Barack, Rush and I
by Todd Beeton, Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 03:41:40 PM EDT
My experience of Barack's speech today was a little unusual. I was on the road, drving to Northern California (I'm blogging from the lobby of some hotel in Santa Rosa), and the only station I could find broadcasting the speech was on the freakin Rush Limbaugh show. He didn't play the whole thing but what he did play he spoke over intermittently with cranky commentary, as though he was one of those robots in Mystery Science Theatre 2000 critiquing a really bad film. So when Barack said "I come here as a fellow citizen of the world" Rush chimed in "citizen of the world? I'd like to see that passport." And when Barack said
The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
Rush complained that Barack was channeling Ronald Reagan except the walls Barack spoke of were "imaginary."
Oh, and I can't leave out that Rush consistently referred to the speech as "the messiah's sermon." And you'll be shocked to learn Rush didn't like the speech much. He was "disappointed" and felt it ran a bit short. Thanks for your concern, Rush.
But what struck me the most was a comment Rush made in some post-speech analysis: that Obama and Democrats in general "just don't understand American exceptionalism." In other words, this speech just reinforced the right's meme about Barack that he's un-American, despite the fact that it's actually quite a patriotic speech.
Now, I don't know Rush well enough to know the difference between when he actually believes something and when he's just spewing talking points, but this whole "American exceptionalism" thing struck me as a particular passion of Rush's and many of his callers.
For example, when Barack said:
Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.
Rush saw this as an insult to America because by declaring himself a citizen of the world, he was rendering his US citizenship as secondary.
And when Barack said:
Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?
Rush considered this a blatant slam against America and George W. Bush. Who re-constructed Europe, Rush demanded angrily, who is the one country doing more for Africa than any other!?
But what Rush and the whole "American exceptionalism" crowd don't get is that our outrage about what's happened over the past 8 years isn't about hating America, it's not about bashing America or our president. Rather, it's about the profound disappointment at what America has become under this president based on the deep belief that we are exceptional, that we are better than this and we should start acting like it.