Yesterday, Obama tried to put to rest the persistent charge that he can’t market American exceptionalism, that he leaves—especially European audiences—wondering whether he has the “same feelings about American exceptionalism that we (Republicans) do.”
Obama approached the problem by going on about how America has given him so many opportunities. This misses the point: exceptionalism, amongst patriots today, gets its punch by belittling the other guy, not by adding up what America is doing for Americans. Exceptionalism only became a comprehensible term when it came to mean "superior."
Here’s old-styles exceptionalism, practiced by an old-world professional: Sir David Tang, who offers advice about property, interiors, and modern manners in the House & Home section of the Financial Times.
“Given the mutual fawning between the American president and the British prime minister during their recent rendezvous in the US, they might as well have signed agreements for the construction of a bridge across the Atlantic. Yet the two nations could not be more dissimilar. In terms of interior designs, the Americans seem to love faux stuff – page after page of reproduction furniture, mostly varnished to the hilt as if it were going on board the Kon-Tiki. The American style is also markedly more stiff and even sterile. Everything matches. It is all rather contrived and lacking in abandon – the latter being the quality that characterizes much more the British approach, underpinned, as it is, by a distinct sense of confidence. It is not difficult to understand this given the great rooms in all the historic stately houses and palaces in Britain. Over the generations, they have added layer after layer of sophisticated veneer. Compare all these to those neoclassical mansions in Florida or, God forbid, the modern ones in Seattle. Discovering that my business hero Bill Gates’ taste in interiors is so far from my own was the equivalent of being told that Marilyn Monroe was a cross-dresser.
Obama was right on his first visit to Europe as President when he said that every great country feels exceptional. He might as well wait out his punishment. It shouldn’t, however, cost him his job.