No, Glenn …

… it’s not ok to question someone’s patriotism (without justification). But no one’s questioning Scheunemann’s patriotism. The question is about conflict of interest.

… it is not all right to “question people’s patriotism” just because you disagree with them politically. It never has been it never will be. Your habit of doing so is among your least attractive characteristics. So is your habit of not noticing when your political allies do genuinely unpatriotic things.

But it wasn’t unpatriotic for Randy Scheunemann to lobby for the government of Georgia. And no one is saying or implying that it was unpatriotic. (Your habit of what Orwell called “abusive misrepresentation” &#8212 deliberately misstating someone’s position to make it appear wicked or stupid &#8212 is even higher on your list of unattractive characteristics.) It was, arguably, corrupt for him to sell his access and influence, especially his access to and influence on John McCain, to foreign powers, but that sort of corruption is, alas, pretty standard, and at least Georgia was a friendly foreign power. By contrast, the work that Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, did for the Russian side in the Ukrainian elections was at least arguably unpatriotic, since Russia is not a friendly foreign power.

No matter how friendly Georgia is, however, Georgian interests are not always identical with American interests. Helping Georgia means confronting Russia, and confronting Russia means forgoing Russian help with respect to Iran.

So the issue, when John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser is on the payroll of a foreign government, isn’t lack of patriotism. It’s a simple conflict of interest. McCain can’t know, and the country can’t know, to what extent the advice McCain gets from Scheunemann reflects his loyalty to his client in Tbilisi. Nor can anyone know to what extent Saakashvili’s imprudence in attacking the South Ossetian capital &#8212 an act that had disastrous repercussions extending beyond Georgia &#8212 resulted from his belief that Scheunemann could deliver for him in Washington.

So, in this instance, no one question’s Scheunemann’s patriotism, or McCain’s. We question McCain’s judgment, and abhor his total absorption in the DC lobbyist/influence-peddler culture.

I hope that’s clear now.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: