Wednesday, November 24, 2010
'American exceptionalism' - the firm belief in America's unique position and positive virtues in world society - is a clearly dear to the heart of most Americans, even if they might sometimes struggle to articulate it. Barack Obama identified it clearly in a recent speech at the G20 summit, but his comments have been ripped out of their context and subjected to severe criticism by numerous conservative commentators in the US. They have attempted to deny that he believes in any sort of American exceptionalism. It is a lethal charge in a country whose political centre of gravity is still firmly to the right, and we in Europe perhaps find it difficult to understand just how much the vilification of Obama as an entrenched leftist is gaining ground in the US. Andrew Sullivan, the libertarian ex-Brit who now lives in America and has been a consistent supporter of Obama, provides an illuminating comment about the 'Big Lie' being levied against the president. His defence of Obama's political achievements since taking office is worth noting, but his post includes a fascinating unpicking of how a host of conservative commentators have happily colluded in using an out of context quote to perpetuate a mythical image of the president that serves their purposes only too well. The damning indictment is that they are happily perpetuating a lie - didn't journalists once try and do the opposite?