Op-Ed

At least the Dixie Chicks didn’t make goo-goo eyes at Putin

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a join press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva via AP)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a join press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva via AP) AP

Remember the Dixie Chicks?

It was March 2003, and in response to then-President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, lead singer Natalie Maines stood on a concert stage in London and said, ”Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”

At the time, the Dixie Chicks were the darlings of country music. But after this sentence criticizing the U.S. on foreign soil, “Cumulus Media directed all 42 of its country radio stations to ban the Chicks for a month. In Bossier City, La., children stomped on Chicks CDs before the discs were run over by a tractor. “I think they should send Natalie over to Iraq, strap her to a bomb and just drop her over Baghdad,” one talk radio caller suggested.

And this was just the start. A mob of conservative voters, media, and country-music fans descended to declare Maines and her band un-American, unpatriotic, and went all-in to destroy their career.

Fast forward to July 16, 2018.

Almost four years to the day after the Russian military shot down a civilian airliner over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 innocent people, the president of the United States stood amicably next to Russia’s president — on foreign soil — and inexplicably denounced U.S. intelligence services, his own hand-picked senior advisers and the justice department for the word of one man: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

How can anyone explain this?

“My people came to me, (Director of National Intelligence) Dan Coats came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said, sounding bored by the questions. “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be … I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Unlike the flurry of outrage over a country music band, there has been what can only be described as a muted response from conservatives. What’s the big deal, they seem to say, of our president’s nonchalance in taking the word of former KGB spymaster Putin.

But where, I wonder, might this rank on the scale of patriotism?

In an interview with CNN, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul relegated all criticism of Trump’s remarks to “Trump derangement syndrome,” and when “asked if he trusted the US intelligence community over Putin, Paul initially declined to respond, instead lamenting the power of the intelligence community and calling for increased checks on its authority.”

On his website, FOX’s Sean Hannity called the response to Trump’s Putin meeting a “liberal meltdown,” while Rush Limbaugh labeled it simply “comedy gold.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put out a tepid, “The Russians are not our friends, and I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community,” but refused, as per usual, to mention the president by name.

One day post-summit, after seeing how disastrous his remarks were playing in both American and Russian media, the president threw a political Hail Mary and read from a carefully prepared statement saying he believes in the intelligence and that “he had misspoken when he said he saw no reason to believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.”

And yet, conservatives tend to have a penchant for patriotism tests.

The Dixie Chicks failed with one sentence, “we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”

And who can forget when Michelle Obama said, during her husband’s 2008 campaign, ”For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback”? She was referring to seeing so many people coming out to vote, but conservatives quickly twisted her into their poster-woman for anti-Americanism, and it stuck.

Trump often rails about how Democrats don’t love this country, tweeting things like, they “don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants ... to pour into and infest” the U.S. What does this mean, and where is the evidence for such a ludicrous accusation?

Dear Trump supporters: Define patriotism. Is it flying an American flag at your home? Is it wearing the proper lapel pin or or setting off fireworks on the 4th of July? Is it, as conservatives told the Dixie Chicks in 2003, “Shut up and sing”?

On the world stage this week in Helsinki, Finland, the president defamed and diminished the standing of Americanism, our intelligence agencies, his military advisers and the Department of Justice to take the unproven word of our greatest adversary.

Where, I ask, is the patriotism in that?

Teri Carter is a writer in Lawrenceburg. Reach her at KentuckyTeri@gmail.com.

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