We’ve commented more often than we would have liked to about President Obama’s constant bashing of the U.S before foreign audiences. Perhaps it’s time to consider why Obama persists in doing this. Here are four possible reasons:
First, it’s what Democrats do. Obama isn’t the first Democratic president to “blame America first.” Rather, he is following in the footsteps of Presidents Carter and Clinton. Both must somehow have thought, as Obama professes to, that our friends and adversaries would react to our self-abasement by embracing policies more to our liking. Both found out that nations and factions act as they do out of self-interest, not in reaction to American words. Obama caught a glimpse of this phenomenon in Europe last week.
But Obama has already done as much America-bashing in a little more than two months as Carter and Clinton did in their entire presidencies. Moreover, if memory serves, neither Clinton nor even Carter went hat-in-hand to our sworn enemies, as Obama has done with Iran. (Carter suggested that we had an “inordinate fear” of Communism, but I don’t think he apologized to the Soviet Union for it). Thus, there seems to be more at work here than mere adherence to past Democratic wishful thinking.
Second, Obama hopes to shift blame for any inability to obtain cooperation from foreign leaders to that familiar target, President Bush. Obama is capable of being gracious but not, apparently, when it comes to the man who bore the burdens of Obama’s current office for eight years. Through his apologies and mea culpas on behalf of the U.S., Obama suggests that our problems in the realm of diplomacy are the fault of his predecessor. This sort of blame-shifting is a convenient and time-honored ploy, although not so much in the realm of foreign policy.
But Obama’s apologies are rarely for American policy during the past eight years. Instead, at least by implication, they typically reach back for decades. This is America-bashing, not simply Bush-bashing.
Third, maybe Obama just doesn’t like the America that existed prior to January 20 of this year, and feels compelled to say so. I think it’s clear that, indeed, Obama didn’t much like America as it was until it had the wisdom to elect him. One doesn’t attend the sermons of the America-hating Rev. Jeremiah Wright year-in and year-out if you think well of the United States. An even clearer glimpse into Obama’s real view about our country was offered when Michelle Obama declared that, until the rise of her husband, America had done nothing of which she was proud. Obama defended the statement as it applied to our politics.
It’s less clear, however, that Obama feels compelled as a matter of principle to express his dislike of America. Obama didn’t do so very much during the presidential campaign, and he remains a political animal. There’s little reason to suppose that he’s revealing these feelings now because he needs “to speak truth to his [his own] power.” Obama’s dislike of America may be a necessary condition for the way he’s acting, but I don’t think it’s a sufficient one.
Fourth, Obama’s American bashing is the product of his ego. Scott suggested as much yesterday when he described Obama as “bestriding the Western world in the guise of a philosopher king.” By distancing himself from America’s foreign policy, he presents himself as something greater than a mere American president attempting to project American power and American ideas. Any president can do that. So grand is this American president that he will project his own special synthesis of world ideas, at least rhetorically. In doing so, not coincidentally, he will impress elites at home and abroad, and enhance his personal popularity, if not that of the country. His intellect will be admired and he will become a beloved figure throughout the world.
These explanations are not mutually exclusive, of course, and Obama’s America bashing may be over-determined. However, explaining the gusto and persistence with which Obama bashes America may require resorting to my fourth explanation.