Mr. President, Do You Believe In American Exceptionalism?
OK, I’m sure that most of you are familiar with President Obama’s bow to the King of Saudi Arabia (a country where women are second class citizens and where it is legal to stone them to death). I have embedded a video below from Hot Air titled, “A Tale of Two Bows”. This video clearly demonstrates President Obama giving a much more deep and respectful bow to the King of Saudi Arabia (a nation that funds terror) than to the Queen of England (England is one of our biggest allies).
When I first saw the above video, I thought that it was interesting simply because the whole bow faux paus could possibly have demonstrated that Obama was an inexperienced neophyte who was unaware of what was and what was not proper protocol. I thought that Ed Morrisey of Hot Air hit the nail on the head perfectly when he said that, “Heads of State do not bow to other heads of state” (he pointed out that King Abdullah didn‘t bow back), and further wrote that “It’s the act of a rank amateur, a man unprepared to represent a nation as a head of state.” Furthermore, the whole inexperience theory fit perfectly with Obama giving tacky gifts and being inhospitable to Gordon Brown, as well as with him embarrassing himself by giving back the bust of Churchill to the Brits.
However, I began to re-think my initial “inexperienced neophyte theory”, in regard to President Obama’s bow to the Saudi King, when I read the op-ed in The Chicago Sun Times titled, “US Should Bow to No One, Not Even a King”. In particular, this sentence in the op-ed– “What could give this issue legs is that it conforms to the view of his critics that the President spent too much time on his European tour seeming to apologize for America”.
Then, when I read Charles Krauthammer’s recent column titled, “It’s Your Country Too, Mr. President”, it really got me thinking about my previous stance on President Obama‘s bow to King Abdullah. In the first few paragraphs of the column, Mr. Krauthammer writes the following:
“In his major foreign policy address in Prague committing the United States to a world without nuclear weapons, President Obama took note of North Korea’s missile launch just hours earlier and then grandiloquently proclaimed:
“Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response.”
A more fatuous presidential call to arms is hard to conceive. What “strong international response” did Obama muster to North Korea’s brazen defiance of a Chapter 7 –“binding,” as it were — U.N. resolution prohibiting such a launch?
The obligatory emergency Security Council session produced nothing. No sanctions. No resolution. Not even a statement. China and Russia professed to find no violation whatsoever. They would not even permit a U.N. statement that dared express “concern,” let alone condemnation.”
Then, in the last half of his column, Mr. Krauthammer wrote–
“I’m not against gift-giving in international relations. But it would be nice to see some reciprocity. Obama was in a giving mood throughout Europe. While Gordon Brown was trying to make his American DVDs work and the queen was rocking to her new iPod, the rest of Europe was enjoying a more fulsome Obama gift.
Our president came bearing a basketful of mea culpas. With varying degrees of directness or obliqueness, Obama indicted his own people for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness, for genocide, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.
And what did he get for this obsessive denigration of his own country? He wanted more NATO combat troops in Afghanistan to match the surge of 17,000 Americans. He was rudely rebuffed.
He wanted more stimulus spending from Europe. He got nothing.
From Russia, he got no help on Iran. From China, he got the blocking of any action on North Korea.
And what did he get for Guantanamo? France, pop. 64 million, will take one prisoner. One! (Sadly, he’ll have to leave his swim buddy behind.) The Austrians said they would take none. As Interior Minister Maria Fekter explained with impeccable Germanic logic, if they’re not dangerous, why not just keep them in America?
When Austria is mocking you, you’re having a bad week. Yet who can blame Frau Fekter, considering the disdain Obama showed his own country while on foreign soil, acting the philosopher-king who hovers above the fray mediating between his renegade homeland and an otherwise warm and welcoming world?
After all, it was Obama, not some envious anti-American leader, who noted with satisfaction that a new financial order is being created today by 20 countries, rather than by “just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy.” And then added: “But that’s not the world we live in, and it shouldn’t be the world that we live in.”
It is passing strange for a world leader to celebrate his own country’s decline. A few more such overseas tours, and Obama will have a lot more decline to celebrate.”
Now, when reading Mr. Krauthammer’s excellent column, I couldn’t help but be reminded that this wasn’t President Obama’s first Apologolooza/America sucks world tour. In fact, Mr. Obama’s first America Sucks world tour took place last summer, during the 2008 Presidential election, when he apologized for America to the Germans during his famous Berlin speech. In an op-ed last summer, Newsmax perfectly articulated my feelings about Obama’s Berlin speech when they said–
“And then there was his speech, in which he proudly proclaimed he was in Germany as a “a fellow citizen of the world.”
And there was the spectacle of the presidential wannabe going to a foreign land to apologize about the United States. Obama told his German audience he was sorry about his country because “I know my country has not perfected itself.” [This comment was made in the former seat of Nazi power. A letter to editor published in Obama’s hometown Chicago Tribune noted the irony: “While America may not be perfect, there is no reason to apologize to the Germans, architects of the Holocaust.”]
As for America’s role in saving Germany from the onslaught of Stalinist communism and the subsequent Cold War, there was nothing.”
Now, since Mr. Krauthammer had gotten my mind traveling down the memory lane of the 2008 election, I was automatically reminded of Barack Obama’s infamous ”Bitter Comments” (where he referred to his fellow Americans as bitter, gun-clinging, xenophobes), and of his anti-American friends such as Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t, for one second, think that President Obama ever agreed with either Jeremiah Wright or Bill Ayers in how he views America (Barack Obama is an intelligent, educated man. It is ridiculous to think that he ever thought that the US government invented the AIDS virus to kill black people). However, I do think that Charles Krauthammer, again, summed it up perfectly, in another column that he wrote last October titled, ”Questions of Character” when he stated in regard to Obama, that, “He doesn’t share Rev. Wright’s poisonous views of race nor Ayers’ views, past and present, about the evil that is American society. But Obama clearly did not consider these views beyond the pale. For many years he swam easily and without protest in that fetid pond”. Furthermore, I thought that Krauthammer made an excellent point in that same column when he said the following–
“Had any white presidential candidate had a close 20-year association with a white preacher overtly spreading race hatred from the pulpit, that candidate would have been not just universally denounced and deemed unfit for office but written out of polite society entirely.”
So now, please allow me to put the previous op-eds and columns that I have cited into an even clearer perspective. Could any of you imagine John McCain behaving in the same manner that President Obama has in regard to his rhetoric about America or his associations? I mean, I think that John McCain would rather cut off his left, uh, arm than to apologize for America to the Germans or sit, for one second, in a church where the pastor says, “God damn America”. Furthermore, I think that Cindy McCain would rather cut off her right arm than to say, on national television that, ”For the first time in my adult life, I’m really proud of my country”, but I digress.
On a side note, this whole discussion reminds me of an interesting column written by Joel Stein titled, “Republicans are Blinded by Love”. (Just so you know, Joel Stein is an avowed Obama supporter who wrote about his Obama love in a hilarious column titled, “He’s Got Obamaphilia” where he stated, “I want the man to hope all over me”.) Now, in his column “Republicans are Blinded by Love”, Stein goes so far as to admit that conservatives love America more than liberals do. I have taken the liberty of pasting the most revealing and interesting parts of Stein’s column below.–
“But I’ve come to believe conservatives are right. They do love America more. Sure, we liberals claim that our love is deeper because we seek to improve the United States by pointing out its flaws. But calling your wife fat isn’t love. True love is the blind belief that your child is the smartest, cutest, most charming person in the world, one you would gladly die for. I’m more in “like” with my country.”
“Conservatives feel personally blessed to have been born in the only country worth living in. I, on the other hand, just feel lucky to have grown up in a wealthy democracy. If it had been Australia, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Italy, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan, Israel or one of those Scandinavian countries with more relaxed attitudes toward sex, that would have been fine with me too.”
“When a Democrat loses the presidential race, real lefties talk a lot about moving to Canada. When Republicans lose, they don’t do that. Though, to be fair, they don’t have a lot of nearby conservative options. Not even Hannity is a committed enough conservative to yell, “If Obama wins, I’m moving to Singapore.”
“I asked Beck why Democrats rarely share his overwhelming sense of American exceptionalism and Francophobia. “I think it’s because in the late 1800s up until the 1930s, the progressive movement started to think the European ideals are pretty good, that it’s one big world,” he said. “Well, it’s not. If you look at all the countries like people, there are differences between people. And I happen to like this person the best.” When I look at the countries like people, I love Sweden the best.”
“I’ll never experience the joy of Hannity-level patriotism. I’m the type who always wonders if some other idea or place or system is better and I’m missing out. And, as I figured out shortly after meeting my wife, that is no way to love.”
OK–I can hear it now from all of my liberal friends that I know from graduate and medical school (who I love deeply by the way). They would all probably say, “Susannah, so what if President Obama thinks like Joel Stein in that he’s “in like with America”, but isn’t head over heels in love with America? So what if Obama might think that Sweden’s a better deal and thinks of himself as more of a “citizen of the world” rather than as just an American (which could help explain the bow to the Saudi king)? As long as he’s competent, and as long as he’s not un-patriotic like Reverend Wright (which he’s not), then why does it matter if he, like Joel Stein, doesn’t necessarily believe in American exceptionalism?” Alright, that’s a fair question that deserves a fair answer. And, up until last Friday night, when I happened to catch Ron Howard’s appearance on Bill Maher’s show, it’s a question that I probably couldn’t have articulated a really good answer for. However, after watching Bill Maher interview Ron Howard, I feel that I can clearly explain why it is so important for an American president to believe in American exceptionalism.
I have embedded two videos of Bill Maher’s interview with Ron Howard below. In the first video, during the first four minutes, Ron Howard discusses making a video for the website “Funny or Die” endorsing Barack Obama (don’t watch anymore than the first four minutes of the video unless you feel that you deserve to be punished for something, because it is boooring). During the second video, between minutes 3:05 to 5:30 (I wouldn‘t advise watching anything before or after that time slot, because again, the rest of the interview is pretty dull), Bill Maher asks Ron Howard the question, “What do you think the future of America is”? and then adds that “Some think that America has jumped the shark”. Mr. Howard responds by saying that, “There needs to be an adjustment”….“I’ve spent time in Europe” (my eyes started uncontrollably rolling when he said that)…. “We won’t be consumed with being the pre-eminent super power driven by militarism and the need to export democracy” (OK–my eyes are stuck in my head from rolling them at this point. What does Ron Howard think that we should export instead of democracy–socialism or communism?)….“There will be other countries that will be economically dominant”….and finally that “We won’t be the same America as we were in the 1950’s”. And, during Ron Howard’s diatribe, Bill Maher interjected that “We won’t be so bloated and greedy”.
Now, while listening to Mr. Howard and Mr. Maher expound on their philosophy of American unexceptionalism, I had what therapists call “a moment of clarity”. If America is no longer the “preeminent super power”, then who steps in to fill the void? Well, I hate to disappoint our lefty lurkers, but it’s not going to be the Canadians, the Swedes, or those cute little dancing Belgians. It will most probably be the communist Chinese and some petro-states like the Iranians, the Saudis, the Russians, and the Venezuelans. Hey, do any of you lefty lurkers want to take part in that social experiment where the Americans are “no longer economically dominant” and we let the Chinese and the petro-states become the preeminent super powers? Anybody, anybody? What, no takers? By the way, do any of you all remember reading in some history book, somewhere, what happened when we let the Germans and the Japanese become the pre-imminent super powers during the late 1930’s? It wasn’t pretty. Furthermore, aren’t we all glad that Ronald Reagan believed in American exceptionalism and didn’t let the Russians become the pre-imminent super power during the 1980’s? Just a thought.
On another side note, Nicole Wallace wrote an excellent column for The Daily Beast last weekend titled, “Why is Obama Apologizing for America?”. In the very first line of the column, Ms. Wallace writes, “Europeans aren’t better than Americans–so I can’t figure out why our president is saying sorry to them instead of explaining what makes our country great”.
Ms. Wallace then goes on to tell a story about how a German tourist slugged her dog while she was jogging in Central Park, simply because the dog greeted him with too much exuberance. When Ms. Wallace told the tourist that, “We don’t hit animals in this country”, she reported that he replied to her by sneering, “I am German. I am lawyer”. Then, after the police arrived (naturally she called the cops, as would I if some bozo punched my dog), Ms. Wallace explained that the police reported to her that, as far as European tourists slugging dogs goes, “It happens a lot” (oh, and I thought that they were supposed to be so much more sophisticated than us).
Moreover, in the next few paragraphs of her column, Ms. Wallace explains beautifully why a strong belief in American exceptionalism is not some silly little wedge issue, but a serious philosophical difference between liberals and conservatives–just like a belief in low taxes and a belief in a strong national defense are both big philosophical differences that conservatives have with liberals. I have pasted below Ms. Wallace’s outstanding summary of how conservatives view American exceptionalism and why it is important to us.
“Republicans have paid close attention to clues this week about Obama’s working definition of American exceptionalism. This examination does not mean we suspect he is anti-American, as some on the left have suggested. Waking up to news Tuesday that he’d visited our brave troops in Iraq before returning to Washington, D.C., I am quite certain, as I was Monday and the day before that, that Barack Obama loves his country.
But his definition of American exceptionalism differs from that of most Republicans. At just about every stop on his weeklong tour, Obama missed opportunities to remind audiences of America’s generosity and compassion by emphasizing our shortcomings and failures. He is wildly popular overseas (and at home), but instead of spending some of his abundant personal and political capital to deliver a clear and direct message that promoted and defended American values, he muddied the message by emphasizing occasions in which America had been “arrogant, dismissive, and derisive” toward Europe.
Liberals found it refreshing. Conservatives found it offensive. The way we see ourselves as Americans and the role of America in the world today is one of the greatest philosophical divides in this country.”
However, it was the final two paragraphs of her column where I felt that Ms. Wallace really hit it out of the park when she wrote the following:
“For my part, I would have been inspired if Obama had re-enacted my favorite scene from the movie Love Actually. Hugh Grant, who plays the British prime minister, leaves meetings with Billy Bob Thornton, who plays the U.S. president, and stands up for his country.
Obama could have said to the Europeans: “We may be a young country, but we are a great country. We are not perfect. We make mistakes. But a whole lot of good has happened at the hands of generous and brave Americans over the last eight years. We have saved countless lives on the continent of Africa from senseless deaths by fighting AIDS and malaria. Despite ongoing challenges, a vibrant democracy is growing in Iraq. Women and girls have returned to school in Afghanistan. America has prevented further attacks at home and abroad. Yes, we face challenges. Our economy is in crisis, and America will do her part, but you must do yours. The threat of terrorism is dire. The fight in Afghanistan is at a crucial juncture. We need you to send troops to fight alongside our brave men and women. It is the only way to ensure that we will all be safe and free.”
Instead, he apologized. Oh, well. There’s always next time.”
Now, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie “Love Actually”, I have taken the liberty of embedding below the exact scene that Ms. Wallace is referring to in her column (the scene where Hugh Grant, as the Prime Minister of England, stands up for his country. By the way, see this movie if you haven‘t–it rocks).
Now, imagine President Obama channeling Hugh Grant and giving that same kind of speech to the UN (in regard to sanctions against North Korea) and to the Europeans (using Ms. Wallace’s script of course) when asking NATO for more troops in Afghanistan and asking the Europeans to take in more prisoners from Guantanamo–and had explained to the Europeans how we’ve been keeping them safe against Al Qaeda and how they need to pitch in and do their fair share. That would have kicked some ass now wouldn’t it?
So, in conclusion, I want to make it clear, again, that I am not remotely worried that President Obama might agree with Reverend Wright–that is ridiculous. However, I am worried that Barack Obama might agree with Joel Stein or Ron Howard in that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism–and judging from some of his past rhetoric about America and his recent apologies for America, that is a distinct possibility.
Now, it is fine with me if Joel Stein doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism–that is his right as an American. I will still read his columns–heck, they’re funny. Besides, I think that part of what makes America great is that a columnist can write a humorous column about how he thinks that Sweden might be a better deal, and nothing bad will happen to him (imagine trying that in China, Cuba, Russia, or North Korea). And, I really couldn’t care less if Ron Howard believes in American exceptionalism. I will still go see his movies–heck, they are good (I loved “A Beautiful Mind” and “Apollo 13”). I don’t have to agree with everything that Ron Howard says or thinks in order to enjoy his movies. Mr. Howard seems like a nice guy, and it’s not like he is engaging in deliberate anti-American activity like Sean Penn is.
However, as far as my president goes, well that’s a whole nother ball of wax. I don’t want my president to just be “in like” with his country, but think that wearing a flag pin or putting your hand over your heart during the Nation Anthem are out-dated traditions that only rural, bitter gun-clingers take part in. I want my president to be a loud and proud, flag-waving patriot who bleeds red, white, and blue. Why? Because the president is the marketer/salesman-in-chief of America, and it’s a lot harder to sell a product that you don’t believe in deeply. (I really shouldn‘t have to explain this to anyone–this should be common sense. For instance, imagine if the president of The Westminster Kennel club was “in like“ with dogs and thought that they were OK, but thought that cats might make better pets–he probably wouldn‘t promote The Westminster Kennel Club as much as someone who thinks that dogs rule, but I digress.) Maybe, if President Obama had channeled more Hugh Grant in “Love Actually” and less Ron Howard and Bill Maher on his last trip to Europe, he would have gotten the Europeans and the UN to give him more of what he wanted. And besides, to quote Emma Thompson’s character in “Love Actually”, “People hate sissies”. In other words, if you are perpetually apologizing for your very existence (or in Obama’s case, for America’s very existence), then people will simply lose respect for you.
So now, due to my prior experiences conversing with all kinds of people, I have come to the conclusion that there are pretty much two kinds of Americans. The first group will watch the patriotic video below (with the hot soldiers in it) and their eyes will get a little misty, they might get a lump in their throat, and will feel an overwhelming sense of pride (whether they are Democrat or Republican). The second group will watch the same video, but might think that it’s a little cheesy and embarrassing, and will think that maybe we should be more like Sweden and “make adjustments” like spreading the wealth around, and turning down our thermostats (except for Obama), and that we should be embarrassed that more of our children don’t speak Spanish and that we don‘t speak French. I, because of my political philosophy, really want my president to fall into the former, rather than the latter category.
I think that Michael Goodwin said it best in his recent column when he wrote that, “One early result of Obama’s Kumbaya approach remains the nagging question about his bottom line. Will he act in America’s best interest, even if no one follows? His non-answer to the question of whether he believes in American exceptionalism reveals an unformed mind on the fundamental issue”. Therefore, in conclusion, I don’t think that I am playing “the tired old politics of the past” if I ask my president in a very respectful tone, “Sir, do you believe in American exceptionalism”? It’s really a simple yes or no question. And, I think that as a voter, and as a proud American citizen, that I deserve an honest answer.
This diary is cross-posted on The Minority Report.