On Shopping and Patriotism

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 23, 2008; 7:50 AM

My fellow Americans:

Let me make clear at the outset that I have no wardrobe allowance.

I have never shopped at Neiman-Marcus. I once bought an expensive shirt at Nordstrom's, but that was an emergency because I was out of town and on the plane my daughter had attacked, with a crayon, the only dress shirt I had.

But I believe people who shop at Neiman-Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney's are as patriotic as those who get their duds at Wal-Mart.

I question the political wisdom of those who think it's a good idea to spend $150,000 on clothing, wardrobe and makeup for a vice-presidential nominee of any gender. But I question even more the judgment of those who divide the country into "pro-American" and "anti-American" camps.

It's really depressing. Having covered campaigns for decades, I have a high tolerance for candidates ripping each other apart. I have a lower tolerance for the attacks on patriotism. And some of them are starting to backfire.

Sarah Palin expressed regret on Tuesday for having praised "these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation." The governor told CNN: "I certainly don't want that interpreted as one area being more patriotic or more American than another. If that is the way it has come across, I apologize."

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said of Obama, "I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views," and also told Chris Matthews that the media should investigate which members of Congress harbor anti-American views. North Carolina Rep. Robin Hayes said, "Liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God." Hate them? Bachmann later said she had been misinterpreted and Hayes denied making the comment.

Liberal bloggers are up in arms, starting with Joe Klein:

"Anyone who talks about the 'pro-American' parts of the country is making an anti-American statement.

"Anyone who talks about the 'real' parts of Virginia doesn't understand that all of Virginia is real--just not the reality as fantasized by the sort of people who see some parts of the country as more 'pro-American' than others.

"Anyone who describes one part of the country as 'most patriotic' has lost all sense of what patriotism means. (And any congressman who describes his own constituents as 'rednecks' and 'racists' probably doesn't have much of a future in politics, no matter how much pork he hauls home. I'm talking about you, John Murtha.)"

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