Casual accusations of treason

CASUAL ACCUSATIONS OF TREASON…. Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, a relatively obscure Republican freshman lawmaker, published a piece this week on the Obama administration’s nuclear policies and counter-proliferation efforts. Fleming, apparently, isn’t impressed, and rehashed a variety of tired right-wing cliches and demonstrably false claims.

In particular, Fleming repeatedly urged President Obama to be more like Reagan, which made his opinion piece “dishonest and nonsensical,” given Reagan’s support for nuclear disarmament and treaties like the one Obama signed in Prague this week.

But Fleming’s conclusion is what stood out for me.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I work daily to ensure our men and women have the resources they need to protect this country, and I continue to be dismayed by the national security policies coming out of this White House. Simply put, President Obama is disadvantaging the United States one step at a time and undermining this country’s national defense on purpose. Whether he is catering to the anti-war leftists or truly doing what he thinks is best for our security, the president is leading this nation down a very dangerous path. [emphasis in the original]

Now, most of the piece is boilerplate garbage. Fleming, or someone on his staff, wrote an op-ed without bothering to understand the details of the policy it seeks to critique. It’s the kind of superficial, misleading, and uninformed “analysis” we’ve come to expect from congressional Republicans.

And if Fleming had simply characterized the approach endorsed by the president, the Pentagon, and the Joint Chiefs as misguided, and even potentially dangerous, it’d hardly be worth mentioning. But note that one line that the congressman italicized — he believes the White House is “undermining this country’s national defense on purpose.”

Ignorance is commonplace. Belligerence is routine. Stupidity has become habitual throughout much of the caucus. But let’s not overlook the fact that Fleming spoke directly to President Obama’s motives. Fleming argued that the president isn’t just mistaken, but rather, is deliberately trying to make the United States less safe and more vulnerable.

In other words, Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana effectively accused the President of the United States — the Commander in Chief during two wars — of treason. For Fleming, Obama is choosing to betray the nation, in his words, “on purpose.”

I write a lot about the excesses of Republican rhetoric, in part because I find GOP remarks illustrative of a party gone mad, and in part because of the impact the rhetoric has on the larger political culture/discourse. Most of the time, the temptation is to mock the absurdities.

But once in a while, we find a case like this one, in which a sitting member of the House of Representatives — not a Fox News personality, not a host of right-wing radio show — suggests, in print, that the president is a traitor.

Is nothing beyond the pale for Republican officials in 2010? Must there be no difference between GOP lawmakers and unhinged right-wing activists? Are we to believe that we should simply expect and tolerate the casual accusations of treason against American patriots?