Dissent is not treason

abc_dan_pfeiffer_this_week_jt_130519_wblogMost who enter politics do so because they want to change things. Many are narcissistic and some may be, or become, corrupt, but, generally speaking, when one accuses another of having bad motives, rather than being mistaken it is the first politician who has broken faith with the electorate. People don’t go into politics because they hate the poor or want to undermine America. These are fantasy motives that exist only in the heads of their opponents.

So if a former senior political adviser at the White House says of someone in the senate leadership – that he “wants war with Iran” then the adviser is either out of touch with reality or blatantly lying. The adviser is Dan Pfeiffer, who worked at the White House until February. The senator is Chuck Schumer, the strong favorite to become leader of the Democratic caucus after the next election. In the very possible scenario that Democrats gain the senate while losing the White House next year, Schumer will be the most powerful Democrat in the country, though an adviser to his own party leader claims he wants war with Iran.

Much of the Democratic caucus in the senate is uncommitted on the president’s deal with Iran. Schumer has declared against it. This columnist favors the deal, but does not impugn the motives of those who have reached the opposite conclusion. 

But even if Pfeiffer’s fantastical analysis is correct – even if most Republicans and a slice of the Democrats in the senate actually favor war with Iran – it would not begin to justify the disgraceful slur aimed at them by the president himself. When asked about elements of the Iranian polity who chant “Death to America” the president (correctly) pointed out that such people oppose the deal he has negotiated but went on to say that they make “common cause” with Republicans on the issue.

Let us imagine that Pfeiffer is correct and most Republicans along with Chuck Schumer desperately desire war with Iran because . . . well, no-one seems clear on this, but let’s take the stupid idea seriously for a moment. They, along with the “Death to America” crowd favor war between the US and Iran. Does this mean the two groups are making “common cause”? Was Jimmy Carter making “common cause” with Iranian hostage takers when he sent troops on an abortive mission to rescue the hostages? When Nazi Germany declared war on the US in 1941 and congress responded by declaring war on Germany, were congress and Hitler making “common cause”? Of course not. While both took equivalent actions – they both declared war – they did so as adversaries, not as allies.

There is a word for people who make common cause with America’s enemies: traitors. People who made common cause with Germany or Japan during the war were guilty of treason. People who made common cause with the Soviets during the cold war were guilty of treason. If the president’s phrase actually means anything – if it is more than just an outburst, a tantrum – then it means that he thinks that most Republicans and several leading Democrats are traitors.

Like George W Bush, Obama promised to end partisan rancor in Washington. Both failed, but Bush tried. Obama seems unable to imagine sincere disagreement with his position, which is why he thinks people who disagree with him are traitors.

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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