Tag Archives: American presidency

Obama discovers American exceptionalism


Obama discovers American exceptionalism

            Among the welter of ironies concerning Pres. Vladimir Putin’s op-ed for The New York Times on the zig-zaggingSyria crisis is that Ras’ ghostwriter has however haphazardly touched on the fundamental issue. Given the arguments and syntax, I suspect the ghost’s first language was American, not Russian, something I will leave to future political exegesis. But one of the things this propagandist does by indirection is to identify Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s utter intellectual confusion.

There is certainly no reason why the mediocrity who now has through the vagaries of history slipped into the throne of the tsars would know. But the question of “American exceptionalism” played a role in the arguments leading up to Josef Stalin’s becoming the Soviet Union’s bloody dictator and arbiter of the powerful international Communist movement.

Before the Moscow Trials of the mid-30s when Stalin settled all political scores by reducing his enemies by a head as he once joked, when there were still convoluted arguments over international Marxism inside the Communist world, American exceptionalism was an issue. In 1929 Jay Lovestone took off for Moscow to plead his sudden dismissal as U.S. Party chairman. At a meeting of the Comintern, the supposedly independent directorate of world Communism,. Lovestone argued that Communism would not come in the U.S. through revolution. Given his independent character and living standard, Lovestone argued, the American worker was not of the European, Asian and African “proletariat” whom Karl Marx’ had promised would be “the gravediggerers of capitalism and forerunner of The Revolution”.

But Stalin was having none of it. In fact, as Lovestone told me, he barely escaped Vladimir Lenin’s self-appointed heir. Only through the assistance of the American Communist capitalist Julius Hammer, father of his more famous son Armand Hammer who with Soviet assistance became an international oil figure after World War II, Lovestone sneaked out of Russia. He came back to the U.S. to found, briefly, the American Revolutionary Communist Party. How he escaped assassination as was the fate of so many of Stalin’s enemies, even those abroad, is a bit mysterious. But decades later Lovestone went on to become collaborator with George Meany, the old plumber who headed the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations. Together with the infant Central Intelligence Agency, they broke the hold of Moscow’s International Federation of Trade Unions on Western European labor trade unions at the outset of The Cold War, crucial in bringing the European Social Democratic parties, particularly the West German SPD, into the anti-Communist alliance.

It is very unlikely that Putin, a quintessential Russian secret police thug, knows much of this history. He was an unknown foreign agent until Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin plucked him from obscurity to protect Yeltsin’s corrupt “Family” of hangerons when that old drunkard exited power. [Markus Wolf, lifelong legendary head of Stassi, the enormous network of informers and enforcers who kept the East German state alive in The Cold War, quipped: “If he [Putin] spent 15 years [as liaison between the Soviet NKVD/KGB and Stassi at their joint training school] in Dresden, and I didn’t know him, he couldn’t have been much”.]

In America, Lovestone’s sectarian argument was never settled over how to gain influence for the miniscule American Communist Party camouflaging their more important espionage for Moscow. The argument, like the American Communists themselves, was victim of the gyrations of the “Party line”, subservient to Moscow’s international strategy including Stalin’s brief alliance with Hitler that brought on World War II. For a short period when Stalin was “Good Old Uncle Joe” in FDR’s Washington, the essential ally against the Nazis, the American Party under Earl Browder preached gradualism. [These stories never end: Browder’s grandson now wages a bitter argument with Putin over seizure of his extensive investments in Yeltsin’s Russia and the murder of his Moscow lawyer and collaborator.]

But American exceptionalism is framed in more elegant terms as a part of the intellectual life of The Republic over its two centuries. For, singularly. unlike other nation states organized under the aegis of the Westphalian System [Treaty of 1648], the U.S. has no claim to a long history, a common race or ethnicity or even language characterizing the state. [Benjamin Franklin, horrified at the cacophony of German Anabaptist voices on the streets of Philadelphia during the hot summer of 1781 when the U.S. constitution was being framed in secret, toyed with the idea of writing in English as the official language of the new Republic.]

The U.S. was, from its outset, an ideological construct, an original — if heavily borrowing on what The Founders as children of the European Enlightenment saw as the heritage of the democracies of Greece and Republican Rome. It did not celebrate a unified cultural ethos as did France, even the “United” kingdom, and later Italy and Germany. Instead, the American Republic was and is a political concept to insure the rights and privileges of a truly multicultural people to whom, unlike the European nation states, it ultimately owed its genius and power.

That complicated concept has been from the earliest days of The Republic the essence of “American exceptionalism”, the idea that because of the formation and nature of the country, it was different from other nation states in a fundamental way. This distinction has given a sense of mission to the American Republic – not the “gloire” of France, for example, but The Republic’s obligation by its very nature to espouse a new kind of national and international morality.

From the days of its earliest religious minorities seeking tolerance in The New World, Americans have always thought themselves “special”as Puritan lawyer John Winthrop proclaimed in 1640 aboard the Arabella enroute to Massachusetts:

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.

Or whether it was the Deist Thomas Jefferson, writing in the Declaration of Independence:

[A]nd accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Or Abraham Lincoln presiding over the greatest American crisis, in his famous Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Or Ronald Reagan, the 20th century statesman bidding goodbye to public life:

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life…. And how stands the city on this winter night? … After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true to the granite ridge, and her glow has held no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

In a sense, it does not matter whether, indeed, the U.S. were “the New Jerusalem”. More important perhaps is that American leaders throughout their history have accepted the concept that The Republic was “different” from other countries, and therefore had a mission that went beyond the simple pursuit of its existence as a nation.

It was perhaps inevitable, if there is such a thing as inevitability, that when the U.S. emerged from the near suicide of the West in two bloody world wars as the overwhelmingly most powerful country with its vast economy and population, the concept of exceptionalism would be applied to international relations. Indeed, however unsuccessfully, three generations earlier Pres. Woodrow Wilson had proclaimed U.S. entry into World War I as “the war to end all wars” and his formulation of the concept of the League of Nations to settle international disputes was part of that American “mission”.

Again, ironically, despite the fact they drew much of their inspiration from Wilson’s “progressivism”, part and parcel of Obama and his supporters’ credo in pursuit of their ambition “to transform” the nation was rejection of  “exceptionalsim”. In one of his too many casual public statements, Obama dismissed it out of hand. At the NATO Summit in Strasbourg, France, in 2009, he said sarcastically:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

But on Sept. 10, only four years later, in his address to the nation on the Syrian crisis, Obama reversed that view as he floated in and out of issues:

My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security.  This has meant doing more than forging international agreements — it has meant enforcing them.  The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them.

In all the rapid permutations of the Syrian Crisis, it has taken [Ras] Putin’s numskull ghost writer to recognize that Obama, too, has come around to recognizing “American exceptionalism” — for better or for worse.

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Foreign policy by prayer


In a region noted for miracles – Israel’s prosperous if beleaguered survival, despite attempts to mobilize 360-million Arab enemies, is a recent example – prayer could be a way to make U.S. policy. Although she now contributes only by inheritance, former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice voiced that possibility, woefully, recently: “…We have only one choice: to trust that in the long arc of history those shared beliefs will matter more than the immediate disruptions that lie ahead and that, ultimately, our interests and ideals will be well served.“

To quote John Maynard Milord Keynes, in the long run we will all be dead.

Reality is the Obama Administration cannot continue to abdicate America’s responsibility, leaving a worldwide vacuum to be filled by every would-be amateur Metternich. Obviously, policy is made with many unanswered questions. But leadership requires sorting possibilities, and decision-making, usually accepting the best of poor alternatives.

In all the uncertainties facing Egypt’s future, and indeed, the whole Arab world, by encroaching poverty pitted against rising expectations, none is so mysterious as current U.S. policy.

The talking heads more or less confirmWashington was unprepared for Cairo’s implosion. Okay, as some of us over 35 know, human events are largely unpredictable. Who could have guessed immolation by an unemployed vendor in tiny Tunisia, hardly respectable among the macho Arabs, would topple the dominoes?

But Egypt was notorious as a classically fragile third world country. There was always potential drama in rising unemployment, underdeveloped or depleted natural resources, literally thousands of years of bureaucratic malfeasance. Ruled by a highly personalized military dictatorship, no secure succession was in sight to its 83-year-old, ill, reactionary head. Yet Cairo dominated culturally a region because of its fossil fuel resources critical to the U.S. and the world economy. Yet destabilization came as a surprise? Yes, the U.S. is in a period of overwhelming domestic concern. Fickle Washington is notoriously a one-issue theater – and the Obama Administration is still winding down two wars. But surprise?

Looking for an explanation, the inevitable conclusion is the foreign policy establishment – in and out of government, for with the Inside the Beltway revolving door they are indistinguishable – is incompetent. Why?

“Group think” dominates analyses. Fads and instant expertise – instead of the long, hard, slog through history and anecdotal information – preclude originality. Even the Pentagon, supposedly noted for realism, bought into the most primitive “scientism”: the hypothesis scientific method could be applied to social problems. It spent tens of millions of dollars on “software” replacing the old crystal ball, the alchemist’s puttering, the Gypsy soothsayers on Manhattan’s Second Avenue, or the oracle of Delphi but didn’t see this coming.

Even now most media chatter trots out tired clichés. Basic problems are ignored or obfuscated. Not even the right questions are posed, at least not publicly:

1] How is any Egyptian regime going to meet growing unemployment and unrest among a notoriously young population? Will the new regime reverse largely protectionist, corrupt Murbarak policies which inhibited foreign investment and technological transfer. [Read the labels: Highly valued Egyptian cotton is made into sheets, towels and garments in India, China, Bangladesh – any place but Egypt!]

2] Fatuous rationalizations about Islam dominate the politically correct discourse. No one, probably including the Muslim Brotherhood itself, knows the fanatics’ strength in the new environment. But can there be any doubt a movement grounded in radical political and primitive Islam, threatens all modern values? Even if analyses arguing the Brothers are currently ambivalent are correct, will the obviously difficult days ahead not stir its original bowels of fanaticism as has happened elsewhere?

3] With continued military dominance likelihood, how far have the jihadists penetrated its lower echelons? Is a sergeants’ revolt likely – just as Gamal Abdul Nasser overthrew the original 1952 military coup instituting failed pan-Arab nationalism and a Soviet alliance? Doesn’t anyone remember Pres. Anwar Sadat was assassinated during a military review by the Brothers’ intellectual offspring in “borrowed” uniforms?

4] Most important, what role can America actually play? Is it wise to continue making public statements, often contradictory within 24 hours? Wouldn’t a quieter diplomacy – if such can be conducted given Washington’s official blabbermouths and wikileaks’ assistance – be more effective? Given past history in Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, etc., isn’t the influence of the Pentagon on Egyptian military – despite the annual $1.5 billion aid bribe – questionable? Is America’s “soft power” being mobilized? coordination between policymakers and propaganda, official and unofficial, in a world of instant replay?

Pres. Barack Obama’s ideological proclivities will have to give way to realism if the U.S. is not to stumble further. Nothing was clearer when his feathers were ruffled by admonitions from old Egypt-hand Amb. Frank Wismer advocating a transition with Mubarak.

Running American foreign policy is not community organizing agitation, but a hard-headed, facts-based choice of always difficult alternatives. Choices have to be made, quickly, quietly, and judiciously. Harry Truman had it right: constitutionally and historically the presidency of the U.S. is a strong executive, and it sometimes doesn’t matter as much what the decision is but that it be made.

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American virility


American virility

I am looking for a bookmaker: I want to place a big bet against Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s war on the American economy. It’s a calculation from a worm’s eye view, of course — recent personal experiences and tidbits picked hither and yon. But they do have macroeconomic implications.

Truthfully, I am not really a betting man. [I don’t like to lose.] But were I to plunk down this one, the odds would be long. Given the power of the presidency, the possibility Mr. Obama might get a second term – removing all restraints on his ideology – you see the problem of setting the live price.

There isn’t time and space to argue Mr. Obama’s intentions. In any case, one rarely divines those. But it is harder and harder to counter accusations of a great leftwing conspiracy to wreck the Republic’s fantastic economy, one which has given its people more than any regime in history. The President’s economic warfare speaks even louder than his denunciation of American exceptionalism. Whether it is medical arts, energy or financial regulation, Obama economic policy is a big demolition derby.

  • Energy With the Mideast and its huge fossil fuel resources near turmoil, the Administration blocks domestic industry’s ability to pick up on offshore deepwater drilling – even when ordered by the courts. The President’s disingenuous press conference statement notwithstanding, regulatory agencies defy Congressional and public opinion adding new impediments to utilizing fossil fuels including new coal technologies, our greatest energy asset. Crippling gasoline prices dooming job recovery will not be talked down by the President, but lowered only by full-fledged operating markets exploiting America’s abundant resources.
  • Deficits, regulation and taxes Blithely charging ahead with new “programs” – for example, adding more retraining to the uncoordinated 16 existing programs– the President’s spending cutbacks are miniscule. Another trillion and half dollar deficit is “routine”. Hamstringing a chagrined and immobilized Wall St. at a time when its competitors in London’s City watch HKSBC retreat back to Hong Kong, the White House shirks leadership except to pamper companies exporting technology and jobs to China. Those major miscreants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not spanked much less defanged. Surreptitiously supporting “special interests” – including bloated government unions in Wisconsin and other swing states – highlight Administration efforts to cast budget-cutters as Simon Legree.
  • Social welfare net Having rammed through a mishmash labeled “comprehensive” restructuring of our ailing medical arts, a sixth of the economy, the Administration is adding insult to injury by waiving protocols in order to buy off selected companies and the medical bureaucracies. [It’s probably unconstitutional but then Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. picks and chooses what laws he will enforce.] Betting pork – insurance coverage for children up to 25 on Poppa’s chit, indeed! – will buy off the electorate, the Administration looks to a 2012 victory with Obamacare’s real bill arriving in 2014.

So? If it looks that bad, why my optimism about the end result?

First off, I am growing my own tomatoes this year. Enough already of those red plastics! I’ve been around to my local farmers’ supply store. And I am flabbergasted. In two decades since last I looked, dozens of new products for fellow amateurs obviously reflect revolutionary agroindustrial research and applications. No wonder American agricultural productivity just doesn’t stop. No wonder warnings about individual crop failures often are premature, sometimes turning into lower prices as they did a season or so back for oranges. This is a country with one big green thumb – and not the one the Obama Administration’s elitist Sierra Club sucks on – reflecting a scientific spirit that will not be squelched.

Then there’s “energy”. There’s little doubt Mr. Obama’s legacy will include new abandoned windfarms from Hawaii to California to New England joining those willed us by the misbegotten effort to thwart the markets under the Carter Administration’s first energy “tsar”, Jim Schlesinger. Yes, subsidies are financing Chinese exports to the U.S. from runaway American windmill manufacturers. But the truth is our proved fossil fuel reserves are growing. “Petroleum peak moment” hysteria may tickle the fancy of academic enviromentalistas. But cold, hard cash – including investments from the Chinese! – will inevitably produce a flood of new LNG/LPG shale oil. The fact installations are on a switch, export or import, tells you more than the media about the industry. And just how long does 1600 Pennsylvania believe the public will wait for “drill, baby, drill” if gas goes to $5?

Oh yes, and then there are peaches. Apparently, the public has lost its appetite for my favorite fruit, with imports hounding our growers. What to do? Seems we have developed a new machine selectively wandering through orchards trimming those magnificent blooms, shortly to be the glory of spring here in the southeast. It thins, mechanically, automatically, cheaply, so we will get bigger and better and cheaper fruit.

Now will somebody do something about those $1.75 hot house pimentos, a spice of life, which we bring from the Netherlands, while I wait for the Obama anti-business warriors to collapse of their own dead weight?

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Truman said it all!


—– Original Message —–
From: “Truman Reference” <Truman.Reference@nara.gov>
To: “Sol W. Sanders” <solsanders@cox.net>
Sent: Friday, January 08, 2010 11:55 AM
Subject: Re: media request

> Dear Mr. Sanders,
>
> Thank you for the e-mail message that you sent us yesterday.  I have
> not found a speech in which president Truman used the phrase “the buck
> stops here” in the context in which you refer.  In a speech he gave at
> the National War College on December 19, 1952, Truman said, “You know,
> it’s easy enough for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the
> coach should have done, after the game is over. But when the decision is
> up before you–and on my desk I have a motto which says “The buck stops
> here”–the decision has to be made. That decision may be right. It may
> be wrong. If it is wrong, and it has been shown that it is wrong, I have
> no desire to cover it up. I admit it, and try to make another decision
> that will meet the situation. And that is what any President of the
> United States has to do. Just bear that in mind.”  The full text of this
> speech is located on our website at
> http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=2094&st=&st1=.
>
> In his Farewell Address of January 15, 1953, Truman stated, “The
> greatest part of the President’s job is to make decisions–big ones and
> small ones, dozens of them almost every day. The papers may circulate
> around the Government for a while but they finally reach this desk. And
> then, there’s no place else for them to go. The President–whoever he
> is–has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do
> the deciding for him. That’s his job.”  The full text of this speech is
> located on our website at
> http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=2059&st=&st1=.
>
> On a third occasion, Mr. Truman used the phrase, “the buck stops here,”
> in the context of his use of the atomic bomb in 1945.  Text of that
> campaign speech is located on our website at
>
http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=1989&st=&st1=http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=1989&st=&st1=.
>
> I hope that this information is helpful.
>
> Sincerely,
>
>
> Sam Rushay
> Supervisory Archivist
> Harry S. Truman Library
> 500 West U.S. Highway 24
> Independence, MO 64050
> 816-268-8211
> Fax: 816-268-8295
>
> >>> “Sol W. Sanders” <solsanders@cox.net> 1/7/2010 8:06 PM >>>
> Could an archivist help me please?
>
> If memory serves [and it doesn’t often], the phrase “the buck stops
> here” was originally in a larger Truman quotation. I believe he said
> something along the lines of 1] the Constitution and history have made
> the American president a very strong exeecutive, 2] because of that, it
> sometimes is as important that he make a decision as to what the
> decision is, and therefore 3] the buck stops here.
>
> Was there such a statement by the President? Can I have the exact
> text?
>
> Yours sincerely
>
> Sol W. Sanders
>
> International Business Editor, The Washington Times

Ye Olde Crabb sez

Well, maybe he didn’t say it just that way. But I think the meaning was clear.

Mr. Pres. Obama, are you listening to yourself when you quote the former president?