S. Senator John McCain’s bid for the presidency. This automatically means that Jonah Goldberg should have criticized Mr. McCain three years ago with the same as, or a similar sentence, to the one that he included at the beginning of this article: “According to his new stump speech, if you oppose his [John McCain’s] agenda, then you don’t care about America as much as he does.” The conservative analyst even accused the ‘America first’ part of President Obama’s speech for “separating the patriotic from the petty,” which I find much off touch with reality. Therefore,
The truth is that slogans and speeches that serve the purpose of slogans are almost always a written and oral forms of propaganda. Such was then U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s slogan “Yes, we can.” Following Mr. Goldberg’s logic, “according to [Mr. Obama’s] campaign slogan, if he does not get elected, then Americans can’t get out of the economic and financial crisis.”
Second of all, Jonah Goldberg “suspects” that “his new “country first” campaign theme… is focus-grouped by the White House and the Obama campaign.” Political books and academic articles especially exploring campaigns – such as, or similar to, Jeffrey Stonecash’s book Political Polling – would inform the reader that every political campaign focuses on one or more groups meaning that it targets their representatives’ votes. In fact, this is even taught at introductory courses on political science.
Third of all, Jonah Goldberg is wrong in his interpretation on the reactions to former President George W. Bush statement to countries all over the world after 9/11 “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” apparently trying to persuade the reader that the media overreacted to former President Bush’s statement while being silent on President Obama’s “America first”: “But Bish’s opponents, including much of Hollywood and the “objective” press, took it differently. They claimed it was a sinister vision of domestic dissent (which back then was the “highest form of patriotism,” not ersatz racism). When Karl Rove made the 2002 and 2004 elections partial referendums on the War on Terror, the New York Times editorial pages collectively got their dresses over their heads in outrage.” Mr. Goldberg compared a speech in Cannon Falls, Minnesotta, focused on how to address the current economic issues in the United States to a speech focused on international issues. Both speeches were addressed at two completely different groups. President Obama’s speech was addressed at local people, while former President Bush’s speech was addressed at countries all over the world. While the former could potentially turn out to be wrong (Barack Obama putting “America first”), the latter had the potential of creating enemies to the United States or portraying the country as an arrogant aggressor forcing countries to take a side thus violating their sovereignty. In my opinion, this is a very serious misinterpretation by Jonah Goldberg, and the most serious of all three of them.
That’s why I completely disagree with his article.