BY STEVEN JONAS, MD, MPH
Ah Newt Gingrich, how you have disappointed me. The moment that I heard that you had decided to enter the race for the GOP Presidential nomination a few weeks back, I started planning this column. After all, based upon what you had been saying about President Obama for the last few months, I was certain that I would have a very nice fat target to shoot at. (Fat indeed, Newt, for you have gotten rather heavy in recent years, no doubt due to the fact that you are spending much less, if any, time chasing after women. Rather, you seem to be being pulled around by the ear by just one.) And it would be an exceptional one, not built around substance, like programs designed to pull the US out of the foreign and domestic mess it is in, but around the process arguments you love so much, like the first eight components of your famous “Contract on America” (oops, sorry, “Contract for America”) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contract_with_America.
But then you went and spoiled it all by making a mess of your campaign right from the git-go (on which mess, upon your return from your vacation in the Greek Isles with the current Mrs. G., you seemed to have doubled down). First you were for US involvement in Libya, then when the President undertook to do that you were against it. Then you were for an individual mandate for the President’s something-short-of-national health insurance program. Actually, you have been for such a thing going back to your days in the Congress. After all, no health insurance program, public or private, can work if people can sign on just when they get sick and have not paid premiums during the time they were healthy. That’s why the for-profit health insurance companies refused to cover pre-existing conditions. But then you were against the individual mandate (or tried to appear to be). First you were for preserving Medicare as we know it and actually called the Ryan “Plan” radical “social engineering” (a term GOPers apply to any proposed national domestic legislation they don’t like), and then you seemed to be for it. At any rate, you were the talk of the political humor shows and etc. and it remains to be seen where your campaign goes, other than into the toilet.
But you did leave us with this gem Newt, apparently indicative of your legendary (sic) genius (sic) for thinking “outside the box,” “so creatively,” “like a true historian.” Yes, Newt, you actually said: “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time [my grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially on dominated by radical Islamists (thestatecolumn.com, March 28, 2011).” What an incredible concept. It’s a political slogan that binds his two principal enemies, the secularists and the “radical Islamists,” into one package. The only problem with it is that, as a secularist, I would hardly build a state “dominated by Radical Islamists” (or Newtonian Republican Christian Rightists either, for that matter). At the same time, I doubt that “Radical Islamists” would want to set up a “secular atheist country.” But then again, there is Newt, definitely thinking outside the box. Yes indeed, he is truly an Exceptional American, managing the kind of truly exceptional thought he, and not many others, can manage to manufacture (for his own political purposes).
But back to “American Exceptionalism.” The other potential GOP candidate even dumber and more ignorant than Sara, Trump was the flash-in-the-pan many thought him to be, so heeeere’s Sara. And if she does get in, what she calls “American Exceptionalism” will be a major theme of hers. Herman Cain is very quickly going in that direction too. That is, the US is just different from everybody else, so much better, donchaknow, that it just doesn’t have to play by anyone else’s rules, neither at home nor certainly not abroad. And, she will tell us, President Obama just doesn’t somehow, realize that, and that’s why he must be replaced. To be fair at this point, one must point out that Tim Pawlenty, “T-Paw” to his friends, an announced candidate, is moving in the direction of the “US exceptionalism” theme too. He focused his opening advertising salvo on his claim that the President “lacks courage” (the point made about four times in a one-minute ad) you know, he’s different from us, he is somehow just an unexceptionalist.
Now neither Sara nor Newt (nor T-Paw nor Herm) has yet given us a detailed list of just how exceptional the US is. So (and you may be surprised to read this, coming from me), I am going to help them by giving them a starter list on the subject. It’s especially for Newt and Sara, but if T-Paw or Michele (who has made some American Exceptionalism noises herself) wants to use it that’s fine with me.
Not necessarily in order of importance here’s a list of some outstanding ways in which the US is indeed exceptional among the nations of the world.
1. The US simply ignores treaties to which it is a party, like the Geneva
Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture without so much
as a by-your leave.
2. In the US, Administrations can ignore its own Constitution, as in the case of its Article VI and the above-mentioned torture policy, without anyone in a position of authority saying boo to a goose.
3. The US is the only advanced capitalist country without a national health insurance system, to say nothing of a national health service.
4. The US has the largest military empire in the world, bar none.
5. Among the major Western democracies, it is the only one in which one major party runs in major part on right-wing religious bigotry, homophobia, Islamophobia, and climate change denial.
6. It is one of very few capitalist countries that has no civilian population with a personal recollection of war and its consequences.
7. Of the advanced capitalist countries it has the lowest proportion of workers who are unionized.
8. Of the advanced capitalist countries it is the one with the highest degree of corporate control of election outcomes, and the lowest level of citizen participation in elections.
9. Unlike every other advanced capitalist country, it has no high-speed rail system.
10. It has the highest proportion of government expenditures on the military of any nation in the world.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash/Truthout (http://www.buzzflash.com, http://www.truth-out.org/), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine (http://tpjmagazine.us/); a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad (http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/); a Senior Columnist for The Greanville Post(http://www.greanvillepost.com/); a Contributor to The Planetary Movement(http://www.planetarymovement.org/); a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com(http://www.opednews.com/), and a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter.
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Anonymous UserJun 11
Left off the list: our record on capital punishment is just as bad as “third world” countries, and we have the highest percentage of the population in prison.
Jim UlamJun 11
We have exceptionally bad representatives that have all sold out to big business. We have exceptionally passive citizens who allow this to go on. We have exceptionally evil and greedy people really running this country. Yeah, we’re exceptional alright.
Paul BarlinJun 11
For shame. You embarrass Sarah Palin’s lack of knowledge with the truth. Apparently she reasons only from any thing to attack Obama, no matter how distorted.
Ronald TurckJun 11
Somehow though too many think this list partly lie and partly disloyal.
Diana PrinceJun 11
#6…my europeon immigrant parents worried about this. They were right.
Anonymous UserJun 11
Didn’t the Nazis also believe in their Ubermensch exceptionalism?
Anonymous UserJun 10
Perhaps more shocking: can anyone come up with a list of 10 positive items? Once upon a time there was the shining city on a hill, but the light has gone out. I am helplessly in tears
Rick LevyJun 10
We’re number one! We’re number one!
Patricia LaRueJun 10
And I was beginning to believe that American Exceptionalism meant “All for US [super-duper rich folks and corpos], and ONLY us,” i.e., everyone EXCEPT the poor, the disenfranchised, the weak, the uneducated, the sick, the disabled, the poor, the middle class, the poor, especially the poor, the aged… in short, anyone with a flaw or weakness that can be exploited.
Titus RobinsonelJun 10
What hurts Amer.
Bill SwainJun 10
This is news?
Rick KellisJun 10
The list reveals the fact that we have betrayed our trust to the world, putting us in the condition of treason. This is the hole that Obama found himself in, when he came into office. That’s why he felt obliged to apologize–his mama trained him right–when you do something wrong that hurts others, you apologize and promise to do something to make it up. Republican folks don’t understand this (it’s beyond their ken)–and they don’t listen to mom’s advice either, it seems.
Rob MorrisonJun 10
Sorry to burst your bubble but Canada doesn’t have a high speed rail system either. But we do make the trains run on time.
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