April 6, 2016, - 6:39 pm

Merle Haggard: No Tears for Anti-War, Anti-Troops Leftist Obama Fan; Buh-bye – UPDATED

By Debbie Schlussel

*** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE: Haggard attacked “extremist” fans of Middle American values and said he was sorry he wrote “Okie From Muskogee” because of that. ***


No tears from me over Merle Haggard, the legendary country singer who died today of pneumonia at age 79. Haggard was a punkass criminal (literally) who spent his life in anti-war attacks on America and then rushed to the defense of Barack Obama.

It’s a commonly believed myth in America that country music artists–particularly the older ones–are conservative patriots. In fact, in many cases, they are not. See Willie Nelson. And see the late Mr. Haggard (friend of Willie). The “Okie From Muskogee” was one of the most successful country music artists of all time and one of the most well known “pioneers” of the depressing genre of music and song, with at least three dozen #1 country music chart hits in almost six decades. He was a White House guest of both Presidents Nixon and Reagan, so it’s easy to assume he leaned right. Not so.

Haggard wrote, recorded, and released anti-war song “America First,” when our troops were getting blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005. And he did something similar when the same thing was happening to our servicemen in Vietnam. He also defended the anti-war Dixie Chicks. Whether or not you think the Iraq War (and the one in Afghanistan) was a mistake (I do), is not the point. The point is that it’s disgusting to put out musical “spit” on our troops while they are overseas and at war. Even more disgusting is to pretend that you support the troops (as Haggard did) while doing so, when what you are doing does NOT support the troops. It demoralizes them and costs lives, limbs, and minds.

A lifelong alcoholic and drug addict, Haggard, who was married five times, spent his younger years as a serial criminal. He was convicted of armed robbery and served several years time in San Quentin State Prison.

In defending the Dixie Chicks’ shrill anti-war diatribes, Haggard cast himself as a defender of the First Amendment. But he was extremely selective in his belief in free speech rights. In fact, Haggard loudly attacked critics of President Obama and wanted them to be quiet. He called it “criminal” to attack Obama. In a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Haggard said,

It’s really almost criminal what they do with our President. There seems to be no shame or anything. They call him all kinds of names all day long, saying he’s doing certain things that he’s not. It’s just a big old political game that I don’t want to be part of. There are people spending their lives putting him down. I’m sure some of it’s true and some of it’s not. I was very surprised to find the man very humble and he had a nice handshake. His wife was very cordial to the guests and especially me. They made a special effort to make me feel welcome. It was not at all the way the media described him to be. . . .

He’s not conceited. He’s very humble about being the President of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we’ve had who come across like they don’t need anybody’s help. I think he knows he’s in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot.

And idiocy and country music apparently aren’t mutually exclusive either. Thanks for the tip, Merle. It’s no wonder that Barack Obama chose to give the guy a “Lifetime Achievement” honor at the Kennedy Center.

I think Haggard is one of the most overrated singers in history. And now he’s one of the most dead overrated singers in history. Buh-bye.

So, he claimed to be the down home “Okie From Muskogie” but lived a pretty luxe, indulgent celebrity life. I think I’ll write my own country song to commemorate all the miserable, faux-patriotic country stars who pretend they have back home bonhomie but really have the politics of the Clintons. I think I’ll call it . . .

Schmucky From Kentucky.


**** UPDATE, 04/07/16: Merle Haggard was best known for his biggest hit, “Okie From Muskogee” but was sorry he wrote it because he grew to hate its conservative fans and the values the song extolled. He told two different stories about why he wrote it. He once said he wrote it as a joke, to mock country music’s Middle American fans during the Vietnam War. But he’s also said he originally wrote it because he was upset, during the Vietnam War, at all of the hippies in the streets protesting American soldiers who were over there. Apparently, the guy couldn’t get his stories straight.

Regardless, he later said he changed his mind about Vietnam war protesters. Haggard said we should forgive the anti-war hippies, while he, instead, cast his disdain on the fans of the Middle American values the song praised–calling them “extrem[ists].” In fact, he was so down on the mainstream, small town American fans of that song that Haggard wished he “hadn’t written ‘Okie’.”


During a tour of the US, as the band was passing through Oklahoma on Interstate 40, Merle Haggard spotted a sign saying, “Muskogee, 19 miles.” He woke up his drummer Roy Edward Burris and joked that he bet they didn’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee. This started a jokey conversation among the band about other activities that might be frowned on in a sleepy town – and Haggard knew the territory because his family was from Checotah, Oklahoma, near Muskogee – and what it meant in the context of the Vietnam War. . . .


“Haggard has tapped, perhaps for the first time in popular music, into a vast reservoir of resentment against the long-haired young and their underground society.” Haggard tells a reporter that Okie from Muskogee started out as a joke, saying: “We wrote it to be satirical originally. But then people latched on to it, and it really turned into this song that looked into the mindset of people so opposite of who and where we were. . . .”

1990 to reporter Bryan Di Salvatore of Ornery magazine:

“Sometimes I wish I hadn’t written Okie. Not that I’m ashamed of it. I’m not sure but what bothers me most is the people that identify with it. There is the extremity out there.”

Yup, country music fans who made this drunken criminal bum rich beyond his wildest dreams “bother him most” and are “extremists.”

Again, thanks for the tip, Merle. And don’t let the worldly door hit ya on the way out.

33 Responses

less than educated
criminal life-long drunk

To be remembered for what ?

I’m proud to be an Obi-Wan-Kenobi
is a ” catchy ” tune.
So what ?

I don’t think he deserves the derision of HANOI JANE

But he deserves something close to it.

JayPee on April 6, 2016 at 6:56 pm

I believe Mr. Haggard was talking about respect in his comments published in the Rolling Stone. Based on this article, respect is something that you, Ms. Schlussel, know nothing about. Troy-Chillicothe, Ohio

Troy on April 6, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Troy, there is a difference between respect and fawning. I rather doubt that you know the difference. Also, respect is something earned, and not an automatic entitlement. The small man demands respect from others, while the truly great man is offered it without having to ask for it. Barack Obama does command fear from some, due to his vindictiveness, but little actual respect.

    Worry on April 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm

I.I.N.M., another one who would fit the “overrated country singer/songwriter” label – and likewise be an anti-American leftist, a la Haggard and Nelson – is Kris Kristofferson.

And, may I ask, what exactly was Haggard smoking when he claimed the self-aggrandizing, narcissistic, malevolent sociopath who has occupied the White House for the past seven years was “humble”? Given Rolling Stone’s political leanings, it stands to reason they’d publish that horse manure and his dissing of those who took legitimate issue with the dangerous direction Obama has taken this country.

Incidentally, another country performer (possibly another in the overrated category) who is now worm food, Johnny Cash, also performed before Nixon – who’d asked him to perform Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee.”

ConcernedPatriot on April 6, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    Kris Kristofferson served America proudly as an Army Ranger. Did you?

    MDT on April 6, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      There are many anti-American traitors who “served their country” one time or another. “Hanoi John” Kerry comes to mind – he “served his country” then stabbed our troops in the back by aiding and abetting the Communist enemy we were fighting in Vietnam. Kurt Vonnegut likewise “served” and then wrote “Slaughterhouse-Five” which was basically anti-American in its theme, as well as being an outright socialist. Would you call wearing a “Free Peltier” T-shirt – as Kristofferson once did, in support of a criminal whose actions have been justified by the Left solely because he was Native American – even remotely “patriotic”? Debbie’s point was, Haggard’s politics have had more in common with Michael Moore and his ilk. And she’s correct to note this.

      ConcernedPatriot on April 7, 2016 at 4:11 am

        I asgree. Another moral scumbag who served his country was George McGovern, whose constructive service to the US ended when he stopped piloting B-24s.

        Occam's Tool on April 11, 2016 at 1:12 am

      Jimmy “I’ll never lie to you” Carter served in the U.S. Navy. That didn’t prevent him from becoming an embarrassment as president and as a private citizen.

      JeffT on April 7, 2016 at 11:10 am

      What does that have to do with Merle Haggard? He despised people in uniform. Merle spend his draft age years in jail and state prison for robbery and attempted escape.

      Worry on April 7, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Here’s one truth.
If it hadn’t been for this article, I would have never heard of you.
So go ahead and make your bones ripping on the dead. More people have enjoyed his music than will EVER read your drivel.

Warren Foil on April 6, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    Warren, doe the reality of Merle bother you so much that you have to wallow in your dream world? Haggard plainly disdained the audience made so much money off of. Is pointing that out really drivel Warren? I guess you would overlooked the Crimes of Charles Manson for the sake of his tunes as well, if he had shown a bit more talent. Why don’t you go back into your corner and gorge on more of your marijuana brownies? It would be a more useful act than your posting stuff here.

    Worry on April 7, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Thanks for his fascistic and anti-natural-law argument from 2010 Ms. Schlussel on Haggard calling for “censorship” on those of us who are critical towards Obama.

This intrinsically makes Merle Haggard a “utopianist” of the left-wing, meaning that: since Mr. Haggard is on the Left, his argumentation stems to that he favors a pure dictatorship that’s antithetical to the philosophic’s of our constitutional-republic of him having too much trust in the state and seems ignorant of “checks and balances”, etc.

Us Conservatives, Libertarians and Anarchists, as well as Liberals who are traditionalists believe that the government should be scrutinized on any issue if they’re wrong on their own policy making. In contrast, us Obama criticizers believe that any person in government is inclined to abuse it to achieve dominance over others, who are proponents of “checks and balances”!

Sean R. on April 6, 2016 at 9:01 pm

I am glad that you do not hold back on telling us readers of many fake patriots that like to wear yellow ribbons for PR but secretly are as America hating as the outright Michael Moore. I also laugh at the fools that are defending this guy by attacking you, Debbie but they can not dispute what you have written. Just because someone is dead but was despicable in life, they need to get respect at the time of their death. I can bet these misguided fools would attack you if you were to be happy that Jane Fonda would have left this world.

Mario on April 6, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Mario, I am a conservative and I share many of the same political views as the author, and most likely your views as well. So, you can label me as a “misguided fool” if you wish, you have that right. However, I do not share the same lack of respect that the author displays here. I also do not share the same interpretation of what Mr.Haggard stated in the article included above. I do not see how the statements made in this article can be interpreted as strong support for Obama. He said that some of the things that are said are probably true, and he even said that he was SURPRISED to find that the guy was humble. So, he must have had a pre-concieved notion that the President was not a humble man. That hardly seems like pro-Obama comments to me. Finding that he and his family were friendly does not mean to me that he hates America. Perhaps I am not twisting these comments enough to be able to interpret them as yourself and the author both do here. I see things for what they are to me, not as I want them to be. And according to comments made here, I definitely hold more respect for my fellow man than you Mario, or the author. That is a value that I hold strong. Neither you nor the author seem to share this value based on what I have read here. Maybe Mr. Haggard, did lean left, but I would hardly say that he spent his life in “anti-war attacks” or that he was “America hating”. Attacks are how terrorists carry out their agenda, Mr. Haggard may have shared his views from time to time, but it never appeared to me that he had much of a political agenda. And when, he did share his views, it was always done so with respect every time that I heard or read something he said. You are entitled to your opinion, just as I am. And my opinion is that the man was not a saint, and was definitely not the things he is made out to be here. Troy-Chillicothe, OH

    Troy on April 7, 2016 at 12:10 am

      @Troy- if the label fits, then you should wear it. If being a fool does not apply, I would not worry about.

      Now about Mr. Haggard, if you like his music or idolize him that is your perogative. However when you have an artist who is willing to be one sided like him when it comes to criticism of one president (Mr.Obama) and yet encourage the criticism of another (Mr. Bush) then that is being hypocritical. I understand that one president rocks your boat and not the other. Yet if Mr. Haggard wants to embrace the constitution and the 1st Amendment in particular, then he would not be advocating anyone to shut up or be quiet.
      Mario-San Martin, CA

      I notice you are trying to downplay Mr. Haggard’s leftist leanings however as I stated, no one has been able to refute Debbie’s assertions. Prove her wrong if you feel that Debbie is not correct to describe Merle Haggard.

      Mario on April 11, 2016 at 10:40 am

      @Troy-you can call yourself a conservative but that still does not mean a thing especially how you want to whitewash what Merle Haggard said and done in the past. If you want to call yourself a misguided fool then you should remember the saying about the shoe fitting, wear it.

      I have come across people of both aisles of the political spectrum that are star struck by there particular performer and could care less what they say and do. Just because the artist is good at their given talent does not mean they are wrong or misguided.

      I have noticed you or any other Merle Haggard fan has not disputed anything that Debbie Schlussel other than downplaying his leftist beliefs.

      The best example of the white washing is how you somehow can determine that Merle Haggard was not for censoring criticism of Mr. Obama and yet he was all for bashing Mr. Bush especially by the Dixie Chicks. That is hypocrisy at its finest but maybe you can somehow play it as just people not understanding Merle Haggard.

      San Martin, CA

      Mario on April 11, 2016 at 2:17 pm

“Okie From Muskogie” was written a parody making fun of the straight laced middle class America.
It became a surprise hit and few people ever catch on that it was making fun of the people that loved the song.

Steve G on April 7, 2016 at 6:44 am

Thanks I did not know most of this. Good information.

bobguzzardi on April 7, 2016 at 7:48 am

Knowing Haggard’s politics, that “Okie From Muskogee” would have been written as a mocking of middle American values somehow doesn’t strike me as much of a surprise.

ConcernedPatriot on April 7, 2016 at 10:59 am

Growing up in WVA I didn’t have any radio stations that played R&B, rap or any “urban” music. All I had to listen to was soft rock, and country. I remember getting ready for school and listening to Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gail and Patsy Kline. I listened to Haggard but my favorites were Rogers and Jones. I was sad to learn of his passing and didn’t know this stuff about him. The fact that he thought that Obama was humble and didn’t deserve criticism is an opinion shared not by me. Obama has been one of the worse presidents in modern history. I challenge any liberal especially a Black one to name one thing that he has done that benefited the working Middle Class in this country. They can’t do it. I also don’t share his view on the Iraq or Afghanistan Wars because I was part of those troops back in 2003 and was proud to serve. As far as the Dixie Twits go what do you think would’ve happened to them if they went to a foreign country and said that they were ashamed of Odumbo. Nutty Natalie and Co would’ve had an IRS audit on them quicker than you could say arugula. They also would’ve been branded racists for daring to speak ill of our beloved CinC. Once again Debbie thanks for these facts about Haggard. He will still for me be one of those memories from my childhood that is now gone. For that alone I wish him God speed.

Ken B on April 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

So well-written. I love the last line. Thank you, Debbie.

DinaK on April 7, 2016 at 11:17 am

You understand that being anti-war and anti-killing doesn’t make you anti-American or anti-military right? Being anti-war means you’re for not killing people. That’s pretty darn patriotic don’t you think? Funny how everyone is all “Now I admit going into Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake”. Very convenient. That’s the point of being anti-war. You think before you start killing. Try it sometime.

Jack on April 7, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Debbie has pointed out that many Country and Western artists are really just leftists out for a buck. Merle Haggard had little connection with ordinary people after his career really took off. Haggard was an entertainer, and nothing more. As noted by Debbie, he went through more wives than Donald Trump. Outlaw Country was a suitable genre for him, since he was at heart a criminal in his past. San Quentin State Prison now holds people who either are leaving or entering the system and death row inmates. Back in the late Fifties, it was an isolated maximum security prison. You did not go there for petty theft. Haggard was sentenced to fifteen years for attempting to rob a roadhouse and a failed escape attempt. He ran a brewing and gambling racket while in San Quentin. In short, this guy was bad news.

Worry on April 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm

I have to admit that although I have a great body of knowledge about music, I know little about country music and even less about Merle Haggard. However, I think Johnny Cash was an exceptional singer, performer, and songwriter. Overall, however, I feel about the say way about country music when the greatest drummer of all time, Buddy Rich, was asked at a hospital where he was being treated if he had an allergies. His immediate response was, “Yes, country music.” (Rich could also be a very funny guy, though hell on other musicians he didn’t feel were performing up to his standards.)

I would like to point out, though, the passing of one of cinema’s legends, though you probably don’t know his name. Sir Ken Adam (born Klaus Adam) died on March 10, 2016 at the age of 95, proving that the good do not necessarily have to die young. I just learned about his death today, as his obituary did not get the coverage it deserved, so I am moved to write briefly about him now. If you love the movies, you doubtless have enjoyed his work, even if you don’t know the name.

Ken Adam was a Jew born in Berlin and he grew up at the time when the Nazis rose to power. Adam saw the infamous Reichstag fire as it happened. The family was fortunate to escape to England in 1934. Adam was one of the cinematic geniuses of a specialty called “production design.” Along with costuming, production design provides the all-important “look” of a movie. Adam creates the “look” of authenticity that makes the movie experience seem “real” viscerally, as well as intellectually.

Among the films where he worked on production design were Around the World in 80 Days, Ben-Hur, Dr. No, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, Dr. Strangelove, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Barry Lyndon, and many more. And even if you didn’t happen to like the movies he worked on, you’d have to acknowledge that he wonderfully used his imagination to create new worlds.

For perhaps one of the best tributes to Ken Adam’s work, I’ll close with a true story. When Ronald Reagan became President he was taken on a tour of many White House facilities. When he asked to see the “War Room” (that was depicted in the movie Dr. Strangelove, designed by Adam), he was told that no such a room existed.

Here’s a brief video honoring him:

Ralph Adamo on April 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

DS, you rock! I love how you always keep it really real. I have been a fan of REAL country music (not that horrible mainstream crap…ugh, that stuff sucks!) for almost 20 years and I couldn’t think of ONE Merle Haggard song AT ALL except “Okie…”. Not one. I know heaps of Willie Nelson songs…and I know his voice and songs enough to know I am not a fan and he is my least favourite country singer. Not a Willie fan, will never be!

So he carked it and I had no clue what the hell he sang and I like to listen to real country music on the weekends…that’s how I got into it in 1997 after a lifetime of thinking I hated it. I can’t name one other song of Merle’s. I knew many George Jones songs when he shed his mortal coil but not one MH song. And I knew that George had the most perfect country voice I had ever heard. I love “Asleep At The Wheel”, Dick Curless, Junior Brown, Buck Owens, Lefty Frezzell (sp?), Ernest Tubb, Vince Gill (I love, love, love Vince Gill!!!), Jo-el Sonnier, Del McCoury, Buddy & Julie Miller, Gillian Welch, Ralph Stanley, Iris Dement, Patty Loveless (my favourite female…)…I could go on and on but NO MERLE! That can’t be by accident. The radio shows in Boston that love country KNOW country (college stations, not that crap you’ll hear in “Texas Roadhouse”).

I liked what you said about “The Dixie Chicks” too because you even stated you didn’t agree with the Iraq War. I wish I had known what you knew then because I would have gotten that right but I had just woken up out of my political stupor at the time and was passionately anti-Libtard. Now I know WHY to be anti-Libtard and am way more politically seasoned. Mostly thanks to YOU!

Thanks for calling it straight. People loved Merle but you bottom-lined it and as I said, I don’t even know his music…

Skunky on April 7, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Merle Haggard was his own man. That’s why his songs sounded so real. Nobody owned him. In the end, songs are what matter. Decades from now, people will remember Merle for his music, not whether or not he was an “authentic” Red Stater.

Primetime on April 8, 2016 at 1:10 am

Sorry, that should read, “I agree.”

Occam's Tool on April 11, 2016 at 1:12 am

Let the first one without sin cast the first stone!
I wonder why Little Debbie didn’t rant about Merle while he was still alive.
Y’all should be ashamed of yourselves.
Taking things Merle said in the past and twisting them into things in how YOU want him to be.
Serious comprehension problems by Little Debbie and some of these other ignorant hateful comments.
I know it’s a great sin to some of you to find some good in a man that was only human, just like you and me.
Here is some wisdom for you all:
The same God that made YOU, made Merle!
At least Merle wasn’t so low as to speak hate of people he didn’t know personally!
Something is seriously wrong with people in society anymore for all they know is how to hate people they don’t even know.
You don’t like what Merle said? He had a RIGHT to express it.
Whoever said you were righteous and who put you in an authorities role?
Please don’t hate people, it’ll destroy you before it will destroy the one your hating…….

John on April 13, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Miss Debbie, Very good article. Until recently, I didn’t know how dark haggard was in real life. I knew he was not a straight-up citizen. I know he did work for the scumbags at the CIA, as did/does charlie pride. To be a friend of Obama and his husband/wife is a true dishonor. His work in California for the CIA was involving drugs. Publicly, he was a great country representative , but behind the scenes he was very anti-Free American.

William on April 16, 2016 at 11:37 am

You can be anti-war and conservative, you ignoramus. You can also be anti-war and still respect soldiers and be a “patriot” (as you types love to call people). In fact, a lot of anti-war people love soldiers and want them to be home and not off somewhere being killed.

I seriously can’t understand how you would call “America First” anything but patriotic. Why does singing about the need for America to be “fixed” equal anti-war, soldier hating monster? You’re deluded! How does singing about America cause American soldiers to die? Totally nutty!

I also don’t understand how in the hell saying that people talk a lot of hot air, some of which may be true, but generally is not, is against the First Amendment? You are really grasping at straws here.

Did you even read the Telegraph article you quote in which he talks about the meaning of the song? He clearly says he wrote it for the soldiers being sent of to die for something they didn’t even understand, he says he doesn’t like hippies (hippies are not necessarily liberal and are very, very different, though I know how you love to pretend they’re not). The whole article he talks about how he doesn’t want to be associated with any politics and simply that he thinks the song sparks a bit too much fanaticism in “patriots” and is used for things he doesn’t agree with. That suddenly makes his death something to joke about, that makes him an “anti-troops leftist Obama fan”? Such incredible delusion!

He’s hardly a drug addict, smoking marijuana is not drug addiction, you loony.

It’s as if anyone who is an asshole couldn’t possibly be from your ultra-right madcap wing of politics, when most of these lobbyist billionaire rapists theocrats very much are in the same camp as you.

This whole article is an utter shambles. Totally misquoted, out of context, WILFULLY twisted information to suit your ridiculous agenda. A needlessly vitriolic celebration of his death and you attempt to justify it by providing evidence that you misquote and actually tells the opposite story to the one you want to present here? Man, I knew you were disgusting, but this is just low.

Darc on May 11, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Wow, you are one dumb bitch.

Ken on June 7, 2016 at 7:24 am

Forget all that. What about Waylon??

Sage on October 11, 2016 at 12:18 am

Waylon Jennings was wonderful. However, Merle Haggard is the greatest country singing star that ever was.

Hollandaise on October 19, 2016 at 1:02 am

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