Obama’s New PatriotismRoundup
tags: Obama, American exceptionalism
No one, least of all President Obama, had expected the conversation to take the turn that it did.
The president, his speechwriter and a few top aides were supposed to be discussing Obama’s upcoming speech in Selma, Ala., in early March. Instead, they were talking about controversial comments made by former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani a few days earlier.
“I know this is a horrible thing to say,” Giuliani told a small group of Republican donors, “but I do not believe that the president loves America. . . . He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”
Obama was headed to Selma in a little more than a week for the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march, in which Alabama state troopers brutally beat protesters demanding the right to vote. Giuliani’s remarks had inadvertently goaded Obama into delivering a speech that would crystallize one of the most provocative ideas of his presidency.
“How do we think about the idea of America?” Obama asked, according to notes taken by his speechwriter. That first question led to others. What made the country that Obama had led, and sometimes criticized, exceptional? Did the president’s race, upbringing and time overseas provide a different view of what it meant to love America? ...