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American Exceptionalism and the Campaign of 2012

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While MSM chases every blink from the GOP campaign in an effort to turn every day into a significant one, the real story of this presidency’s rolling collapse is getting very little attention. Fully invested spinners like David Gregory are doing their best to dress up the Iraq fiasco as another triumph of the president’s carefully designed and implemented grand plan, but of course this series of improvisations is a tragedy in many acts. The president has no foreign policy, no defense doctrine, nothing but a series of necessary actions that any president would have taken –the killings of Osama and Awlaki– plus a policy of appeasement towards Iran and two big hopes that it will all work out in Libya and Egypt.

The latest and best assessment of the GOP race is Jay Cost’s dispassionate summary of Mitt Romney’s strategic advantages in the contest over at The Weekly Standard
, but last night the president filed another another greatest hit in the category of telling us what he really thinks, and it underscores perhaps Romney’s greatest strength in both the primaries and the general election races.

First, watch this clip of the president from last night (HT: Daniel Halper). This is far from the first time that the president has communicated his disdain for America’s present condition, and his pattern reveals a genuine belief that America is neither exceptional right now nor destined to be so in the future.

This is rightfully jarring to millions of Americans who look around the world and across the country itself and see enormous sacrifice and manifestations of a unique national character that is indeed great and exceptional.

The GOP needs to nominate a deep believer in this American exceptionalism, and one gifted with the skills to deliver that message again and again, forcing the president back upon his string of contemptuous remarks that date back to the 2008 campaign (“clingers”) and through the Apology Tours abroad and the excuse parade at home. The only way to make sense of this “foreign policy” is to understand it as fecklessness married to a “who cares anyway” derision of America’s role in the world. The fundamental contempt for the private sector that fuels the president’s domestic policy will cripple his ability to mimic a genuine faith in the real job creators of the country just as he cannot speak at length about the benefits of having liberated millions of Iraqis and Afghans from their respective tyrannies.

Romney began sharpening this attack when his book No Apology came out last year, and it will be a constant theme through the early primaries, and if he is the nominee, it will be the central theme of the campaign, one that connects the need for job growth and the repeals of Obamacare and the regulatory jihad of Team Obama to repair of American greatness. Romney’s “rebuild the Navy” speech at the Citadel earlier this month is of a piece with this theme, and it is a powerful one.

Chris Cillizza notes that Newt Gingrich appears to be getting his second wind. Like Romney he is an “American greatness” conservative with the abilities to deliver that message. It may be too late at this stage to revitalize his campaign, but the former Speaker must remind himself everyday that Churchill was down for the count more times in his career than anyone can recall without a copy of Manchester’s Alone in hand.

Can Perry get his “national greatness” game on? He needs to, and soon. This is the key debate in 2012, and he should make himself a part of it.


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