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A War Over Exceptionalism

November 14, 2011

Polls suggest that foreign policy is President Obama's strong suit, relatively speaking, but Mitt Romney found his trump card years ago.  In the 2008 campaign, Romney lambasted Democrats for not believing in American exceptionalism, making the case that an economically constrained America will fall beneath the feet of the twin giants of India and China.

By 2010, the theme was his casus belli. He titled his book "No Apology," using the title to criticize what he saw as President Obama's penchant for conceding American wrongs to leaders around the world. It wasn't that Romney wasn't above admitting American mistakes; he just believed that doing so publicly revealed soft spots that enemies and competitors in a zero-um world would be able to exploit. Earlier this year, he graduated to making the case that President Obama himself did not believe in American exceptionalism.  Then he modified this, when it was pointed out to him that Obama has many times proclaimed his belief in American exceptionalism, to a charge that Obama's "exceptionalism" is simply a kind of mushy nationalism, like Mexicans believe their country is the greatest. Most recently, he has incorporated a slew of statements Obama has made about Americans being "soft" and its political system "lazy" in trying to explain the state of the economy.

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