In any election campaign, teams search and dream for gold.
They hunt for the gaffe, the off-the-cuff line, or the self-contradictory statement. When they find it, they relentlessly and ruthlessly milk it for all its worth. It is used in debates, attack-ads and interviews. It’s on TVs, radios and online.
President Obama’s camp clearly think they have their gold in the hidden video recording of Governor Romney referring to the “47 percent”.
Well, in my view, there is gold that the Romney/Ryan camp have completely overlooked.
A statement widely recorded, on-the-record, from the lips of President Obama. Three years ago. It is a statement that local radio hosts across the country constantly play on their shows. It is a statement that rarely does not rate a mention at a Tea Party meeting. Yet the Romney/Ryan camp have been completely silent on it. It has not appeared in any attack ads, Governor Romney has not used it in debate and it appears it will not feature in this Presidential election campaign.
In the spring of 2009, just weeks before my maiden American voyage, President Obama was asked whether he believed in American exceptionalism. This was his response:
“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
For me, even as a non-American, that answer (or non-answer) should have immediately disqualified him from re-election at that very moment. The guy, the President, basically said: “America is not the best country- you can’t say that- everyone thinks that of their own country.”
For an American President to effectively denigrate American achievement and culture by equating it to British and Greek exceptionalism is unprecedented. With these words, he said exceptionalism was not measurable. With these words, he said that America was not the model for which every nation should and must aspire. With these words, he cast aside the Founders’ vision of America. He junked the implications of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. He ignored the unprecedented innovation and creativity of America, and the fact that it has lead each of the three ages of recorded human history: the agricultural age, the industrial age and the information age. The virtues of optimism, philanthropy, individualism and religion, and the belief that our rights are God-given, matters that differentiate America, appeared to escape him. But gravest of all, with these words, he lowered freedom as the ultimate political, human and cultural value.
He embraced relativism in his answer; the moral equivalent of dope. His supporters would suggest he was being respectful and considerate, not wanting to offend. His supporters would suggest that he was trying to usher in a new tone for the Office of the President, one damaged by the unapologetic Texan swagger of President George W. Bush. But as severe a sin as timidity for a US President is, only one thing is worse: if he actually believes there is nothing exceptional, special or differential about America. And I don’t say this lightly, but I think there is no escaping the conclusion that this is sadly the case. He has dedicated his four years to making America just another country. To take it toward a failed European model. If I am wrong and he does see it as exceptional, it is an exceptional in a negative sense, and he has set about removing every last difference in America to make it just another nation.
It may be three and a half years old. It may be too broad to fit into a campaign now fighting the nitty-gritty specifics of tax relief, Libya, energy, employment and drilling. But in the tit-for-tat over who said what when, Governor Romney in these last two and a half weeks needs to charge Obama with his words. He needs to say “Mr. President, you don’t believe our nation is exceptional. You don’t believe our nation is a model for the world. You don’t believe we preside over the greatest culture in the world. You weren’t prepared to say it. You said we were no different to Britain or Greece. Greece, Mr. President! Now they might have the economic situation you seem intent on bringing to us, but they are not exceptional. There can be and is only one exceptional, and that is America. History shows us that. And those comments are made when this nation was and is hurting more than ever before. What a way to inspire the confidence of our nation or the world. Mr. President, how can you ask anyone to have confidence in our nation if not even you are confident?”
Someone get this message to the Romney camp. Make that quote an issue.
For me, this is the fundamental issue of this campaign. In their own way and visions for America, while I may disagree with them, liberals they may be, both Clintons love America and believe in American exceptionalism. So, this is not a matter of two different visions for America. This is one guy believing America is the greatest country in the world, and one guy not believing it. And you have it in on camera and in words. That’s golden.
I would have thought the number one requirement of the POTUS is to believe in American exceptionalism.
And that should alone be the reason that Americans end President Obama’s term on November 6.