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Posted at 10:44 AM ET, 01/ 3/2011

The dumbest "American exceptionalism" attack on Obama yet

By Greg Sargent

The last thing you need is more proof of the mindlessness and vapidity of the right's attack on Obama for allegedly not believing in "American exceptionalism." But Bill Kristol's latest rendition is really worth savoring, because it unwittingly shows what nonsense it all is.

Kristol has a post up making the case that Obama has finally caved to the right's attacks and has grudgingly conceded America's greatness. The evidence? Kristol notes that in his weekly address on Saturday, the President hailed America as "the greatest nation on earth," and "the greatest country in the world."

This, Kristol says, showcases the "new, revised Obama."

It's unclear whether Kristol is joking, but given the idiocy we keep hearing along these lines, it's perfectly reasonable to assume he isn't. So allow me to point out that Obama has been using these phrases for literally years now.

In his breakout speech at the 2004 Dem convention, Obama hailed the "greatness of our nation" and the "true genius of America." And he's repeatedly stated as president that we live in the greatest country evah. Way back in August 2009, Obama described America as "the greatest nation on Earth." In October of 2009, Obama declared that "we live in the greatest country on Earth."

In January of 2010, Obama described America as "the greatest nation in the world." He called America the "greatest country on Earth" on September 25, again on September 29th, and still again on October 21st. And so on.

Kristol, obviously, could have sorted this out himself with a bit of Googling. But of course, there's no need for Kristol to do this, since the "American exceptionalism" attack isn't about what Obama really believes. Rather, the real goal is to advance a larger, albeit tacit argument about Obama's vaguely alien and unsettling cultural roots and identity -- one that many mainstream Republicans won't cop to aloud, but will nonetheless be a central subtext throughout the 2012 campaign. Obama's actual beliefs are totally beside the point, as Kristol has unwittingly proven yet again.

By Greg Sargent  | January 3, 2011; 10:44 AM ET
Categories:  2012  
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Next: Psst. Conservatives? Eric Holder was right about Black Panther nonsense

Comments

"So allow me to point out that Obama has been using these phrases for literally years now."

With all due respect, Mr Sargent, all your 'citations' refer to either the lamestream liberal media or the liberal-controlled, grossly overlarge government. Until you can prove your case solely with citations to Conservative Approved (TM) media outlets, you lose.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 3, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I fully expect that Obama's 2011 SOTU speech to be essentially his kick off for his re-election bid.

Anita Dunn was on MSNBC today and said that Obama will be focusing on JOBS JOBS JOBS and a "pro-growth" agenda in his speech.

I fully expect that speech to be EXTREMELY PATRIOTIC including saying how we are the "greatest nation on earth" and how we need to become the "INNOVATION NATION".

I fully expect Obama 2.0 to be about patriotism, innovation, and investment.

Posted by: maritza1 | January 3, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Kristol has snarkily given up a snarky attack. Not worth any ink, IMO.

Others will continue to mouth the phrase "exceptionalism" and talk as if it were a known bedrock of a principle. I think our nation is exceptional and I love it; and I want it to remain exceptional. I am guessing that I am closer to BHO in my understanding of this than I am to Kristol. Like BHO I feel lucky to have been born in America and lucky to be here now and I want the next generation to have that sense too. Kristol was coming from some other place that I did not grasp, but it may have been based on the notion of pax americana. As I say, I don't know - I invite others to explain.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | January 3, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

bsimon-

That there is funny!

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 3, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps this will be the year right wing attacks finally start parodying themselves to such an extent, the media takes notice of the utterly insane logic involved?

Alas, if you truly believe Obama is literally the spawn of Satan, a foreigner, and devoted communist devoted to... uh... giving loads of money to bankers...

Sigh... It's beyond lying. It's clueless and yet most of journalism refuses to acknowledge it.

I sincerely hope the media finally begins to take notice of the utter vacuum behind the logic of their charges. But I don't expect it.

Posted by: Alex3 | January 3, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

If I pointed out to Kristol that his beloved Israel's health care system is ranked 16th in effectiveness while providing universal coverage by the WHO while America's is ranked 37th and does not, does that make me think America is less than exceptional?

Posted by: MerrillFrank | January 3, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

"on Saturday, the President hailed America as 'the greatest nation on earth,' and 'the greatest country in the world.'"

Man, I guess this guy is some kind of hayseed, hick, or rube. Right, Bernie? :)

BTW, I like Obama, generally, and I agree with him that America is the greatest nation on Earth. I personally don't see it has an opportunity to attack him for more nuanced points he has made before.

Would it kill us to just say, hey, I disagree with Obama on some policy points, but, yeah, absolutely, he's right. Great speech. America rocks!

"Rather, the real goal is to advance a larger, albeit tacit argument about Obama's vaguely alien and unsettling cultural roots and identity"

Well, whatever. It ain't workin' on me. I like Obama a lot more now than I did in 2008.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 3, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

For liberals here who would like a glimpse of what's next in the effort to neuter Mr Obama, I suggest a rereading of the American Media circa January 2003. the tools and techniques brought to bear by the left in those days will be recycled by Obama's apponents today.

so go back to your archives and recall what you said and did. Recall what was au courant in the media. Recall the demonstrations, the use of the internet, the calcification of hatred toward Bush.

then you'll recognize what's happening today. It is your tools, your techniques, being brought to bear on your guy.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 3, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

It is your tools, your techniques, being brought to bear on your guy.
-------------------------------
Cain to Abel: "The snake made me do it".

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | January 3, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

All, good Adam Serwer post going after Jennifer Rubin on the Black Panther Party nonsense:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/holder_was_right_about_the_new.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 3, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I think the US lost the title of the "greatest country in the world" sometime in the early part of the Reagan Administration when the steps were put into place for destroying the middle class. That has now been successfully almost completed. Politicians like Obama still have to spout off that "we're number 1", else they risk electoral suicide. Who the hell cares what country is the greatest? Greatest in what? Certainly not in education or people's access to quality healthcare.

Posted by: filmnoia | January 3, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I get it!

So... Obama is an Islamofascist scary(black)Muslim who wants to destroy America, but since he SAYS he loves America, it's all good?

Cmon neocons. Is the best you can do? For real? Weak sauce. Either he's a scary(black)Muslim who hates America or he's not. Pick one and go with it.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 3, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

America was exceptional (until my Baby Boom generation wrecked it). The British Empire was exceptional. Portugal, France, Belgium and Germany have all been exceptional. Rome was exceptional. So was Greece at one time. Even the Barbarians and Huns were exceptional for a moment. Maybe China will be exceptional next. Who cares. Every moment wasted on such nonsense is precious time lost. The seas are rising as we speak and nature doesn't give a d*mn who is exceptional. Everyone drowns the same.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 3, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

OT, 2011 bounce:

~Wall Street Starts New Year With a Jump~

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/business/04markets.html

~Manufacturing activity rises to 7-month high~

http://money.cnn.com/2011/01/03/news/economy/ism_manufacturing/

~Bank Of America To Buy Back Bad Loans From Fannie,Freddie~

http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110103-705110.html

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 3, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

It's all part of the 'birther, Kenyan, muslim, won't wear a flag pin' nonsense hysteria. Some people just can't deal with the fact that we have a black president.

As far as exceptional, is concerned, in what way is America now exceptional? Educationally? Civil rights? Health care? Income equality? While we may have been 'exceptional' at one time, we are now falling behind a lot of other countries in a lot of ways. And the further we fall, the louder the rightwingers will shriek about how we're number one.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 3, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Right when Jennifer's column debuted, she commented that she believes in American exceptionalism. I and several other folks requested a definition. America is great, America is #1, etc etc. Those are slogans happily slurped up.

For my part, I think wbgonne's comment illustrates something very special, even exceptional about America. Its dynamism. Reagan's shining city on a hill. Constant renewal and immigration as an important part of that. I grew up when Japan was the great threat (economic that is, I'm not THAT old). It dumped massive quantities of money into bridges to nowhere and research projects to nowhere (the supercomputing program, for example). Meanwhile, the microprocessor came along and ate the superchip's lunch.

No one party can screw that up. That goes for the Republicans' view of Obama as well as the Democrats' view of W.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 3, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"America was exceptional (until my Baby Boom generation wrecked it)."

Amen, brother, and our offspring are generally even more self-centered and materialistic than we are (were).
Growing up, I didn't see all of the enormous storage places we have now. They are just there to store the junk we collected that demonstrated that we are the greatest when it comes to consuming.

Posted by: filmnoia | January 3, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

@bsimon1 wrote:
"all your 'citations' refer to either the lamestream liberal media or the liberal-controlled, grossly overlarge government"
.
Wait, now simply reporting the *actual text* of speeches on the White House website is somehow liberally biased? Simply posting the text is documenting facts and nothing more.
.
Or are you just a petulant troll?

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 3, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

@skipsailing28:
You say the GOP is just reusing the attacks against them in the early 2000s. Might I direct you to the mid 1990s and the attacks on Clinton?
.
Political attacks have been routine for years in their continued pushing of the boundaries from both sides. The attacks on Bush, of which I certainly participated, were in large part based on *facts* and his actual policy. Given the plethora of 'birther' attacks and outright lies (death panels), it's hard to take seriously the criticism put forth by the GOP as being anything but pure partisanship lacking actual substance.
.
Likewise, the GOPs actions that clearly hypocrite themselves demean any 'moral outrage' they spout off about. (Working between Xmas and NYE somehow disrespects the institution - while holding 9/11 first responder health care hostage to tax cuts for millionaires).

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 3, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

It has happened before.
Strong men put up a city and got
a nation together, And paid singers to sing and women to warble:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation,
nothing like us ever was.

And the wind shifts
and the dust on a door sill shifts
and even the writing of the rat footprints
tells us nothing, nothing at all
about the greatest city, the greatest nation
where the strong men listened
and the women warbled: Nothing like us ever was.

two stanzas from the poem
Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind
by: Carl Sandberg

Posted by: capmbillie | January 3, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"our offspring are generally even more self-centered and materialistic than we are (were)"

Do you really think so? What I've noticed -- and not only among younger people -- is that Americans are becoming very mean-spirited and think that every other American is trying to cheat them out of something. And maybe it's really the same thing but there is a total loss of national civic engagement. There is simply no sense of honor and loyalty. We ignore our two ongoing tactical wars because we have professional military to fight them. We have half the country hating the government. All we are asked to do as American citizens is spend money on things we don't need and wouldn't even want but for the manufactured desire. All that will prove fatal if we don't fix it fast. And today's "debate" about American exceptionalism will be seen as tragicomedy.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 3, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Pssst... rpixley220! He was being tongue-in-cheek. The last line is the giveaway.

The Jennifer Rubin column is yet another example of the right wing totally ignoring the facts and just using baseless charges to drum up their base. I mean what's a little racial resentment for political purposes?

Reading Rubin's column just convinces me it is just going to get worse. They'll say anything their base will swallow and the media will dutifully report on it without mentioning it is bulls**t.

Posted by: Alex3 | January 3, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"Amen, brother, and our offspring are generally even more self-centered and materialistic than we are (were)."

Speak for yourself!!!

The younger generation in America is WAY more open-minded to change than your generation was and still is. WAY more. On almost every social issue.

Additionally, of the good seeds planted by the Baby Boom generation, the Gen X and Y generations are growing many into global movements. Sustainable living, green building, sustainable food, better/alt transit, fair trade. These have all become what they are today because of the activism of the younger generations.

With the help of technology, the younger generations have turned the pioneering work of people who were considered fringe hippie whackos in the 60s and 70s into fully fledged mainstream movements that are changing the very nature of society (for the better).

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 3, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

the liberals' fondness for the charge of "hypocrasy" is just too funny.

Were I to say today "I oppose the killing of another human" and then commit murder tomorrow, I sincerely doubt I will be charges with hypocrasy.

therefore rpixley's "point" doesn't mean much. Were people opposed to Clinton? Certainly. Were people opposed to Bush? Certainly. Are people opposed to Obama? Why of course. Not much has changed on that front.

What HAS changed, IMHO, is the level of vituperation we experience now. As government continues to grow in size and influence, the stakes grow commensurately. So the inside baseball stuff can really be a big deal. Then we must remember the sad fact that this panalopy of failure has soured the electorate on the institutions of government at a time when the occupant of the oval office sees gummint as the natural solution to every challenge America faces.

As Obama continues to be disconnected from the reality that most American's face the level of vitriol flung in his general direction will increase. I would suggest that rpixely go even further back, to Carter to gain an understanding of how an electorate can turn on a candidate. He won handily and four years laters he was a bum that was crushed instead of reelected.

Finally, yeah, "facts". Sure, yup. This is nothing more than vacuous rationalizations for destroying any shred of decorum in American political discourse. What "facts" were used to produce two books and one "film" depicting the assasination of Bush? Hmmmm?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 3, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year, Ethan!

Later, All.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 3, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

@skipsailing28 wrote:
"What "facts" were used to produce two books and one "film" depicting the assasination of Bush? Hmmmm?"
,
Nice straw man you set up there. I'm talking about the attacks used by actual politicians, not the media.
.
The media is free to not use facts as they see fit, re: FOX. Politicians are *supposed* to be using actual facts.

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 3, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

"Sustainable living, green building, sustainable food, better/alt transit, fair trade. These have all become what they are today because of the activism of the younger generations."

"Better/alt transit" , Oh, I see, because a lot of 20 somethings in places like San Francisco ride bikes all around the city.
States that are short of funds like Wisconsin, are even turning away federal funds for high speed rail.

"Sustainable food" - have you gone through the snack aisle at a large grocery store? - much more junk there than when I was a kid.There weren't a bunch of obese kids in the 50s and 60s.

As for green buildings, well that's all in the nascent stages and alternative energy is proving to be very expensive. How are you going to break the back of the oil/gas lobby?

"Fair Trade" - you need tough negotiators for fair trade. This is not a generational thing, just a practical economic necessity.
Under the two Bushes and Clinton we had trade reps who were supine and let other countries walk over them.

Posted by: filmnoia | January 3, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"And maybe it's really the same thing but there is a total loss of national civic engagement. There is simply no sense of honor and loyalty. We ignore our two ongoing tactical wars because we have professional military to fight them"

The lack of civic engagement is really part of the Right Wing's SOP. They do everything they can to destroy people's faith in institutions involved in education and government services. Yet we have festishized the miltary now more in the last 10 years than anytime in my lifetime.

Posted by: filmnoia | January 3, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Filmnoia,

I am apparently much closer to these movements than you are. Maybe it proves my point!

All of these are movements that are becoming integrated into the mainstream because of the generations that followed the Boomers, and they are all growing fairly rapidly. Admittedly, as I said, these ideas were started in the 60s and 70s by true pioneers of the environmental movement. I give your generation all the credit for starting us down the path towards a more sustainable society. But it is clearly the younger generation who is turning those "far-out" ideas into reality. It wasn't that long ago when all of these ideas were still in their infancy, but they have each become mainstream in the last 10 years.

How long ago was it that people would mock prius owners? And now its the top-selling car. How long ago was it that you could only get organic food for top-dollar at a specialty store, and now you can find organic in walmart. How long ago was green building considered a new-age concept? Now you have major metropolitan stadiums seeking LEED certification. Fair trade until recently was a matter of diplomacy, now it exists as a consumer movement where you can purchase fair trade certified coffee and chocolate and a million other items.

Unfortunately, for as much progress as the sustainability movement in particular has made, there is still a long way to go to reach the average consumer. But we have certainly made a huge dent in the last 5 years and it's only getting more and more pervasive.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 3, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Hey WB, Happy '11!

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 3, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

"I am apparently much closer to these movements than you are. Maybe it proves my point!"

No doubt you are closer, and we would agree on more things than disagree. I can remember when it was thought that the Baby Boom generation was going to change the world.
They did - for the worse. Because of the hole we've dug ourselves in, the next generations will be doing without some of the creature comforts they grew up with.
Things will change incrementally, they always do, but human nature doesn't. Unfortunately, the Baby Boomers still control Congress and don't have a clue.
PS - I wouldn't be so sanguine about the word "organic". The term seems to be tossed around with impugnity to the point where it's just marketing hype in many cases.

Posted by: filmnoia | January 3, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"Unfortunately, the Baby Boomers still control Congress and don't have a clue."

Agreed 100%

"PS - I wouldn't be so sanguine about the word "organic". The term seems to be tossed around with impugnity to the point where it's just marketing hype in many cases."

The term is not as corrupt as you think. There are always going to be violations and violators, but standards, certification and accreditations are only improving and tightening.

See this recent article:

"Now we've got an administrative management under the Obama administration that respects the organic community, and it's quite a turnaround," Kastel said. "Now we're seeing institutionalized improprieties being reversed."

http://www.aolnews.com/2010/11/07/what-is-organic-usda-trying-to-define-it/

It's amazing the difference between a government that cares about these things and one that doesn't.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 3, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

rpixley you simply missed the point. And I suspect you did so on purpose. You claim your side used facts when the attacked. I pointed to two attacks that weren't fact based at all. It wasn't a strawman, that's just a liberal's way out. Rather than admit the truth of my statement you lie instead. How so very adult.

Want another non fact based attack? Why not ask Dan Rather about his foray into fact based attacks on George Bush? Hmmmm?

Just too easy.
When did bigotry become the norm amoung liberals? Between filmnoia and wbgone the hits just keep on coming.

Self centered? Really? I haven't forgotten the wars because my son fought in Iraq. My daughter works, attends school and cares for her aging grandmother. Perhaps YOUR children are mean spirited and self centered. That doesn't mean that all American children are thus.

so stop the embarassing bigotry and speak for yourself.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 3, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Our football team is best!

Posted by: danw1 | January 3, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Irving Kristol was an exceptional American. Irving's son? Not so much.

Posted by: mattintx | January 3, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

@skipsailing28:
You claim *I* missed the point while clearly missing mine. When I say I'm not talking about the media straw man you put up, you refute that...by mentioning another media figure?
.
The Rather story is certainly something that I don't believe we know the full story on and as such he was drummed out of the 'left wing media' pretty quickly. However, delving into the details you do have to wonder why Bush Sr. felt the need to seal his sons military service records. Really? what could he possibly be hiding? the fact that GWBush was AWOL and working on political campaigns instead? We'll know eventually, but sadly not for a decade or more.
.
Feel free to actually respond to my points if you like...it is a new year after all.

Posted by: rpixley220 | January 3, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Obama will say anything that he thinks will get him voted in Nov 2012.

Then he will go right back to his behavior in 2009.

Don't believe a word he says. He has proven that he lies hundreds, if not thousands of times in the past few years.

Posted by: letscheck | January 4, 2011 2:24 AM | Report abuse

Attention bsimon1: Solely using "conservative" sources as a basis of truth is nearly as effective as water flowing uphill in mid-winter. Fox and other "conservative" "news" sources are widely known to be as accurate and honest as anything else that comes from an organization that will insult instead of prove.

Posted by: ProgressiveRepublican | January 4, 2011 5:00 AM | Report abuse

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