What does it mean for Obama to love or hate America?

But Kremer’s basic articulation of the matter is simpler and perhaps more to the point: “I just don’t believe that he loves America the way that we do.” That seems to get at the heart of the matter, because it combines two key elements: first, an acknowledgement that this is fundamentally a matter of faith; and second, an unspecified but deeply felt version of “we.”

The problem with this faith is that it becomes an a priori framework into which any further information must be made to fit. My colleague Yoni Appelbaum explained this phenomenon in 2010, while discussing the Shirley Sherrod scandal. “The result is esotericism. Words cease to be taken at face value,” he wrote. “A candidate attends intemperate sermons, or shares a cup of coffee with an unrepentant terrorist, and his own consistent record of moderate centrism suddenly becomes construed as a mere facade for his true radicalism, which has somehow failed to ever find expression in any of his own acts or words.”

In this case, to meet the demands of loving America, Obama would have to declare an unabashed belief in American exceptionalism; deploy troops overseas; oppose ISIS and Russian expansionism; and develop an emotional connection with American voters. He’s done all that? Well, that’s just proof of how carefully he’s shielded his true beliefs.