Rachel Maddow: Every member of every country that was in the finals sent a head of government or a head of state…
Mike Murphy: But there’s a difference, Rachel. The president of the United States is a special category of one, and you don’t put a president in that position…
Rachel Maddow: Sure. And tell a Spaniard that King Carlos is second rate…
Mike Murphy: King Carlos knows deep down he’s second rate to the president of the United States…
– Discussion (edited for clarity and brevity) on President Barack Obama’s trip to Copenhagen, Meet the Press, October 4, 2009
It is unlikely that one would have to convince Spanish King Juan Carlos that he is not as significant an international figure as any American president. Unlike MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow, the Spanish King surely is fully aware of this reality. Indeed, with the possible exception of megalomaniac dictators and French presidents, most world leaders understand this implicitly.
To be sure, there are some who see things changing in the international arena; others who would like things to change; and a few who are acting to make such a change a reality. Still, as of now, the United States is the world’s only superpower. Why would Maddow, an American, be more deluded then the rest of world’s leaders as to the significance of the American president?
Perhaps it’s because she is consumed by a mania that infects left-wing “intellectuals.” Many leftists refuse to see America as an exceptional nation. To them, the notion is egotistical, inconsistent with the multiculturist worldview with which they were indoctrinated in college. To these global citizens, America is just another country in the world. If it is exceptional in anything, it is exceptionally imperialistic or exceptionally racist or exceptionally (insert a pejorative).
On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Maddow’s point was indirectly echoed by The Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel. Vanden Heuvel declared that “America is no longer a superpower.” She didn’t put it out there for debate. She just stated it as if it was an inarguable, uncontroversial fact.
Of course, the statement is false, even if vanden Heuvel, like Maddow, relishes the idea that America is just one country of many. But it is not hard to find commentators these days gleefully predicting the demise of Pax Americana. While the United States unquestionably remains the world’s strongest country both militarily and economically, long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have led some to suggest America is overstretched. With the financial collapse, some countries have argued that America’s economic leadership has come to an end. At the same time, some see China’s rapid rise as a forthcoming threat to America’s dominance in the world. Combine all this, some say, and the American epoch is over, or if not over yet, rapidly coming to a conclusion.
Whatever the merit of these arguments, the fact is that America remains the top dog in the world. And we shouldn’t be resigned to losing that position. After all, such songs of America’s demise have been sung before only to be proven premature. There are certainly great obstacles and challenges that confront the United States, but these can be overcome. There is no reason the 21st century cannot be another “American Century.”
Unfortunately, even the American president seems to harbor doubts about the endurance of U.S. leadership. During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama spoke magnificently about how his story was only possible in the United States, which is true. But since assuming the Oval Office, Obama has gone on an apology tour, feeling it necessary to apologize for America in different locales throughout the world. When asked whether he believes in American exceptionalism by a reporter overseas, he responded that he believes in it but only in the same way other countries believe that their own country is exceptional. When he speaks of American decency, as he did recently to the United Nations, it is often with the implication that America has only become decent since he took office.
Retaining America’s position as the world’s only superpower requires the president to act like the leader of the world’s only superpower. Showing up to press America’s case for the Olympics in Copenhagen only to have the United States come in fourth place out of four doesn’t exactly exude the aura of leader of the world’s only superpower. Obama might also want to consider refraining from apologizing to the world at every turn and instead speak up for America’s record as leader of the free world. In that vein, Obama may want to stand up for those vying for freedom against oppression – something he failed to do during the recent democratic uprising in Iran. Finally, to remain the world’s superpower, Obama must act to reduce America’s massive debt load. Unfortunately, his domestic agenda would have the opposite effect.
President Obama, by virtue of his position, is the most significant leader in the world, even if certain MSNBC commentators disagree. It’s his job to preserve that position so that America can continue to lead the world long into the future. If his policies and actions aren’t aiding that goal at the moment, let the unrivaled stature of his office serve as a reminder that it isn’t yet too late to change course.