Thursday, May 24, 2012

American Exceptionalism Doubted

Speaking before donors in Ebert County, Colorado recently, Representative Mike Coffman let slip "I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don't know that.     But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American."

When it was informed that the Representative's comments were recorded, the campaign issued a written statement:

I misspoke and I apologize. I have confidence in President Obama's citizenship and legitimacy as President of the United States.    I don't believe the President shares my belief in American Exceptionalism. His policies reflect a philosophy that America is but one nation among many equals.    As a Marine, I believe America is unique and based on a core set of principles that make it superior to other nations.

The repetitive congressman was approached by a reporter for the local NBC station, which released this transcript:

KYLE CLARK: Congressman Coffman, how are you?

REP. COFFMAN: How are you doing? Good to see you.

KYLE CLARK: Good to see you. You're a tough man to find lately.


KYLE CLARK: Can we chat quickly before you go inside?


KYLE CLARK: Alright, fantastic. Why don't we head right over here so we're out of the way. Thank you for your time. I apologize for showing up unannounced. I've been trying to call your staff. They won't return myphone calls. Let me ask you, after your comments about the President, do you feel voters are owed a better explanation than just, I misspoke?

REP. COFFMAN: I think that... Umm... I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: OK. And who were you apologizing to?

REP. COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: I apologize, we talk to you all the time, you're a very forthcoming guy. Who's telling you not to talk and to handle it like this?

REP. COFFMAN: I stand by my statement, that I wrote, that you have, and I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Was it that you thought it would go over well in Elbert County where folks are very conservative and you'd never say something like that in the suburbs?

REP. COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Is there anything I can ask you that you'll answer differently?

REP. COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize.

KYLE CLARK: Thank you, congressman.

REP. COFFMAN: Thank you.

If there ever were a doubt that when a public figure says "I apologize" he/she isn't apologizing, there should be none now.      The only doubt is what "misspoke" means, and there seems to be no high-profile instance in which a reporter has asked a respondent to explain "misspoke."   Certainly, the persistent Clark, had he asked the question, would have received only the creative "I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize."   Having received no retraction from Representative Coffman, we can merely assume that he still believes President Obama does not possess "a belief in American exceptionalism."

Evidently, Coffman believes American exceptionalism is rejection of the "philosophy that America is but one nation among equals."    "America" (would that include Mexico, part of the Americas?) is distinct and distinctly superior to all other nations.

It's a pity The Wall Street Journal doesn't agree with the guy from Colorado.     The Journal, which believes the USA must become "appealing and dynamic again," is offended that Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey have proposed that individuals such as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who wants to skip on taxes by renouncing his citizenship, be taxed at 30% tax on their capital gains.   The editors argue  

America was built on millions of similar individual decisions to come to our shores. It is precisely that ability to decide for oneself that has made America such a magnet for two centuries.

The way to continue to be a magnet for the best and brightest is not to impose Soviet-style exit taxes to punish people who want to leave the country. That is what oppressive and demagogic regimes do, and it's humiliating to see U.S. Senators posture in such fashion. The way to punish Mr. Saverin is to make the U.S. so appealing and dynamic again that he'll be sorry he ever left.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal, though terming Senators Schumer and Casey "envy specialists" and suggesting they are fellow travelers,  term Saverin's escape from the U.S. "a remarkable act of ingratitude toward the country that welcomed him as a child from Brazil."    Naughty, naughty, Ed- we'll scold you, then protect your billions from taxation.     That'll teach him.

The Wall Street Journal accuses Schumer and Casey of being "envy specialists" wanting "Soviet-style exit taxes."      Less revealing than implying these senators are fellow travelers is the realization that this corporatist Repub organ wants our nation to become "so appealing and dynamic again."      Silly we Democrats- we thought the U.S.A. is "appealing and dynamic." Glad to be set straight by The Wall Street Journal.

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