Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 27, 2011

TOO SUBTLE?.... No sooner do we talk about President Obama's emphasis on American exceptionalism than we see Republicans pretend the remarks were never uttered.

Ben Smith noted this morning that House Speaker John Boehner and CNN's Kathleen Parker talked last night about the phrase they wanted to hear from the president, but didn't.

PARKER: You know one of the words that I listened out for in his speech last night was the word "exceptional." ... But I didn't hear him say it and I thought at a time when you're building a speech around sort of defining the common purpose of America, that seemed to me a rather -- you know, a simple direct line, fairly -- pretty much a no-brainer, but he didn't say it.

BOEHNER: Well, they -- they've refused to talk about America exceptionalism. We are different than the rest of the world. Why? Because Americans have -- the country was built on an idea that ordinary people could decide what their government looked like and ordinary people could elect their own leaders.

And 235 years ago that was a pretty novel idea. And so we are different. Why is our economy still 20 times the size of China's? Because Americans have had their freedom to succeed, the freedom to fail. We've got more innovators, more entrepreneurs, and that is exceptional but you can't get the left to talk about it. They don't -- they reject that notion.

PARKER: Why do you think that is?

BOEHNER: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if they're afraid of it, whether they don't believe it. I don't know.

CNN inexplicably airing two Republican responses to the State of the Union was ridiculous. This is worse.

I haven't the foggiest idea what Boehner and Parker are talking about. This has long been one of the more offensive and mind-numbing areas of attack from the right, but Tuesday's speech should have resolved the issue once and for all. Indeed, more than a few observers noted that Obama embraced American exceptionalism this week even more explicitly than he has in the past.

Honestly, were Boehner and Parker even awake during the speech? If so, they heard Obama talk about the qualities that "set us apart as a nation" and the things we do "better than anyone else." And his belief that America is "not just a place on a map, but the light to the world" and "the greatest nation on Earth." And his reminder that "as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn't a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth."

I realize the right isn't great at subtleties, but how could Boehner and Parker have missed this?

Indeed, Boehner specifically whined that "they" don't understand that "the country was built on an idea," a day after Obama explained, "What's more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -- the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny."

Greg Sargent added, "What's amusing about this ongoing assertion from the right is how easily debunked it is, and how casually its proponents simply pretend that the historical record doesn't exist.... I'm starting to get the sneaking suspicion that these people would prefer that Obama didn't use such language, and are repeating this claim again and again in hopes of making it so."

The gang that creates its own reality just doesn't know when to stop.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (58)

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Well, the President didn't specifically say "Exceptional," and if he did say it, he certainly didn't mean it!
Not like a Republican means it!!!


Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 27, 2011 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

How is being 24th in education 'exceptional' How are huge deficits 'exceptional' How is poverty 'exceptional' How is offshoring jobs to other countries 'exceptional'?

That word [which I wish they would stop using, used by politicians, is often rational for having 'interest' in another countries resources.

Posted by: Kill Bill on January 27, 2011 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

NOW, I think they are just fucking with everyone. Deliberately, consciously, and with malice of forethought. They know their constituency is so brainwashed that they can say black is white and people will believe it.

Meanwhile back in Arizona;
Arizona has a gross state product of about $235 billion, the cost to provide health care for 280,000 of poor Arizonans via AHCCCS is about 1/20th of one percent of our GSP, 18th highest in the nation but very unequally distributed. For Jan Brewer and the Republicans to claim that Arizona cannot afford to provide minimal health care those who can least afford is thus disingenuous and based on a desire to cut government for the sake of cutting government not good public policy.

This policy is also short sighted for once enacted sick people will not go to doctors but try to cure themselves with home remedies or medicine given by friends with the result of increased chances of spreading infectious diseases at an increasing rate through our community. Finally, the policy is callous;  cutting off the medicine for people with long term medical needs like those AIDS and diabetes is simply counter to our cultural values, which espouse protecting the poor from the strong and helping those unable to help themselves.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on January 27, 2011 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Even when Obama directly adopts their memes and theology, they still hate him. Why is this so hard to understand? Obama was virtually pooping rainbows and marshmallows how wonderful and great America is. Doesn't matter. He's a biracial cosmopolitan and the right will have none of him.

And let's be clear: exceptionalism is just another name for paranoia. We're not only better than everyone else, it's also "when bad things happen, it's because of this or that minority". It's how the Republican and the right win elections, by continually poking the sore points on the body politic. The war on Obama, a virtual Republican, shows how this game is played. Scream "socialism" everytime he proposes anything. And never ever let a black man wrap himself in the flag because that flag belongs to them.

Posted by: walt on January 27, 2011 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Walt, um, Obama is "a virtual Republican"? LOLHELICOPTERBBQINMYPANTS!

Sometimes the far left is really just the mirror image of the far right.

Posted by: Malek on January 27, 2011 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Ah yes, American exceptionalism. We're number 1.

We have most expensive health care/per capita in the world.

We lead the world in bankruptcy due to health care costs.

We pay more for drugs than any other country in the world.

We have more cat scanners, mri scanners and PET scanners per capita and do more such scans per capita than anywhere else in the world.

Our drug companies continue to lead the world....in profits.

We lead the world's industrialized nations in the proportion of the population uncovered by health insurance.

Exceptional and true.


Posted by: Cycledoc on January 27, 2011 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Just this once, I agree with St. Sarah. it IS the "Lamestream Media". -Bought and paid for by our corporate masters, who like the status quo (stagnant wages for 40 years) just fine.

Posted by: DAY on January 27, 2011 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

How could Boner have missed this?

He could have been so absorbed in his own thoughts about how exceptional he is. And how much he had to stifle the tears created by the pain of such self knowing that only he can see.

Posted by: lou on January 27, 2011 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be fascinated to know if Shrub or Reagan actually used the word "exceptional" when cheerleading for American exceptionalism in their State of the Union speeches. I'd be willing to bet they didn't (at least not in all of them) but I'm too lazy to look it up.

But really, this is just the flip side of conservative code words like "Dred Scott" -- refuse to listen to concepts longer than three words, and just listen for whether they say the secret word. For Republicans, if they say any of the secret words, cheer, and if it's a Democrat, if they fail to say any of them, focus obsessively on that.

Posted by: Redshift on January 27, 2011 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

According to Boehner, the "idea" on which the nation was founded was the free market. He obviously thinks that Ayn Rand was one of the Founding Fathers.

If Limbaugh told his audience that in the SOTU Obama had called for a mass burning of flags, there'd be plenty of people who'd believe him.

Posted by: davidp on January 27, 2011 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, Obama talks about all the things that make America exceptional. Unfortunately those sentiments don't count when uttered by someone other than a conservative Republican.

Also, you can be in favor of armored vehicles, veterans benefits, and the GI Bill and still Hate the Troops if you're a liberal. Those who truly support the troops have a bumper sticker saying so.

Posted by: jonas on January 27, 2011 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

malek, sometimes trolls are a mirror image of their own dishonesty. When Obama's health-care reform plan is the Republican plan from the 1990s, when his Wall Street "reform" means essentially freezing in place the advantages of investment banks, when he keeps Guantanamo open and maintains the imperial prerogatives of extra-legal presidential power, and when he capitulates before he confronts as with the upper-marginal tax issue, the judgment is neither extreme nor unwarranted. BTW, I would gladly vote for a Republican if that Republican were not the current brand of extremist. I don't need perfection or Ralph Nader. I need a president who fights.

Posted by: walt on January 27, 2011 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

New Republic's Damon Linker (also author of "The Theoconservatives") put his finger on this awhile ago. According to Linker, right wing conservatives have been trying to convince us that "what makes our country exceptional is that large numbers of Americans affirm the ideology of the modern conservative movement." They even go further: "America is exceptional because the nation’s creed IS the ideology of the modern conservative movement."

What better way for right wing conservatives to go after their political opponents than by claiming that in rejecting conservatism they are rejecting "American Exceptionalism."

Posted by: Ted Frier on January 27, 2011 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

The problem isn't Boehner or other Republicans, the problem is CNN. If there was any chance the host would call him on it, John Boehner wouldn't use such transparent lines of attack. Conservatives have been clear that they won't go on shows they perceive as 'hostile' and CNN thinks having Boehner on their show is teh aWesomE so we get nonsensical softball interviews like this one.

Posted by: sven on January 27, 2011 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Parker and Boehner weren't asleep. They were actively taking notes on how they were going to go out spin perceptions of the President's speech as a negative rather than a positive.

You know, as something defective, faulty, and of questionable patriotism. The sort of thing that reveals deep character flaws in the President, and which raises "questions" in the minds of hardworking taxpayers about whether Obama is an elitist imposter of questionable citizenship, who may not really like or understand America. And so on. And so on.

And so now ... true to form, the GOP is marching out with its talking points, and is creating a false controversy with which to consume their movement (and blanket the airwaves). Which is designed and calculated to muddy and invert people's memories of what Obama's speech actually said and meant.

Talk radio will do the rest.

And a sizable portion of the American public will then nod along and say "yeah, I knew there was something wrong there. Thanks for explaining that to me."

Win the news cycle, baby. And always ALWAYS be on the attack.

Posted by: Bokonon on January 27, 2011 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK
Mr. Orange

Because Americans have -- the country was built on an idea that ordinary people could decide what their government looked like and the GOP was built on the idea of ignoring what the American people decide and doing whatever the fuck we want to anyway.

Fixed to match what's happened in reality.

Remember, folks: The GOP will repeat a lie no matter how many times it's been debunked because repeatedly lying has worked well for them.

They know the media will repeat it, Democrats won't have the guts to stand up to it, and enough people will believe it.

Posted by: Mark D on January 27, 2011 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Boehner: "Who ya gonna believe, me or you're lyin' eyes?"

Posted by: AK Liberal on January 27, 2011 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

The US is like an aging beauty queen (shades of "Sunset Boulevard") who has to be constantly told she is still gorgeous.

Posted by: Speed on January 27, 2011 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Years ago, I worked in a well known franchise restaurant. Corporate handed down a directive that when a customer was paying a bill at the register, we were supposed to say "Was your meal EXCELLENT?" Not "Did you enjoy your meal", but "was that excellent". Everyone found it pretty annoying and fake, including the customers.

Posted by: sublime33 on January 27, 2011 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Well, GOP noisemakers have convinced a lot of people that a birth certificate that was made public three years ago does not exist, and that "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution because those exact words don't appear. What can you say about that level of dishonesty?

Posted by: T-Rex on January 27, 2011 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Boehner isn't aware that one of the most trusted news programs on TV -- which isn't even a news show -- has an entire department devoted to finding contradictory video clips. In fact, Jon Stewart was even growing weary of how easy it is, when he debunked Megan Kelly's "Nazis on FOX News??" the other day.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 27, 2011 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

After discovering the cancerous tumor, FOXNEWS, Americans of all standing sought intervention, and by turning off the channel, Americans concerned about their health were able to avoid its malignancy!

Now, CNN has been diagnosed as another cancerous tumor to our democracy! Quick, use the same treatment that helped with FNC - turn CNN off! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 27, 2011 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

To me, the whole concept of 'exceptionalism' (which according to my browser isn't even a word by the way), is a rather immature and high school-ish notion anyway. Republicans are like the not so smart jock in school who think his shit doesn't stink. It amplifies their shallow and narrow-mindedness.

Life and reality are not games. Save the ra ra ra stuff for the Olympics. What we need are serious people who are mature enough to recognize our shortcomings and respond in a practical manner to the challenges before us.

Posted by: citizen_pain on January 27, 2011 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I was at the gym yesterday and the John "Sofa" King show seemed to have this same thing as its core issue. I don't know what the holy fucking hell anyone even watches if it's possible to witness that speech and come away distressed that it wasn't sufficiently vocal about America's special greatness, considering that the whole damn thing was about... America's special greatness. Unbelievable. CNN is a cesspool.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on January 27, 2011 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I fyou watched Boehner closely during the state of the union, he looked like he would rather be somewhere else, my guess would be - in a bar!

Posted by: JS on January 27, 2011 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

This is a classic example of why I lost respect for Barack Obama.

The term American Exceptionalism -- ironically, either coined or made famous by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville -- meant that we are different from other countries because we had founding principles based upon the enlightenment principles of freedom, liberty and democracy.

What it doesn't mean is what modern conservatives take it to mean and what Obama buys into. Namely that America is "special" and therefore doesn't have to actually act special anymore.

America's government at its founding -- Democracy 1.0 -- may have been "exceptional" 200+ years ago. But it isn't exceptional now.

A country that openly embraces aggressive, unprovoked war is not "exceptional" as de Tocqueville used the term.

A country that tortures is not "exceptional" as de Tocqueville used the term.

A country that ignores Habeas Corpus is not "exceptional" as de Tocqueville used the term.

A country that allows politicians to be legally bribed and discourages citizens from voting is not "exceptional" as de Tocqueville used the term.

Simply put, being "exceptional" doesn't mean that you can do bad shit and get a free pass. It means that you do good shit because it is right.

Obama could have played rhetorical jiu jitsu during his first term; he could have not only talked about "American Exceptionalism" but spent time re-establishing the principles of the founding fathers and strengthening our democracy.

Instead he is like a nerd trying to suck up to jocks who will never like him anyway.

Obama could have used the word 10 times during SOTU and pundits would have still said "yes, but his phrasing and emphasis suggested that he meant something different. Do you think that his time growing up in Indonesia makes him think of a different, more international time of 'exceptionalism'?"

The fact that Obama has never learned that he can't win, and apparently never will learn it, is rather sad.

Posted by: square1 on January 27, 2011 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Last summer I saw John King and Dana Bash getting an ice cream at BEN & BILL'S CHOCOLATE EMPORIUM in Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard.


(Cokie Roberts would not approve).

I always knew he was stupid. I didn't realize he was little.

Posted by: Newton Whale on January 27, 2011 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Coming from the mouths (or other orifices) of Republicans, the phrase "American Exceptionalism" is pretty much code for "We Rule, F*ck the World!!" - petty, immature and simple-minded to be sure, but that's what "nationalism" is fundamentally about: the main difference is in RW code-mongering; like the difference between "nationalism" and "jingoism"

"Nationalism" =
"Americans are better than anyone else 'cuz God loves us more - especially when we elect Republicans to national office!"

"Jingoism" =
"Americans are better than anyone else 'cuz God loves us more - but only if we elect Republicans to national office!"

Posted by: Jay C on January 27, 2011 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

davidp above said, "If Limbaugh told his audience that in the SOTU Obama had called for a mass burning of flags, there'd be plenty of people who'd believe him."

And that is EXACTLY the truth. Boehner knows that 99% of Republican voters did not and will not watch/listen to/read the State of the Union. None of my conservative friends, family or coworkers did. Not a one.

I am not a gambling man but I would be willing to lay down a $100 bill on the bet that more Progressives watched the two Repug responses than Conservatives themselves.

See, the Conservative side doesn't believe in listening to both sides of an argument. Hell, most of the time they don;t even listen to ONE side of an argument; they have already made up their minds as to the truth.

So Boner can say whatever he wants, so can Rush or Beck or Palin or [insert Repug here]. . . because the vast majority of their intended audience won't be listening to ANYTYHING that disagrees with what they already believe.

I'm most familiar with the Southern/Christian branch of the Republican Party (due to my origin in a small coal-mining town in Kentucky), and from personal experience I can tell you that to THAT kind of voter (the reactionary Bible-thumping crowd) it is very nearly a sin just to listen to a Demo speak. My father would sooner read the Koran than listen to anything Obama has to say. Of course, he'd rather die painfully in a fire than read the Koran.

They KNOW the truth, so there is no point in listening to any different opinion. To do so risks being tainted by the sins of the world.

Man I am glad that I moved to California.

Posted by: Mitch on January 27, 2011 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

"On May 25, 2008, King married fellow CNN reporter Dana Bash.[1] Before marrying Bash, King, who was raised Roman Catholic, converted to Judaism, Bash's religion."

Why do spouses do this? If your fiance won't accept you unless you convert, doesn't that suggest she's just not that into you?

Posted by: Newton Whale on January 27, 2011 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

What I hear from the wingers I happen to know is that the US's exceptionalism springs from it's semi-divine origin as a government conceived by Christians.
Of course this is idiocy, it ignores the Deists and polite Anglicans and freethinkers who seem to have actually written the Constitution (if not the Declaration of Independence), and conflates the beliefs of the Founders with their own Evangelical Fundamentalism. This is also is a piece of the 'America is a Christian Nation' ideology.

Posted by: MR Bill on January 27, 2011 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, if our economy were in fact 20 times the size of China's, as Boehmer claimed, we would be pretty damn exceptional. As it is, our economy is about 3 times China's and the leader of our national legislature apparently does't know the first goddamn thing about the world economy. Not very exceptional, I'd say.

Posted by: Tymeg on January 27, 2011 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Time for some levity. This discussion puts me in mind of a piece Stephen Colbert ran about two years ago. Worth a look...


Posted by: Bob on January 27, 2011 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Too much of the right wing's exceptionalism meme strikes me as narcissism. They use it to either say the rules do not apply to us or to divert us from addressing our problems, particularly any that require sacrifice or the government.

At least Obama presents exceptionalism, in whatever words he chooses, as something that must be earned and demonstrated by action, continually. That strikes me as far healthier.

Maybe Boehner and Parker can join Palin somewhere admiring their reflections in a becalmed pond, while the rest of us get to work honestly discussing and addressing the nation's problems. Without their ilk in the way, we might be just a little more exceptional.

Posted by: threegoal on January 27, 2011 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

They're upset because he didn't mention Republican exceptionalism.

Posted by: SaintZak on January 27, 2011 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

So our economy is 20 times the size of China's? They're growing 20 times as fast. They will probably pass us at some point in the next century (last prediction I read was 2019), and I guess THEN Republicans will tell us that we have to slash SS to pay for a war with China. And Boehner won't be in office, so he doesn't care. He's just looking for his payday today.

Posted by: Daddy Love on January 27, 2011 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't the president use Boehner's own story of growing up in Ohio as an example of what makes America exceptional?


Posted by: Scott R on January 27, 2011 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

But these are very literal, simple and downright ignorant people, as we know. If he doesn't say the two words "American exceptionalism", even though he points out how unique we are, then to them it just didn't happen--he didn't say it.

"American exceptionalism" is a potentially dangerous concept and idea and clinging to it so desperately looks just that--desperate. It also makes any possible, potential "fall" that much more painful, should it happen. Heaven forbid, right?

Mo Rage
the blog

Posted by: Mo Rage on January 27, 2011 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

The reactive right (Boehner, et al) and the reactive left (see above) will always ignore words and facts and proclaim their own interpretation of what Obama says and does.

Obama's response in private: Meh.

Posted by: chi res on January 27, 2011 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

IMHO it isn't so much about "how easily their ideas are debunked" as it is about HAVING TO DEBUNK EVERYTHING THEY SAY at all!!!! Think of the time/print/audio etc utilized to have to reframe and explain and fact check crap that just falls out of the mouths of people on the right...LYING has become a huge part of American exceptionalism ...they do it oftener and better than anyone on earth...thoughtful, factual, honest, people are constantly on the defensive...break this cycle and we MIGHT get somewhere...

Posted by: Dancer on January 27, 2011 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

@ Scott R: I know! He practically said "America is exceptional because of you" to John Boehner's stupid orange face. But Boehner still missed it.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on January 27, 2011 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Between its hiring of genuine imbeciles like Erick Erickson and Kathleen Parker and the Bachmann travesty (to use just three examples), CNN has lost the right to refer to itself as a serious news organization. (Actually, it lost it quite a while ago, but lately has been making a special effort to seal the deal).

Speaking of Bachmann, Rachel Maddow continues to shine a much needed spotlight on CNN's outrageous behavior, finding it is deep in the tank for the Tea Party Express, which she calls a "scam."

Posted by: electrolite on January 27, 2011 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Parker interviews Boehner. What's next, Gerson interviews Newt. CNN is becoming unwatchable.

Posted by: max on January 27, 2011 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

CNN inexplicably airing two Republican responses to the State of the Union was ridiculous. This is worse.

Why? They're just airing two more ridiculous Republican responses to the State of the Union.

Posted by: Gregory on January 27, 2011 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

I thought Boehner looked smashed during the speech. He must have been pretty plastered to have missed all that.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 27, 2011 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Those who were watching Boner's facial expressions during SOTUS surely noticed that he was working hard at suppressing a stomach problem before it became evident to the noses of the assembled politicians and the ears of the public. To paraphrase a comment about one of his predecessors, he can't listen and f_rt at the same time.

Posted by: rong on January 27, 2011 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

"the country was built on an idea that ordinary people could decide what their government looked like and ordinary people could elect their own leaders."

Because other countries don't have democracy?

"our economy still 20 times the size of China's?"

CIA factbook sez:
China's GDP - $9.854 trillion
USA's GDP - $14.72 trillion

In PPP terms, China's economy is 66% of the USA's, or the USA's is 1.5 times bigger.

In exchange rate terms, China's GDP is (5.7/14.6) or 40% of the USA's (USA is 2.5 times bigger).

Posted by: flubber on January 27, 2011 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

There's no way the WH staff would allow a six-syllable word into the SOTU. President Obama now has the lowest average Flesch-Kincaid score for State of the Union addresses of any modern president - with his 8.5 grade level falling just below the 8.6 score recorded by George H.W. Bush during his presidency. If you are writing for 8th graders, you can't use words like "exceptionalism". If he DID use it, some Teabagger would accuse him of being a pointy-headed elitist.

Posted by: David on January 27, 2011 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

The US economy's GDP (PPP) is 18 times *Taiwan's*. This is probably where the number came from. I think we have a problem if the Speaker (or his staff) (a) doesn't know the difference between Taiwan and China, and (b) doesn't realize that 20x for the PRC is ridiculous.

Posted by: Alcibiades on January 27, 2011 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

The US economy's GDP (PPP) is 18 times *Taiwan's*. This is probably where the number came from. -- Alcibiades, @16:38

You know, I suspect you're right about that. But I think you're probably wrong about his not knowing the difference between China and Taiwan. He's probably stuck in some moment of the past, where, for US, Taiwan *was* China, because we didn't recognise them damned commies as an independent country. When I was applying for my green card, in '73, I was given a list of countries where I couldn't go with it. And, much to my amusement, "the communist portion of China" was one of those areas. Took me a long time to figure out just what he hell they meant by it.

Posted by: exlibra on January 27, 2011 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, let's agree that the US was exceptional 235 years ago when it let ordinary people (no women, no blacks) vote in their government. That was not unique 235 years ago -- it was rare -- and is commonplace today. These remarks possibly explain some of the Boehner oddities: he thinks we all still live in AD1775. He might. I don't.

Posted by: paull on January 27, 2011 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

I just ran across a quote from Saul Bellow that seems appropriate. "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep." Conservative psychology cannot bear to be wrong, to be losers. Therefore, we must be exceptional. Anything less is too painful to contemplate.

Posted by: Athena on January 27, 2011 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

What's in a synonym? Would not exception by any other name still be a Tweet? Apparently not. . ..

If they can dispute a fact, even in the most disingenuous of ways, Republicans will. They are a cult of undeserved praise, power and pulpit. Boehner is what is rightly called a malicious dumb-ass.

Posted by: Sparko on January 27, 2011 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

I guess, before Obama doesn't deliver the SOTU Nürnberg-style they will not stop calling him an unpatriotic Hitler...

Posted by: Vokoban on January 28, 2011 at 3:34 AM | PERMALINK

"in a well known franchise restaurant... we were supposed to say 'Was your meal EXCELLENT?'"
Posted by: sublime33 on January 27, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Sublime, if you check back in on this thread (or if anyone else has any familiarity):
Since I've never had a meal in a franchise restaurant that I could even convincingly pretend to have found "excellent," and since I am pretty close to a pathological truth-teller, I'd feel compelled to say, "No, it was not."
(I might have had a hard time keeping myself from saying, "Of course not," in a tone strongly suggestive that only a complete fool-and/or-tool could even pose the question.)
That being the case, exactly what were staff supposed to do if confronted with such a reply?
And what did management hope to accomplish by this transparently useless policy?

Posted by: smartalek on January 28, 2011 at 5:01 AM | PERMALINK

There is no political slogan, no cliche, that is more cheap and more inimical to the health of our democracy than the assertion of American exceptionalism, and it makes no difference whether the doctrine of exceptionalism be advanced by Republicans, by Democrats, or by the politically unaffiliated. Indeed, politicians of all persuasions seem to be equally happy to proclaim our exceptionalism. They do so in stentorian tones, and, as always, the louder and more insistent the speaker, the more suspect his or her message.

The assertion of collective exceptionalism is at best a ploy by means of which unprincipled politicians distract an increasingly restive population from the serious problems that beset us. For example, in some states the system of public education has ceased to function in any meaningful way other than as a day care center for disadvantaged youngsters. The government exerts no effective control over our southern border. For years, the nation has been engaged in foreign wars that cannot be won in the conventional sense, and these wars have brought our nation to the verge of bankruptcy. Fewer than 2 1/2 years have elapsed since our financial system collapsed. Some observers attribute the collapse to too much regulation; others contend that the culprit was insufficient regulation. Years may elapse before reputable economists reach agreement as to the causes of the collapse, but there can be little doubt that the government's existing policies were inadequate or improper, or both, and that those policies were dangerous to a degree that is without precedent. Yet our politicians proclaim us to be exceptional. Well, I certainly hope so; I wouldn't wish this set of problems off on any other nation.

Posted by: the gardener on January 28, 2011 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Boehner is completely entrenched in the opposition mentality. He has come to either take the diametrically opposite position of every stand Obama has taken, or portrays Obama as believing the exact opposite of what Boehner believes. Regardless of what Obama actually believes.

When this concerns ideas like exceptionalism it's merely nonsensical drivel. But when it comes to substantive issues such as climate change or regulation of the financial industry, it is downright dangerous.

Claiming that your opponent believes the opposite of what you do regardless of their actual beliefs is simply demonizing them. It's another attempt to delegitimize the Democrats and paint them as un-American in every possible way.

We've seen the Republicans shift positions constantly simple to oppose Democratic initiatives. For example, when the health care bill included mandates, suddenly Mitt Romney, who practically invented the mandate in Massachusetts, was against mandates.

We're all Americans here, working to make America better. We have different opinions, but if hash it out reasonably we can come up with a solution that's better than either side's cast-in-concrete positions. Stop with the vilification and get on with making the country better.

Posted by: blk on January 28, 2011 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

"American Exceptionalism" is another phrase similar to the word "patriotism" that the Republicans co-opt and infuse with a meaning of their own. In this case a sort of embarrassing jingoism to which no one but themselves would subscribe. Then they accuse anyone who does not use the word of not loving their country. Redshift, above, got it right

Posted by: Dennis Beard on January 28, 2011 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK



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