The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks


    Sarah Palin sets the bar for chauvinism high. It is shrouded in an appeal to Americans’ pride in their nation’s accomplishments and position in the world. It hijacks a concept its originator would not recognize. “American exceptionalism” is being recast to excuse any requirement for intellectual rigor or personal achievement.

    In today’s Washington Post, Karen Tumulty describes the battle within the Republican Party to claim the mantle of patriotic messiah by painting President Obama as a betrayer of American destiny. Clearly it is much easier to portray an accomplished scholar or executive than to be one. And while every day is another day President Obama gains on executive experience and accomplishment over any potential Republican opponent, none of them have demonstrated his scholarship. So they conveniently shift to protestations that rattle personal demons borne in their constituencies’ darkest fears, stoking misperceptions.

    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.  – from Tumulty’s WaPo piece

    Separating the player queen from the queen in this play within a play becomes more difficult day by day. At times, Palin appears to be a Republican strawman, useful in rallying a part of the base the party elite considers unacknowledgeable but an essential margin required for electoral success. But then in short order the cast of pretenders, from Romney (who draws further from his father’s GOP at every turn) to Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum to the former weight loss champion Mike Huckabee echo the baseless rhetoric. It’s hard to tell who is playing whom but all of them are bent on delivering the most dramatic performance; all by sapping the spirit that really defines the original concept and meaning of American exceptionalism (and not any evolved form).

    “Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over 200 years ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ That is the true genius of America.” – Barack Obama, 2004 Democratic Convention

    Ironically, President Obama’s philosophy and election does more to confirm the prospect that there is something exceptional about America than any transient material proof these might cite for greatness; like wealth or military might. But Sarah and her ilk, by their protestations have proven that they, like their criticisms, are neither credible nor sincere. They are propagating the philosophy that rules apply to everyone except America (or themselves). They are all Gertrudes, but it is more difficult to ferret out the Claudius(es). We have to hope we are a nation of Hamlets who will see the play for what it is and the actors for who they are; none of them exceptional at all. That is the revelation they fear the most.

    • “Separating the player queen from the queen in this play within a play becomes more difficult day by day.”

      The lazy intellectuals of conservatism would probably not understand this article at all.  I think most conservatives take the easy road by simply believing that Obama doesn’t think America is exceptional, whereas the conservatives do.  

      The “real” conservative intellectuals, like Newt Gingrich for example, provide the supposed explanations to back up what the lazy ones believe.  However, such “real” conservative intellectuals fall into one of two categories:  either they are secretly using their powers of persuasion to dupe their followers, or they are so delusional that they truly believe what they are saying.

    • KathyinBlacksburg

      Just about everything GOPhers rant about strikes at the heart of some of their very own demons.  It is as if they try to deflect away from themselves and try to project their own shortcomings and worst characteristics and fears onto others.  In this case, Sarah’s husband was a a member of a secessionist group.  Now she pretends to know who is “real American” and who “isn’t.”  The truth is that none of the people she tries to demonize come close to the treachery once right within her own household.  We do not know if he has changed.  This was only a few years ago (he quit before she ran for governor).  We don’t know is Sarah agreed with him, but he sure rode right beside her in their governor’s office, even having a desk in the executive offices right near her. So if Sarah isn’t a former secessionist, she is married to one and keeps him close in her political activities.  So she has some nerve questioning and attacking the President’s citizenship.  He’s spent a lifetime doing good and she –has not.

    • KathyinBlacksburg

      her new specs.

    • Andrew Bacevich, Colonel, US Army (Retired), now teaching history and international relations at Boston College, published his views on the topic:  “The Limits of Power:  The End of American Exceptionalism.”

      Here’s a clip from Amy Goodman’s interview:

      AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by “exceptionalism”?

      ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, this is not an idea that’s original with me. It’s clear that from the founding of the Anglo-American colonies, from the time that John Winthrop made his famous sermon and declared that “we shall be as a city upon a hill” a light to the world-it’s clear that, from the outset, there has been a strong sense among Americans that we are a special people with a providential mission.

      In the twentieth century, probably going back to roughly the time of Woodrow Wilson, certainly since the end of the Cold War, this concept of a providential mission, a responsibility to the world, has translated into a sense of empowerment or prerogative to determine the way the world is supposed to work, what it’s supposed to look like, and also, over the last twenty years or so, an increasing willingness to use military force to cause the world to look the way we want it to look. And I think that that expression of American exceptionalism is one that’s not only utterly false, but is greatly at odds with own interests as a country.

      Full interview here:

      Of course, the problem is the same problem we have with everything the rightwing produces:  They have a ten-second sound bite that resonates with voters, we have a book read only by nerds and policy wonks.  We need more ten-second sound bites.