American exceptionalism

Obama appealed to it tonight. You think that will shut the wingnuts up? Me neither.

One of the stupidest of right-wing talking points about Obama – against, let it be said, very tough competition – is that he somehow disbelieves in the exceptional nature of the American project. One passage in tonight’s speech played that back at the GOP weasels who, having demanded that he do something in Libya, are now hoping to inflict a political wound on him for having done so, and the national interest and honor be damned.

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.

This, of course, will not keep the Republican Party, or Fox News (aka Republikanskya Pravda) from continuing to repeat the lie that Barack Obama does not love his country.

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.

Not so bad, really. Still, I wish he’d used Dan Drezner’s version.

Update Credit where it’s due: Bill Kristol prefers his interventionist principles to recreational Obama-bashing. Good for him.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

15 thoughts on “American exceptionalism”

  1. I’d say he loves his country, but means the “his” in a slightly different manner than usual. Really, I’m not going to get past the point that he didn’t give Congress any say in the decision. If he were an “R” instead of a “D”, you guys would be talking impeachment at this point, if not revolution.

  2. @brett–you haven’t been very funny lately so it’s nice to see you back on top of your form with that.

    @malcolm–the pointed end of the irony seems lost on you. whether the professor finds anything exceptional about the american project or not is irrelevant. what matters is the conservative bloviating class who keep railing against obama for not believing in it.

  3. At least they’ve switched their rhetoric from “He waited too long to do something about it”. Perhaps someone pointed out how long it took W to do something about Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds.

  4. Christian exceptionalism has traditionally meant that Christianity is set apart from “the world” by the spirit of the servant, in contrast to the spirit of the dominator (which characterizes worldly empires like Rome). The hunger for power and the desire to be obeyed belongs to Caesar, not to the servants of the Lamb of God.

    American exceptionalism has a significance to conservatives that America is dominant (has “full spectrum dominance,” as they say at the Pentagon). When we say “jump,” we want others to say, “How high?”

    There is an unresolved incongruity between the two species of exceptionalism. The Christian Right is divided against itself. Like a house built on sand, it cannot long stand.

  5. Mark: One passage in tonight’s speech played that back at the GOP weasels…

    Talking about playing it back at the weasels…
    Stewart’s “I give up” piece is about as damning a short about where we are in exceptional America as I’ve ever seen:

    You know I am starting to think Palin could actually win…
    Just because there are absolute mobs of liberals and democrats who are saying WTF?
    I gave my hard-earned for this? Apathy and disgust are running rampant on the left…

    Meanwhile on the right, Palin’s evangelicals know no bounds to their enthusiasm.
    They’d set themselves on fire in the public square to get her elected…
    They’ve got faith in their fool…
    We’ve got scorn for our’s…

    What I am hinting at here is this: I expect profoundly low voter turnout in 2012.
    What is one to get excited about? Win the Future? Please.
    Slit the throat of that lame stillbirth and throw it in the idiot sack.
    We are way past “campaigning in poetry and governing in prose.”
    And belly up against: “campaigning in poetry, and leading from the rear.”

    And to tie this all together with Mark’s post:
    Any presidential debate should be all about “No we can’t.”

    I want to hear Obama say: no we can’t afford to give money to enterprises that help poor inner city folks…
    I want to hear Palin say: no we can’t afford to give free medical care to those under 70.
    I want to hear Obama say: no we can’t afford to allow people to retire into SS at 62.
    I want to hear Palin say: no we can’t afford to do science on biology…
    And so on… And on…
    The debate ought to be a feast of “No we can’t go to Mars or build bridges to anywhere…”

    Of course, instead…
    We’ll get endless empty puffery about American exceptionalism…

    Good lord.
    I can hardly wait…

  6. 1. We need to stop thinking the way to assist people in foreign countries is to bomb them.
    2. This has nothing to do with democratic reform– we support the Saudis’ brutal repression in Bahrain.
    3. We have no exit strategy.
    4. This extends the American empire, which exposes us to more terrorist attacks. I don’t want to die in an attack to protect Lybian rebels, and my President’s job is to protect me even if those rebels lose their civil war.
    5. We are being dishonest, we tried to murder Gaddafi on the first day of this.
    6. We are in two wars already. We wouldn’t think of doing this had we not bloated the defense budget and borrowed the next generation’s money to do it. I don’t care how aroused liberal interventionists and neocons get when we do these things, we can’t afford them.

  7. (Malcolm): “Professor, what is exceptional about ‘the American project’?”
    (Navarro_: “
    @malcolm–the pointed end of the irony seems lost on you..
    Please explain. Where do you see irony in professor Kleiman’s statement? He says it’s “stupid” to say that President Obama “somehow disbelieves in the exceptional nature of the American project.”
    So I asked for clarification.
    (Navarro): “
    …whether the professor finds anything exceptional about the american project or not is irrelevant.
    Not at all. If Professor Kleiman calls “stupid” the assertion that President Obama “disbelieves in the exceptional nature of the American project”, then the exceptional nature of the American project must be pretty obvious (to both President Obama and Mark Kleiman). Seems to me, anyway. I’m asking the Professor, a professional educcator, to explain the term “exceptionalism”. Why is this request illegitimate? Maybe you could fill in for the professor here.
    (Navarro): “…what matters is the conservative bloviating class who keep railing against obama for not believing in it.
    Matters to whom? And what is “it”?

  8. Navarro, there is nothing particularly funny about either war, Presidents who seize the power to declare it unilaterally, or Congresses which submit with barely a word of complaint to that seizure. Say what you will about Bush, he got permission from Congress for his military adventures, and didn’t drag his heels about explaining his reasons for embarking upon them.

    But then, what can you expect, from a President who has also claimed the authority to have US citizens executed without judicial review?

  9. @malcolm– the irony is in his statement that this will prevent the republican party from questioning obama’s love of country. it matters to all the folks that appear on the sunday public interest talk shows every weekend who declaim about obama’s lack of love for his country. it = american exceptionalism.

    @brett–i agree there is nothing particularly funny about wars but there are many laughs to be found in many of your statements. indeed, that last post had me chuckling at the final clause of the second sentence 😀

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