Thursday, September 1, 2011

Our Exceptional President

Shelby Steele on American exceptionalism and President Obama:
So we Americans cannot help but feel some ambivalence toward our singularity in the world—with its draining entanglements abroad, the selfless demands it makes on both our military and our taxpayers, and all the false charges of imperial hubris it incurs. Therefore it is not surprising that America developed a liberalism—a political left—that took issue with our exceptionalism. It is a left that has no more fervent mission than to recast our greatness as the product of racism, imperialism and unbridled capitalism.

But this leaves the left mired in an absurdity: It seeks to trade the burdens of greatness for the relief of mediocrity. When greatness fades, when a nation contracts to a middling place in the world, then the world in fact no longer knocks on its door.
Read it all

19 Comments:

Blogger Bob Bohne said...

I read it all. I read it twice.
Several things come to mind. Her statement "false charges of imperial hubris". None other than ultra conservative Pat Buchanan referred to the invasion of Iraq as an imperialistic venture. I'd have to agree with Pat. Nothing false about it. That war was championed by neo-cons who started pushing for the expansion of American influence shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. The other that got my attention was her failure to mention one of the things that has truely made America exceptional. It's diversity. In an attempt to better understand America's exceptionalism, Steele should take the time to read Thomas Sowell's "Ethnic America".

September 1, 2011 at 10:20 AM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

Shelby Steele, isn't a she. He's a he.

September 1, 2011 at 1:52 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Well that explains it.

September 1, 2011 at 3:11 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

No, that corrects your mistaken assumption that Mr. Steele is a woman.

Your mistaken assumption that America can fairly be called an imperialist nation can be refuted by the defintion of imperialism:

"the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationship, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination."

Just because Pat Buchanan, a man of the isolationist right, questioned George Bush's motives in invading Iraq as possibly imperialist hardly makes it so. I believe Buchanan retroactively questioned the need of America to enter WWII.

America is not an imperialist nation. That's one of the things that is exceptional about it. It has promoted freedom and democracy around the world, often, as Mr. Steele points out, with few thanks in return.

Some of these ventures may not have been wise, but none were imperialistic in the sense that we sought to dominate or subjugate the people of those countries.

The goal in Iraq was to topple a tyrant, and free the people in the hopes that democracy and individual rights might flouish. The benefit to the U.S. would be the first stable, peaceful Arab democracy in the Middle East. Whether the cost in U.S. treasure and blood was worth it is another question. But claims of this being an imperialistic endeavor are simply silly and false.

As for diversity, America is just one of many countries that have a diverse population, that is, made up of people of difference races, religions and cultural backgrounds.

I don't thinks that makes America "exceptional." What makes America exceptional are the rights and opportunities, it offers people regardless of their race, religion, cultural background etc.

But I will check out Thomas Sowell's "Ethnic America." And discuss it. How about that drink? Tonight?

September 1, 2011 at 6:25 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Sorry I missed your offer. I was painting naked ladies tonight. I'll take a rain check on the drink, and I'll offer a rebuttal tomorrow morning.

September 1, 2011 at 10:34 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Gil - I did not say we were an imperialist nation. What I did say is that charges of imperialist hubris were, and are, at times true. Our foolhardy (hubris) attempt to invade and overthrow the government of Iraq in an attempt to get a better foothold in the middle east for geo-political and economic reasons (imperialism) proves my point. One can argue that the same thing was done in Iran in 1953, when the democratically elected government of Iran attempted to nationalize the oil industry. The U.S. along with Great Britain overthrew Mosaddegh and installed the Shah. The result was a foothold in the middle east, lower oil prices for us, big profits for the established oil companies, and the siphoning off of natural resources and finances that belonged to the people of Iran. Our history of overthrowing governments for economic purposes goes back to the 1890's when we overthrew the government of Hawaii on behalf of the produce industry, and it continues to this day with our involvment in Iraq. We can also include excursions in the Philipines, Puerto Rico, South America, and Cuba. Mostly for economic purposes, resulting in puppet or straw governments and the oppression of citizens. Your statement "Some of these ventures may not have been wise, but none were imperialistic in the sense that we sought to dominate or subjugate the people of those countries." is simply ignoring the facts and the history of the last 120 years.

September 2, 2011 at 8:23 AM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

On American Exceptionalism - I guess it shouldn't surprise me that the melting pot concept wouldn't be high up on a conservatives list of American exceptionalism. How sad. How about the new figures on infant mortality? Is that American exceptionalism? This American exceptionalism thing is nothing more than a revived buzz phrase. A ploy for the Republican candidates to point their finger at Obama and say "We're more American than you" And it's sad that intelligent people like you are buying into it. But then you also bought into the invasion of Iraq, didn't you? Sorry Gil. You're not going to catch me wrapping myself in the flag. But then you already knew that.

September 2, 2011 at 10:06 AM 
Blogger jake said...

Bob,
You really want to highlight infant mortality as a failing of American exceptionalism? That is so far off base, I hardly know where to begin.

We have a federal government whose financial safety net encourages single parent households. That same federal government preaches abstinence as an unreasonable prohibition for young people, and that abortion funding is a health care right.

Not to mention the godless elites who regards Christians of faith as backwoods extremists, and undermine real human goodness with subjective, feel-good concepts like diversity, entitlement and choice.

With those low expectations for its citizens, and twisted regard for human life and decency, the liberal bureaucracy's moral ambivalence makes high infant mortality rates sadly inevitable.

September 2, 2011 at 11:48 AM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Thanks Jake. I don't want to high light it, but even from your point of view, it has to be a sign of failure.

September 2, 2011 at 12:05 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

This is probably a better conversation to be held over drinks. But...

Yours is the standard leftist version of American history. It is the version that Shelby Steele writes about and is accepted and taught by the academic left at most American universities. And yet it is not a version accepted by most Americans, which makes it a loser politically.

Barack Obama won the presidency claiming to believe that this isn't Red America or Blue America but the United States of America.

Yet, he spent his first year in office going around the world apologizing for America's actions and hubris. Having spent hundreds of billions of dollars overseas helping foreign countries out of poverty and buckets of blood freeing them from totalitarian regimes and tyrants, most Americans don't believe that our president should be apologizing for our national behavior or character.

As for our diversity, as I said, that is not what makes America exceptional. What makes this country exceptional was the degree to which newcomers to this country assimilated and became Americans.

The "disuniting" of America has been a project of the academic left for years. Arthur Schlessinger Jr., no right-winger he, even wrote a book about it back in the 80s.

Barack Obama spent his formative years intellectually and socially among people who believe that America is a country fatally flawed by its history of slavery, racism, sexism, etc.

Acknowledging those wrongs and working to right them has been part of the history that makes this country great. You don't have to wrap yourself in a flag to believe that.

Barack Obama's problem isn't Republicans who claim that they are more American than he is, his problem is his lack of experience and competence.

Politically, he doesn't help himself when he questions the patriotism of the opposition party, claiming they are putting their party above their country by refusing to vote for the sort spending and taxes that he and his fellow Democrats want.

This is just stupid and low and it won't work. It reminds me of liberal pundit Spencer Ackerman's suggestion to his Journolist buddies to call any conservative pundit a "racist" just to see them sputter and be thrown off their game.

That backfired in a big way and showed the bankruptcy, incompetence, and desperation of the political left.

September 2, 2011 at 12:40 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Jake - Just for your information, when you look at the reasons for the high infant mortality rate, at the top of the list is inequitable access to health care. Especially among the very poor, and among teens who have children, health care is not always equally available. It is not a stretch to imagine that good medical advice and monitoring of a pregnancy is an important contributing factor to babies born at an appropriate birth weight, born full-term, and most importantly born healthy. One of the other contributing factors cited in the high US infant mortality rate is availability and education regarding birth control. When this is available, as is the case in most of the countries with lower infant mortality rates, fewer teenagers, one of the most likely groups to have pre-term labor, are less likely to become pregnant. This reduces the total group of teens who might lose a baby born severely premature. Of course, there are those who would love to take funding away from planned parenthood, cut educational funds and other programs that assist the poor.
I hate to tell you this Jake, but all of the praying in the world is not going to put a lid on raging hormones.

Godless elites! LOL

September 2, 2011 at 1:01 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Gil - You say of Obama "he spent his first year in office going around the world apologizing for America's actions and hubris" and then you say "Acknowledging those wrongs and working to right them has been part of the history that makes this country great" Except when Obama does it? Truth of the matter is Obama had to repair and shore up damage done by the previous administration - Media matters- http://mediamatters.org/research/200904100035

There seems to be an issue that we do agree on. You say "What makes this country exceptional was the degree to which newcomers to this country assimilated and became Americans." Yes. The melting pot. The coming together of people from diverse backgrounds, all with different talents and abilities, united to make this country a stronger and better place.

You go on to say "Barack Obama's problem isn't Republicans who claim that they are more American than he is, his problem is his lack of experience and competence."
There are those on the right who still don't believe Obama was born in the US. Right wing radio personalities who wished for the failure of his presidency, and conservative politicians who said publicly that job one was to make Obama a one term president. Enough said.

He's not perfect, but when he took office the fear was that we were headed for the second great depression. Bush handed over a country with 3 wheels in the ditch. You don't turn that around over night.

September 2, 2011 at 1:59 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob: You say about infant mortality "I don't want to high light (sic) it, but even from your point of view, it has to be a sign of failure." And you then go on to state your view that this is a result of inequity in access to medical care. Haven't you heard of the Medicaid program? You try to excuse the children born into poverty as a failure of the system to provide education on birth control. Get a grip, Bob. Our nation has spent countless millions of dollars on attempting to educate about safe sex, about the potential for pregnancy, and the consequences. It is the fathers and mothers of these children who are to blame. Not society. I know for fact of women who gladly accept their fourth or fifth child into a single mother household because it will extend welfare benefits. That isn't a fault of society, it is a fault of a system that perpetuates it.

September 2, 2011 at 7:33 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gil: I would like to join you and Bob for a drink sometime. But there has to be a ground rule. We can talk about the Phillies or the Eagles. Or the weather or the impact of Hurricane Irene. But we can't talk about societal issues or politics... Because if, for example, I want to talk about Mr. Obama's rejection of American exceptionalism, we will be diverted into the allegation that in the 1890s the United States overthrew the government of Hawaii for economic reasons. If we try to tell Bob about more recent examples of American exceptionalism, such as the Marshall Plan, he'll tell us that Puerto Rico is an American territory because of our imperalism. If we try to explain how diversity has been embraced in this country, he'll tell us about slavery. At the same time he'll deny that England and France are suffering with significant upheavel with the assimilation into their culture of their Muslim and African residents who want to sustain their own native culture instead of adopting the traditions and values of their new country of residence. He will then point out that the French have risen dramatically in the statistics for success with infant mortality and the USA has dropped and that is the fault of our failure to provide adequate education about birth control. You say up. Bob will say down. I say green. Bob will say blue. If we can just stick to the Phillies or the Eagles or the potential for a Stanley Cup or whether Hurricane Katia will impact us, perhaps we can enjoy our drink... With that as a ground rule, I'll buy...

September 2, 2011 at 7:50 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 2, 2011 at 8:18 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Anon - How bout (sic) we do this.
We all show up wearing flag lapel pins, order cokes and sing Kumbaya!

September 2, 2011 at 10:19 PM 
Blogger steve mcdonald said...

the heck with that, let's get back to painting naked ladies!

September 6, 2011 at 8:47 AM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Anon, are you that anal? You need ground rules before you go out drinking?

September 7, 2011 at 6:09 AM 
Anonymous boyscout said...

This is all getting too deep. A few thoughts;

Is it not imperialism when one nation installs or helps bring to power and support an unpopular "puppet" government? Shah of Iran, and in the present, Afghanistan.

Is it possible that The powers that be could see a weakening of the economy on the horizon as early as 2001, and started a couple of conflicts to bolster the economy, as well as fatten up their investments in Halliburton and Kellogg Root Brown?

And these thoughts lead us to "why did we attack Iraq and Afghanistan after a bunch of Saudis and Pakis attacked us on 9/11"?

Does anybody remember reading in the papers about the British agent arguing with the powers that be about the content of his report regarding WMD? I do, he stated that Saddam was attempting to acquire them, but that there was no evidence that he had succeeded. The Bush administration pressured the British intelligence people to alter the statement to indicate that Saddam had WMDs, to justify the invasion.
Gil, you have the resources and expertise to check this, if it matters.

September 29, 2011 at 9:41 AM 

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