Monday, November 29, 2010

The Washington Post Protests that Barack Obama Has Affirmed "American Exceptionalism" on "Many Occasions"

"American exceptionalism" is a phrase that, until recently, was rarely heard outside the confines of think tanks, opinion journals and university history departments.
In a Washington Post piece about m and how the phrase has been taken on by Republican contenders for the 2012 election, American exceptionalism and how the phrase has been taken up by Republican contenders for the 2012 election, Karen Tumulty manages to pull out the ol' people-who-criticize-leftists-are-traitorous-or-at-best-misinformed-and-now-allow-me-to-get-the-full-facts-out-to-you spiel, although arguably in a rather subtle fashion.

Well… maybe not that much. First, Karen Tumulty wonders about the evil that lurks, hidden, in the hearts of conservatives, comparing them to the so-called truthers — "making an insidious suggestion about the president himself" — and in the process stating as a fact that "assertions" that put into doubt the Dear Leader's narrative about himself (or his policies) are, and can only be, "false".
With a more intellectual sheen than the false assertions that Obama is secretly a Muslim or that he was born in Kenya, an argument over American exceptionalism "is a respectable way of raising the question of whether Obama is one of us," said William Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Having thus put into doubt the integrity of the individuals, and of the movements, opposing the Great Helmsman (or of whomever they make the ill-founded choice of associating themselves with, directly or indirectly), she goes on to "demonstrate" — again, as a given — that the reasoning of the opponents, if not "insidious", is at best false or misleading.
Much of this criticism harkens back to a single comment that Obama made at a news conference a year and a half ago in Strasbourg, France, during his first trip overseas as president. … The president's answer [to Financial Times correspondent Ed Luce] began: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
Karen Tumulty goes on to state that what "provided ammunition for Palin and other Republican critics" turns out to be wrong.
…while the opening sentence of Obama's answer sounded dismissive, the president's full statement was [in fact] more complex than that — and was indeed an affirmation of American exceptionalism…
To prove this contention — although she has no choice but to call the Apologizer-in-Chief's 2009 affirmation "arguably a qualified one" — she refers to the "many occasions" on which Barack Obama has made speeches in which he affirmed "American exceptionalism".

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer noted that Obama has declared exactly that on many occasions [that "American exceptionalism refers directly to the grant of rights asserted in the Declaration of Independence," and that it is a term "which relates directly to our unique assertion of an unprecedented set of rights granted by God" (Newt Gingrich)] — including in his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the moment that first brought the then-Illinois state senator to national attention.
Unfortunately, this contention is belied by two things. First, the 2004 speech is the only one of "many" perorations that Karen Tumulty (or that Dan Pfeiffer) specifically bring up. Couldn't either of them have mentioned (at least) one other speech as well, notably a more recent speech, say, one made after Obama entered the Oval Office? Or even one after he became the Democratic candidate for president?

Indeed, this brings us to the second point: the entire argument against Obama is that all the "good stuff" that he said when he needed to say them, while he was running for the top post, and what he has been saying once he got to the top post, is entirely different, and that what Obama has said, and what he has done, since becoming leader belies entirely what he said, and what he did, as a candidate (or, as far as the 2004 speech is concerned, as a candidate-in-waiting)…