WASHINGTON, October 22, 2017 — In his last official letter as America’s president, George Washington warned against “foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues” that he believed were “inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.”
America’s Last Patriotism and the rise of Donald Trump
The Republican Party’s preeminent political dinosaurs, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former President George W. Bush, have given speeches attacking voter populism, as expressed by the election as president of Donald Trump. An election that is now transforming a Republican Party nearly indistinguishable from its Democratic Party partners on questions of taxes, Obamacare and military adventurism.
Is this America’s Patriotism last gasp?
After receiving the National Constitution Center’s 2017 Liberty Medal Award, Sen. McCain said,
“To refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is an unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
McCain misapplies Lincoln’s quote. American liberty and its preservation at home is what gives “hope” to those languishing under tyrannical systems abroad.
And Lincoln’s 1862 message to Congress expressed his fear that American disunion would “meanly lose the last best hope of earth.” It was not a call for perpetual foreign military interventions.
Government and the Preservation of Liberty
It’s clear from the views expressed by presidents Washington and Lincoln that the preservation of liberty at home is the primary function of elected government. And the glue preserving that liberty is peace.
McCain condemns peaceful, liberty-preserving nationalism for questioning the legitimacy of ill-conceived U.S. military interventions, as in Libya and Niger. To McCain’s obvious displeasure, Washington and Lincoln were primarily concerned with nation-building and its preservation here at home.
John McCain rails against a “spurious nationalism” but fails to explain what he hopes to build in the world’s chaotic hell holes with American blood and treasure.
For his part, former President Bush fears America’s new populist nationalism threatens to stem the tide of illegal immigration,
“We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.”
When declaring his candidacy for a seat in the Illinois State Legislature in 1832, Lincoln said his politics was “short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance… I am in favor of the internal improvement system and a high protective tariff.”
That improvement system (the Erie Canal) and high protective tariff allowed our domestic economy to grow while protecting it from foreign disruptions.
Today, so-called “free trade” greatly enriches communist China, which currently builds islands in the Pacific to expand its military sphere of influence.
Patriotism and Global Nationalism
President Bush forgets it was America’s lax immigration policies that allowed the 9/11 hijackers to enter America and millions of illegal immigrants to flood into the nation, swamping our social welfare system, depressing wages and threatening to change America’s electoral map.
While serving as the keynote speaker at the California State Republican Party Convention, former White House strategist Steve Bannon observed:
“There has not been a more destructive presidency than George [W.] Bush’s. The rise of China started with the Clintons and Bush, when they had this great theory that you let them [China] into the World Trade Organization and give them Most Favored Nation [status] and they’re going to become a liberal democracy as they become bigger. And they’re going to become more free-market capitalist. This is not a small mistake. This is a strategic mistake of incalculable [proportions].”
“Europe doesn’t even make an attempt to defend itself. They are a protectorate of the United States of America. And the Gulf countries are the protectorates of the United States of America. The countries around the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca; protectorates of the United States of America. Korea, Japan; protectorates of the United States of America.
“That’s what Donald Trump sees. That’s why he talks about America First. It’s not that we’re going to be isolationists. It’s not that we’re going to walk away from the world. But we have to start thinking like adults about what the world is.”
America’s Perpetual State of War
And who is paying for McCain and Bush’s perpetual state of war, open borders and bolstering China’s growing economy and expanding war machine?
“Our sons and daughters,” said Bannon, “whether they went to West Point, the Naval Academy, or just went down to boot camp in Paris Island or in San Diego, they underwrite it. We underwrite the whole thing. That’s why Donald Trump is an existential threat to the system.”
Getting back to John McCain, he insists America’s sons and daughters must continue “underwriting” that horrendously unbalanced system in the name of “patriotism.”
But patriotism to what? Iraq? Afghanistan? Libya? Niger? NATO? The European Union? Mexico?
Upon entering the U.S. Senate in 1987, Sen. John McCain swore an oath:
“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
That oath clearly binds McCain to work on behalf of America… first.
The very idea of which he now denounces as “spurious nationalism.” But that nationalism is what compelled him to take a similar oath in 1958 when he became an aviator in the United States Navy.
A calling that brought him to Vietnam, where his A-4 Skyhawk jet was shot down in 1967 by the communist North Vietnamese enemy. They held McCain prisoner for more than five years while subjecting him to horrible torture.
McCain has never publicly criticized America’s failed involvement in Vietnam. In fact, it seems that his wartime experience made him a wholehearted supporter of limited military interventions, the no-win wars in which America expends billions (if not trillions) of dollars establishing a military presence, bribing the host country’s officials, leaving U.S. fighting men and women, as Steve Bannon pointed out, to “underwrite the whole thing” – at times with their very lives.
Sen. John McCain and former President George W. Bush propose we adhere to a “patriotism” steeped in self-loathing. What can only be described as an America Last patriotism.