A march against the closure of national landmarks due to the shutdown Sunday attracted thousands of protesters from across the country, along with high-profile tea party speakers like Ted Cruz, UT Sen Mike Lee and Sarah Palin. But two other attendees are getting perhaps more attention: Whoever brought the Confederate flag to protests at the White House (at which Cruz and Palin attended), and Larry Klayman, the founder of conservative advocacy group Freedom Watch, who told the crowd:
I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Koran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.
The goal of the rally, billed as the "Million Vet March," was simple: Use the protest to blame President Obama for the shutdown and accuse the president of using veterans as a pawn in the shutdown game. For a while the effort seemed to be working, at least for folks on the right, as the National Review's Robert Costa explained on Twitter --working for those "who have some sway/decisions to make in the coming days."
But once the Confederate flag appeared, Beltway pundits from all sides reacted negatively and critically. Conservative writer Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted: "In many parts of America, waving a Confederate flag outside the home of a black family would be considered a very hostile act." It may do well to remind these flag bearers that the color of the last flag flown by the Confederacy was white.
The central gist of these critiques: It's simply bad optics that a group already suffering from terrible polling numbers doesn't need, and in a messaging war --and make no mistake; this is a war where the message may be the most important component-- you can't have bad optics.
Or bad arguments. Senator Cruz told the crowd at the WWII Memorial: "Simple question: Why is the federal government spending money to keep veterans out of the memorial?" As a National Parks Service spokesman explained, although the memorial is officially closed, veterans and their families and friends have been allowed access to it all month.
Or you could ask a better question: Why are these people protesting a shutdown they were in favor of last week? Where is the incentive for politicians to be honest when people are so eager to believe simple-minded rhetoric?
And does anyone really believe these people and grass rooters organized this rally on their own? Very powerful people behind the scenes are shepherding these protesters and veterans, deliberately using them for their own selfish purposes. That's the real irony.
Are people so brain dead they can't get past the "Obama is a Muslim" rhetoric? There are plenty of reasons to protest the actions of the president but anyone who drags out this tired talking point is just giving the president's supporters more reasons to call people like Klayman and the folks who cheered him racists and idiots. Who are we pandering to here, critically thinking citizens or low information voters?