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“Self-Styled Super-Patriots”: Loving An Imaginary America, Hating The Real One

Leave it to Matt Taibbi in a return to the pages of Rolling Stone to come up with a unique perspective on Rudy Giuliani’s rants about Obama not loving America: it reminds Taibbi of communist bitter-enders in post-Soviet Russia:

Rudy Giuliani is giving me Soviet flashbacks…..

Not to go too far down memory lane, but in 1990, I went to Leningrad to study. The Soviet empire was in its death throes and most people there, particularly the younger ones, knew it.

But some hadn’t gotten the memo yet, and those folks, usually nice enough, often older — university administrators, check-room attendants, security guards, parents of some of my classmates, others — were constantly challenging me and other exchange students to East-versus-West debates, usually with the aim of proving that “their” way of life was better.

By the time I left Russia a dozen years and a couple of career changes later, a lot of those people still hadn’t gotten the memo. They were deep in denial about the passing of the USSR and spent a lot of time volubly claiming ownership of words like we and our and us in a way that quickly became a running joke in modernizing Russia.

U Nas Lusche — roughly, Ours is Better or It’s Better Here — was the unofficial slogan of the pining-for-the-old-days crowd in post-communist Russia….

[T]he Soviets also had a strong sense of exceptionalism. It was something that was carefully nurtured and encouraged by The Party and had been spread successfully from the Kremlin to the remotest drunk-tank in Kamchatka.

But the problem with exceptionalism is that it can turn unintentionally comic with the drop of a hat. You’re made to believe you’re at the center of an envious universe, but then the world changes just enough and suddenly you’re a punchline clinging to a lot of incoherent emotions. I watched this happen with my own eyes to a lot of people in the former Soviet Union.

And I feel like it’s happening here now, with Rudy and the rest of the exceptionalist die-hards. They’re hanging on to a conception of us that doesn’t really exist anymore, not realizing that “America” is now a deeply varied, rapidly-changing place, one incidentally that they spend a lot of their public lives declaring they can’t stand.

And that’s the real irony and outrage: self-styled super-patriots who make it more apparent every day that they don’t much like, much less love, their country.

The Giuliani crack-up started up a long-overdue discussion about what exactly it means when patrician pols like Rudy accuse others of not “loving America” enough.

After all, which America do they mean? The one that will be majority nonwhite by 2042? The one that twice elected Barack Obama president? The one that now produces more porn than steel? The one that has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates and one of the highest immigration rates? That America?

Are they big fans of South Park maybe? The Wu-Tang Clan? Looking? Because it’s ironic: The heavy industry and manufacturing might that was a key source of American power in the days of Giuliani’s youth is now in serious decline, but Hollywood (and American pop culture generally) is a bigger, more hegemonic world power than ever.

Yet the current batch of exceptionalists mostly despises Hollywood, one of our few still-exceptionally-performing industries. They liked it better in the days when John Wayne was the leading man, Rock Hudson was in the closet and nobody made movies about copulating cowboys or Che’s motorcycle trips.

And here’s the classic Taibbi-esque coup de grace:

Conservative politicians like Rudy are a bizarre combination of constant, withering, redundant whining about Actual Current America, mixed with endless demands that we all stand up and profess our love for some other America, one that apparently doesn’t include a lot of the rest of us or the things about this country we like.

I feel sorry for Rudy that he can’t love this country the way it is. I love America even with assholes like him living in it.

Kinda the way I feel about Erick Erickson insisting that Barack Obama and I can’t possibly be Christians.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 23, 2015

February 24, 2015 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Patriotism, Republicans, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Giuliani Falls In Ditch, Keeps Digging”: For Republicans, There Seems To Be Something Different About President Obama

Rudy Giuliani is apparently under an odd impression: the problems he creates by saying dumb things will go away if he just keeps talking. Someone probably ought to tell him he has this backwards.

The New York Republican declared Tuesday night that President Obama doesn’t love America or Americans. By Wednesday morning, Giuliani insisted this was not necessarily an attack on the president’s patriotism. By mid-day, the clownish former mayor seemed eager to embarrass himself further, insisting, “President Obama didn’t live through September 11, I did”

And by last night, Giuliani’s descent into farce was complete.

Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York on Thursday defended his assertion that President Obama did not love America, and said that his criticism of Mr. Obama’s upbringing should not be considered racist because the president was raised by “a white mother.”

He added, “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”

I see. So, by this reasoning, it seems as if Rudy Giuliani has positioned himself as pro-colonialism.

In the same interview with the New York Times, the failed GOP presidential candidate “challenged a reporter to find examples of Mr. Obama expressing love for his country.” In other words, by Wednesday night, Giuliani, who tried and failed to hedge on his own ridiculous condemnations, was right back to where he was on Tuesday night.

I suppose it’s possible that some of the president’s more unhinged detractors might still find Giuliani’s garbage persuasive. Fox News’ Sean Hannity is on board, as is Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). Giuliani himself, with his challenge to a reporter, genuinely seems to believe there are no examples of the president “expressing love for his country.”

How about last month’s State of the Union address?

“I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong. I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.

“I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California, and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.

“So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who every day live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.”

When Republicans panicked over the Ebola threat, Obama reminded Americans about the importance of our nation’s leadership role in the world and celebrated the work that only the United States could do. When Republicans couldn’t figure what to say about ISIS, the president celebrated American greatness once more.

“Our technology companies and universities are unmatched. Our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day – and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.

“Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future.”

Maybe Giuliani just doesn’t listen to the president much. Or maybe he flunked listening comprehension.

There is a larger question, though, about why the unhinged wing of the Republican Party finds such nonsense appealing. To be sure, the GOP hated Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter every day of their presidencies, but I don’t recall ever hearing prominent Republican figures invest time and energy into arguing that the previous Democratic presidents just didn’t love their country. Clinton and Carter were attacked constantly, but their patriotism was never really part of the equation.

There seems to be something different about President Obama that brings out something uglier and more visceral from some GOP critics. It’s probably not his policy agenda – the president endorsed Mitt Romney’s health care plan, John McCain’s climate plan, and George W. Bush’s immigration plan – so there must be something else.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 20, 2015

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Patriotism, Racism, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Keystone, Patriotism, And The White Working Class”: That Moment In Which Good Policy And Good Rhetoric Meet

Some time in the next two weeks, President Barack Obama is expected to veto a bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The U.S. House passed a measure last week. A similar bill passed the U.S. Senate the week before. Republicans, and even some Democrats, are calling it the “Keystone jobs bill.”

Activists hope Obama will veto the bill out of concern for an already overheated planet — the refining and consumption of Canadian tar-sands oil results in double the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. But that rationale is unlikely. The president is probably going to argue that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority. In crossing an international boundary, the pipeline is executive-branch turf.

But I wonder if this might be an opportunity, at least a rhetorical opportunity best understood in a somewhat different context. That context is the Democratic Party’s dismal performance among white working-class voters, who generally believe the Republican Party represents their interests even though it doesn’t.

Before I continue, please allow me to disclaim that when it comes to the white working class, I have some authority. My dad long-hauled steel. My mom raised four children in a comfortable trailer home while Dad was on the road. They certainly don’t approve of everything the government does — their anti-military views are exceptional — but right or wrong, America is theirs. And thanks to their rearing, America is mine, too.

To say my parents were conflicted over the role of the federal government in their lives is an understatement, but to say they wanted it out of their lives, as Republicans repeatedly claim on their behalf, is a gross overstatement. There’s nothing wrong with government as long as it serves the people whose biggest asset is their labor, which in their world means everyone not born into so much wealth that they don’t need to work.

Why does the white working class even matter to Democrats? Doesn’t the demographic tide favor them? Yes, but as Andrew Levison has argued, the Democrats still need white working-class voters. Without them, the party will scarcely attain the majoritarian momentum it needs to advance a truly progressive agenda. To be blunt, without them, demographics for the Democratic Party isn’t destiny. It’s doom.

The question is how to reach them. Democratic strategists cyclically scratch their heads in disbelief at white working-class voters acting in contrast to their interests. But such behavior shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, voting is the result of emotion at least as much as it is the result of tactical decision making. And this is where I think the president’s expected veto of the Keystone bill is connected to the white working class. If there’s one thing white working-class voters respond to, it is emotional appeals to their deep and abiding sense of patriotism (the Republicans long ago mastered the art of such appeals). But Obama has an opportunity to shift the rhetorical landscape in favor of the Democrats by vetoing the Keystone bill in the name of country.

I’m not just favoring good rhetoric over good policy: This is a moment in which good policy and good rhetoric meet.

First, the pipeline isn’t going to help many Americans. Indeed, the Republicans never let a moment go by without reminding us that Obama’s own Department of State estimates that thousands of jobs will emerge from the $8 billion construction of the pipeline. But a majority of those jobs are seasonal. Once the project is completed, about 35 jobs will endure, according to the very same government estimate.

Second, the pipeline is going to help many Canadians. The Keystone is one of five proposed pipelines needed to profit from billions being invested in the extraction of tar-sands crude. This handful of pipelines tops the list of Canada’s national priorities. According to Mark Dowie, in The Washington Spectator, if even one of the pipelines is stymied, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s dream of creating a petro-state will die. So pressure is mounting. Harper, Canada’s oil companies, and their very wealthy investors around the world want to see the Keystone built. In the United States, it will create a flurry of temporary activity, but the long-term rewards will be entirely enjoyed by Canadians.

That matters to white working-class voters. That’s something that can’t be squared with Republican claims that Keystone is simply a jobs bill.

All right. Let’s accept the premise — Keystone is a jobs bill. If so, it’s bad one. As I said, lots of temporary jobs, a few permanent jobs and nothing left for the greater good. All future dividends from billions presently invested will flow north of the border. Indeed, it’s Americans who will suffer detriment in the event of a leak. (Leaks are rare, but when they happen, they are catastrophic to communities, property and natural resources.) A better jobs plan can be found in the president’s fiscal year budget. It calls for federal expenditures on the construction and upkeep of the country’s (literally) crumbling infrastructure. How does Obama hope to pay for all these roads, bridges, tunnels and waterways? By levying a tax on the offshore accounts of the very wealthy.

The president wants to tax the money of a very small minority of Americans who don’t want to pay U.S. taxes. He wants to raise revenues to fund the construction, and reconstruction, of the country’s infrastructure. If expenditures reach as high as $1 trillion, as Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has proposed, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of seasonal and permanent jobs, with something to show for all the effort—a lasting investment. (Sanders’ proposal would also probably include a hike in the federal gas tax, which hasn’t gone up since the mid-1990s.) Conversely, the Republicans blindly oppose all tax increases, even on those without enough sense of patriotism to want to pay their due in taxes while everyone else does.

If that appears to be the making of a wedge issue, that’s because it is, and the Democrats need to exploit it. The Keystone reveals a rift between rich Americans who don’t pay taxes and working-class Americans who do; between rich Americans who don’t want to rebuild America, for Americans, and working-class Americans who do.

The bottom line: Courting white working-class voters will take more than appealing to their economic interests. It isn’t enough to do the right thing, and this is where I part ways with others on this subject. I tend to believe the Democrats don’t do enough to drive a wedge between white working-class voters and the Republican Party elites who claim to represent them. The GOP’s hold on the working-class imagination is strong, thanks to years and years of race baiting and fearmongering. So when the rare opportunity arises in which Democrats can illuminate the clear contrasts between the interests of the very, very rich and everyone else, it shouldn’t be wasted.

 

By: John Stoehr, Managing Editor of The Washington Spectator; The National Memo, February 17, 2015

February 18, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Keystone XL, Patriotism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Taking Exception To American Exceptionalism”: No One’s Patriotism Should Be Impugned, Certainly Not By The Likes Of Dick Cheney

I didn’t really think it possible for Dick Cheney to lower my opinion of him. But then this happened (per Politico‘s Kendall Breitman):

Dick Cheney says it’s “outrageous” that President Barack Obama mentioned the summer’s unrest in Ferguson, Mo., while speaking about ISIL during a speech at the United Nations.

“I was stunned,” the former vice president said on Wednesday during an interview on Fox News’ “Hannity….”

“In one case, you’ve got a police officer involved in a shooting, there may be questions about it to be sorted out by the legal process, but there’s no comparison to that with what ISIS is doing to thousands of people throughout the Middle East through bloody beheadings of anybody they come in contact with,” Cheney said. “To compare the two as though there’s moral equivalence there, I think, is outrageous.”

Obama, of course, in NO WAY “compared” the two phenomena (sorry to “shout,” but it’s hard to overstate how little support there is for what Cheney is saying). The reference to Ferguson was in the midst of a long litany about America’s view of how it serves as a leader in a global collective security arrangement, and he immediately touted the domestic debate over Ferguson as a sign of our strength and virtue.

Cheney’s assertion is perhaps the most willfully stupid thing I’ve heard in years.

Having said that, I think the real objection on the Right to Obama’s speech is that he treated collective security as something other than an extension of America’s Sovereign and Imperial Will. The secular religion of American Exceptionalism–and I call it a religion because it sweeps aside all the universalism associated with crucial cultural influences from Christianity to the Enlightenment–is so powerful a force among conservatives these days that anything Obama said that wasn’t an arrogant insult to the rest of the world would not have satisfied them.

Sometimes I chafe at Obama’s efforts to propitiate the idol of American Exceptionalism rhetorically, even as he is explicitly treating America as subject to the same standards as any other people. Sometimes I wish my fellow-citizens in the country I love would wake up and acknowledge that the only “freedom” we enjoy that is denied to our global peers is the right to easily acquire lethal weapons. America largely invented the system of collective security that Obama is so avid to vindicate in his actions–wise or foolish–in the Middle East. His patriotism should not be impugned for taking it, and America’s claim to represent values beyond self-interest, seriously. And certainly not by the likes of Dick Cheney.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 25, 2014

September 26, 2014 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Dick Cheney, Patriotism | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Suing The President”: Another Un-American Step For Today’s GOP

Any genuine conservative, any real American patriot should be outraged at the way the Republicans are treating the President of the United States. Our founders did not envision any president being treated this way.

The latest affront is the lawsuit the House Republicans have brought against the president. That suit should ring an alarm bell for conservatives because it is unprecedented in American history. To a conservative, what is unprecedented is inherently suspect: There’s likely a good reason it has not been done before.

But this suit is just the latest episode in a disgraceful story.

Never before has the party in opposition made its top priority to stop the president from accomplishing anything. And, with the House of Representatives controlled by the Republican opposition, never before has a Congress accomplished so little. Republican obstructionism has intentionally prevented the system our founders gave us from dealing with grave challenges. This is a record no patriot should celebrate.

Lest anyone imagine that Republicans have obstructed because the president’s proposals are extreme, note that Republicans in Congress have blocked measures — on gun control, immigration, minimum wage — that are supported by large majorities of Americans, favored even by majorities of Republican voters. Republicans have also regularly opposed their own ideas once the president favors them.

It is only at the superficial level that the object of the Republican assault is President Obama. This is an attack against the system of government our founders gave us.

That system created a job of great importance — the presidency — and provided a means for the American people to choose who should perform that job on their behalf. If the people choose a president who has run on a promise to enact a major piece of legislation, our founders would want the opposition to honor the people’s choice, and to use their influence to make that measure as effective as possible. But Republicans have shown no such respect for the people’s decision; even though this president was elected and re-elected with large majorities, Republicans have done everything possible to sabotage the measure that they named Obamacare.

And so it has been with every other effort by the president to do what he was elected to do.

Which brings us to this ludicrous lawsuit. Republicans are suing Obama for delaying implementation of a part of a law that they hate and have voted to repealed some 50 times, yet Republicans made no objection when George W. Bush did essentially the same thing with the prescription drug law.

Clearly, Republicans are determined to block Mr. Obama from performing the role of president. Having set records for blocking the legislative process, the Republican-controlled House now votes to sue the president for trying to meet the nation’s needs by the only route that remains to him — executive action.

Americans are angry with Congress. But Republicans figure they can get the American people to blame the “party in power” (meaning the White House) for the failure they themselves have caused. Injuring the nation for partisan advantage — that’s the very opposite of patriotism. And it is unprecedented.

Also unprecedented: Never has an opposition party treated a president with this kind of contempt. Even when Americans have serious reservations about a particular president, it is an American tradition to treat the president with respect.

One has to wonder how these Republicans can get away with talking about a president with scorn and condescension the likes of which we’ve never seen before. One has to wonder if, when white Republicans come, day after day, in front of the cameras to belittle and mock a duly elected president who happens to be the first African-American elected to the office, they are relying on an old cultural current that once said it’s alright for a white person — man, woman or child — to demean a black adult male by calling him “boy.”

In every way, we see validated the conservative judgment about the suspect nature of the unprecedented. In this unprecedented Republican treatment of a president, we see the worst angels of our nature exercising the power to defeat the best of our potential.

 

By: Andy Schmookler, The Huffington Post Blog, August 11, 2014

August 12, 2014 Posted by | Founding Fathers, House Republicans, Patriotism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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