Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he doesn't tell his wife he loves her any more, because “I love you” has become a substitute for “true love.” The Illinois Senator said he hopes to show his love by explaining his ideas about their relationship to her. Guess what the wife would think about that.

Of course, the story (from the AP) is a little different:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he doesn't wear the American flag lapel pin because it has become a substitute for "true patriotism" since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Asked about the decision Wednesday in an interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Illinois senator said he stopped doing so shortly after the attacks and instead hoped to show his patriotism by explaining his ideas to citizens.

"The truth is that right after 9-11 I had a pin," Obama said. "Shortly after 9-11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.

"I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest," he said in the interview. "Instead, I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism."

But the essence is similar: Wearing a flag pin is not supposed to be an explanation or an argument, just as “I love you” is not supposed to be an explanation or an argument. It’s supposed to be a traditional statement of affection, powerful because it’s cliché.

If you’re in the sort of relationship in which you’ve never made such a statement — and here flag pin wearing is a little different than “I love you,” since most citizens who love their country don’t routinely say it — then you can indeed show your love in other ways. Returning to the analogy, you hear occasionally of old-fashioned couples who’ve never fallen into the “I love you” habit, but who love each other nonetheless.

Yet if you used to say this and then you stopped, the symbolic message is pretty powerful. And that’s true even though many people say “I love you” without meaning it (just as there are some who wear the flag pin but are just opportunists, not patriots). Even if this abuse of the phrase weakens its symbolism, an outright renunciation of the phrase retains its symbolism just fine.

The American people want a President who loves their country and who expresses that love, at an emotional as well as an intellectual level. For better or worse, a President Spock won’t get elected. Candidate Obama should know that.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.