No well-developed thoughts on this one (yet), but there’s a bit of a go-around arising from comments by some on the right that former president Jimmy Carter is increasingly on “the other side.” Alex Knapp seconds Matthew Yglesias’ complaint that this is beyond the pale:
[I]t says something about this country that we’ve allowed discourse to slide to the point where anyone who disagrees with a position is automatically branded a traitor.
On the other hand, the Baseball Crank writes:
There’s a critical distinction here that the critics on the Left, most notably Yglesias—who’s posted on this three times now without addressing the distinction—need to grapple with. And that is this: giving speeches and the like here at home is, indeed, just “political disagreement.” It may help us or it may hurt us, but it is just speech. But that’s not what Hinderaker is talking about, although you’d never know from reading Yglesias. What he’s talking about is traveling around the world, meeting with foreign leaders and taking positions contrary to those of the United States or rendering assistance directly to hostile forces and regimes.
This is, of course, a recurring theme in conservative criticisms of a number of liberals—besides Carter’s many trips, prominent examples include John Kerry’s famous meeting with the North Vietnamese and the trip Kerry and Tom Harkin took to meet with Daniel Ortega in the 1980s. Jesse Jackson is also a master at this. To say nothing of Jane Fonda and Ramsey Clark. (I can’t think offhand of conservative examples of the same; I’m sure you can find some, but the practice has been far more pervasive on the Left, and not only because we’ve had mostly Republican presidents since the dawn of the modern Left in 1968). Time and again, whether they be legislators, state officials, ex-leaders, or private citizens, we’ve seen the spectacle of people on the Left sitting down with hostile heads of state and assuring them that the United States does not present a united front against them. They, in turn, often use such meetings for propaganda purposes, including for the purpose of telling their own people that the United States is not going to help them.
Of course, trivializing the idea of treason by applying it to Carter’s actions—a tactic of folks like Ann Coulter and the freeper nation—isn’t a good idea, but I think it’s reasonable for Americans to expect their current and former elected officials to not actively undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts while overseas, just as I think Germans would be (rightly) offended if former chancellor Helmut Kohl went to the United States and tried to undermine German diplomatic efforts. Indeed, such efforts when undertaken by U.S. citizens are technically illegal, although the law has rarely been enforced.