[T]he Democratic politicans who are pushing the "Bush Lied" meme are, I think, playing politics with the war in a way that is, in fact, unpatriotic. Having voted for the war, they now want to cozy up to the increasingly powerful MoveOn crowd, which is immensely antiwar. The "Bush Lied" meme is their way of getting cover. This move also suggests that their earlier support for the war may itself have been more opportunistic than sincere, which I suppose is another variety of unpatriotism...."Unpatriotic" is a very hot word. If you use it, you've got to know you're going to make the other side steaming mad. They get mad, in part, because it works as such a powerful criticism and hurts their cause.
[I]t's not "dissent" that's unpatriotic... It's putting one's own political positions first, even if doing so encourages our enemies, as this sort of talk is sure to do.
Creating a fuss over the use of the word "unpatriotic" might be a good strategy for Bush opponents though. Speaking in generalities about the grand tradition of dissent might be a somewhat effective way to detract attention from the specific problems about the current dissent that President Bush raised in his great speech. And in fact, Bush treated his opponents fairly and respectfully in his speech:
Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It is not justified....
And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war. When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I accept the responsibilities, and the criticisms, and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision.
While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began....
The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. (Applause.) These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. (Applause.) Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. (Applause.) And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory. (Applause.).
UPDATE: You know, back in the days of the Vietnam War, protesters and other anti-war folk didn't give a damn if you called them unpatriotic! In fact, "patriotic" was used as a slur. They called themselves unpatriotic. That's how I remember it -- from where I was at the time (the University of Michigan, 1969-1973).