Take the swift-boaters, for instance. Following Karl Rove's tactic of turning a strength into a weakness, they got GOP activists to wear "purple heart Band-Aids" to the Republican convention, convincing us that a war hero was some kind of coward. Then they convinced us that a man under whose watch the worst terrorist attack against this country occurred was somehow our best bet to fight against terrorism in the future.
The same thing has been done with opposition to the occupation and escalation in Iraq. The most important thing a country owes its troops - as Jim Webb so eloquently pointed out at the SOTU response - is to treat the decision to send them into harm's way, with care. By twisting intelligence reports to suit its policy objectives, this administration let the troops down. The fact that they sent them into battle without the needed protective equipment, and without an effective strategy to limit casualties, added insult to injury. But somehow, Bush & Co. have tried to convince us that it is those protesting this shirking of responsibility, not the shirkers themselves, that are somehow not supporting the troops.
Well, I guess if you get hit over the head with crazy talk long enough, you begin to internalize it, like some political version of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. So, the other day, Barack Obama made a perfectly reasonable statement - that the Iraq War has wasted lives - and felt the need to apologize for it. What was so wrong with what he said? The Bush administration exploited the bravery and patriotism of America's military, to suit its personal agenda and those of its oil-soaked supporters. It is the Bush administration that has wasted these precious lives. To say so is not to denigrate the fallen, nor to question the patriotism with which they volunteered - trusting in the wisdom of their civilian leaders. To mourn the cavalier manner with which Bush & Co. has treated these heroes does not make the mourner cavalier.
When such Democrats as Hillary Clinton decided whether to support the resolution that allowed Bush to invade Iraq (even though he did not follow its stipulations), they worried about bending to the administration's propaganda. They allowed themselves to be defined by the "with us or with the terrorists" rhetoric, and lost their courage to speak out when it was not yet popular to do so. If Barack Obama starts swift-boating himself before the G.O.P. does, the tremendous hope he represents will fade.
I implore Obama not to accept the crazy worldview we've been spoon fed for six years, and turn reality back off its head. He has nothing to apologize for.