The teal-and-mustard candidate

“I thought this might be a hoax,” an email now circulating on the internet begins. “Actually hoped it was, but verifies the following info. . . . Obama The Patriot – Removes American Flag From His Plane.” And thousands of indignant Americans are now emailing this news widely, including to my relatives. “Please forward this if you’re not ashamed of our country and our flag,” the email suggests. And also: “If you do not forward this to everyone you know nothing will happen.”

To someone like me, the charge seems silly. Is it too silly to answer? Well, in the last election, people like me often thought themselves above responding to such charges, and it didn’t end well. And this particular accusation is awfully easy to answer, so . . .

Obama has indeed lowered the number of American flags on his campaign airplane, by trading in the flag-heavy corporate logos of North American Airlines for a design by his own campaign. But if you’re going to judge a candidate by his colors, it’s only fair to take a look at McCain’s plane for comparison. Have you seen it? Obama’s plane is red, white, and blue. What color is McCain’s? Teal and mustard.

There is an American flag on McCain’s plane, but it’s small, low to the ground, and hidden behind the jets. You can’t see it in most of the photos of the plane online. And if you take a second look at Obama’s campaign symbol, what do you really see? Red stripes, white stripes, blue. His symbol is the American flag, in a lot of ways. His symbol is saying that he’s so close to the flag that he’s at one with it.

For the record, of course I don’t seriously think that McCain’s choice of teal and mustard signals a lack of patriotism on his part. My point is that he’s just as vulnerable as Obama to such an attack—and maybe a little more so.