President Barack Obama giving his speech in Cairo
Judging a new American President's national security policies after six months in office is a perilous enterprise, especially in the case of Barack Obama, where constant incantations of "change" and serial criticisms of his predecessor are the order of the day.
Nonetheless, during the 2008 primaries, Democratic candidates fiercely debated their respective abilities to handle the "3am call," and Joe Biden later warned that the inexperienced Illinois Senator would be "tested" early in his tenure. Now there is a partial record, and, more importantly, a worldview on which we can grade Obama's performance.
Obama is the first post-American President. Central to his worldview is rejecting American exceptionalism and the consequences that flow therefrom. Since an overwhelming majority of the world's population would welcome the demise of American exceptionalism, they are delighted with Obama.
One student interviewed after an Obama town hall meeting during his first presidential trip to Europe said ecstatically, "He sounds like a European." Indeed he does.
Of course, as a successful politician, Obama is never going to admit expressly that he rejects a unique US role in the world. Asked during his trip about this very subject, Obama responded, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." This answer, of course, proves precisely the opposite of what Obama is ostensibly saying. If every country is exceptional, none is. Obama is too smart not to know this and just slick enough to hope that US listeners would tune out after his first phrase.
It fell to an admiring media commentator to lift the cover more fully, and indeed unknowingly since he intended a compliment. Following Obama's D-Day 65th anniversary speech, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas contrasted him with Ronald Reagan in 1984:
"Well, we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way. It hasn't felt that way in recent years. So Obama's had, really, a different task....Reagan was all about America....Obama is ‘we are above that now'. We're not just parochial, we're not just chauvinistic, we're not just provincial. We stand for something. I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above — above the world, he's sort of God...He's going to bring all different sides together."
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