Blogging at World Affairs, David Rieff has written several recent posts in which he explores, and severely criticizes, the idea of American exceptionalism and its influence on the conduct of American foreign policy. Along the way he also has some flattering things to say about my own examination of the idea in several posts over the past nine months. But he also voices some concerns about my position. As he writes, Linker is only willing to call for [the] modification [of exceptionalist thinking], not its abandonment.
Every now and then a piece of writing captures the mood of the moment and the essence of an ideology so completely that it warrants special attention. This is certainly the case with “An Exceptional Debate: The Obama Administration’s Assault on American Identity,” an essay (and cover story) by Richard Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru in the March 8 issue of National Review. Lowry and Ponnuru’s thesis—that President Obama is an enemy of “American exceptionalism”—is hardly original.
When the New York Times published an article about how roughly 50 percent of same-sex marriages and relationships in the San Francisco area are “open marriages” in which both partners consent to each other having sex with other people, I assumed it would cause a stir and that I’d be motivated to write a response. Oddly, though, the article seemed to generate little attention.
It’s been nearly a year since I wrote a post titled “What Realignments Look Like.” In it I reflected on how disorienting it was to see the Democrats take the White House, increase their margins in the Congress, and confidently pursue a progressive policy agenda. Having politically come of age during Reagan’s presidency, when the Republican critique of liberalism seemed to permeate the political consciousness of the nation, such a thing seemed unthinkable.
Neocons have begun to warm to Barack Obama’s foreign policy vision. What they’ve liked about his recent speeches (at West Point, but far more so in Oslo) is his willingness to defend (against the anti-political pacifism that dominates a segment of elite European opinion) the idea that there can be morally justified wars—and that the war in Afghanistan is one of them. I’m delighted that some on the American right have come around to supporting the president, but they should do so knowing that on one crucially important matter Obama will never satisfy them.
Conservatives would have us believe that they hold a monopoly on common sense. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and many other right-wing rabble-rousers regularly portray themselves as defenders of the good, old-fashioned common sense of average Americans against an out-of-touch liberal elite.
This will be my only post on Sarah Palin. Let me explain why. Unlike most (political or non-political) celebrities, whose fame is some admixture of gossip and buzz, talent and accomplishment, Palin has no discernable talents (beyond antagonizing coastal elites like myself) and her accomplishments are minimal at most. (Mayor of a small town? Come on. A half-term governor of the most undeveloped state in the union? Please. A mom? Just like tens of millions of unfamous women. Sinking the McCain campaign?
German philosopher Martin Heidegger gets a lot of bad press. And for good reason. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis, he did and said and wrote some nasty things before and after serving as the rector of Freiburg University from 1933-1934, and though he eventually distanced himself from his earlier enthusiasm for Hitler, he seems never to have ceased believing that there was an "inner truth and greatness" (those are Heidegger's own words, spoken in a lecture from 1935) to the National Socialist movement. That sounds bad, and it is.