Obama and American Exceptionalism

Victor Davis Hanson:

After all, Obama has rejected in explicit language the notion of American exceptionalism.

Barack Obama:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don’t think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we’ve got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we’re not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.

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3 Responses to “Obama and American Exceptionalism”

  1. Michael Roston Says:

    The problem, Conor, is that you’re taking Victor Davis Hanson seriously. American exceptionalism is a religion, and he seems to believe that he’s some papal figure who gets the word on its dictates from the faith’s emperor-god, who bears a striking resemblance to Ronald Reagan.

    What the guy does is wake up every morning, write a blog post for The Corner in which he strings together the last five situations touching on foreign policy in the public debate, invokes the name of the current Democratic president or the critics of the then-Republican president, mentions the foreign policy failures of Jimmy Carter, and attaches a series of brow-furrowing adjectives, all to conclude that our country is screwed until the second coming of the god emperor emerges from….whatever human Rorschach test Bill Kristol comes up with next.

    Oh, and then we get reminded that he’s a pretty good military historian, too.

    For real. Read VDH’s LAST FIVE blog posts on The Corner and try to tell one from the other. You won’t be able to, nor will you if you go back to the post-Bush re-election period when the National Review became the home of the ‘faster please’ crowd (i.e. invade Iran, not stopping hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from being murdered). If I were a computer programmer, I could devise a ‘Victor Davis Hanson daily essay generator’ and the Corner could pay me half of his salary, put him on an ice floe, and use the rest of his paycheck to sponsor a dozen seats for young conservatives on the next National Review cruise.

    Rather than quoting Hanson, and responding with a Barack Obama quote that VDH will say just proves his point, you’d be better off making fun of him. Although it’s hard to do because VDH’s daily echolalia-like self-parody accomplishes so much on its own.

  2. Donald O'Neill Says:

    VDH is indeed something of a loony toon, but in this case, he is recognizing a legitimate difference between Obama and his own crowd. Traditionally, the concept of American Exceptionalism has been that the USA plays a special role of moral example and leadership over all other nations, and it rightfully has this role by virtue of qualities like its relative class mobility, democratic attitudes, pluralism, etc. It’s the idea that America’s mythology of itself is, in fact, real and true. Shining light on the hill, and all that.

    In the Obama quote above, he seems to be eschewing that viewpoint (to his credit) and saying that America’s unique role comes from its position of economic and military power, but not from having an intrinsic moral superiority over other countries. Obama is saying he would rather focus on the USA’s exceptional responsibilities rather than its exceptional super-awesomeness.

    Of course, to people in Victor Davis Hanson’s circles, if you say things like this then it means you have committed the unforgivable sin of not believing that America is super-awesome! Which of course makes you a terrorist-loving sissy who hearts 9/11 according to the Very Serious thinkers over at NRO.

  3. Victor Davis Hanson doth protest too much - Michael Roston - Newsbroke - True/Slant Says:

    […] Funny, that’s the question I always asked about Victor’s NRO column and blog posts. They pretty much all say the same thing, over and over again. This was a point I made in extremis on Conor’s blog. […]

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