Since President Donald Trump was inaugurated last year, many Democrats and left leaning political pundits have argued that Trump is singularly bent on dismantling the legacy of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
While it is generally true that a change in parties in the Executive Branch will yield a change in ideological focus, and while it is specifically true that major Trump administration changes and challenges to Obama era policies have included criminal justice sentencing, the Affordable Care Act, and business deregulations, to name a few, I strongly believe that Trump’s main disdain for Obama–one that is shared by many millions of his followers–is that they remain apoplectic that Obama often apologized on the world stage for America’s past transgressions.
You see, at the root of white/western civilization supremacy is a belief that the ends justify the means against non-white or Christian nations. You see, one need not be a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan to believe in white/western civilization supremacy; during the heyday of the Klan from the 1920s to the 1960s, while some Democratic and Republican politicians, judges and civic leaders joined the Klan, many more did not join. However, even non-Klan members held strong beliefs that slavery and its impact on “King Cotton” was justified in helping the American economy grow. Further, many non-Klan members did not have a fundamental problem with Jim Crow segregation and its attendant horrors because deep down inside, the ends–keeping Blacks in their places and away from living, studying among or marrying whites–justified the discriminatory and deadly means used to effect such a social order.
The same holds true today in that those who pound their chests with pride about “American Exceptionalism” refuse to acknowledge that America’s status as a super power post-World War II was cemented by means that seem contrary to the ideals inscribed in the United States Constitution.
(Tennessee Republican Congressional candidate Rick Tyler’s campaign billboard that was taken down just this past week)
Whether it was billions of dollars poured into wars on the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam that accomplished absolutely nothing other than the deaths of soldiers on both sides and millions of civilians; whether it was covert arms deals around the world in which we “colluded” or “meddled” in “picking” leaders, much like Vladimir Putin’s military officers meddled in our 2016 election; whether it was covert operations under every American President from Truman to Obama to assert American will across the globe, to the American Exceptionalist, those means justify the ends of ensuring that the United States remains the world’s “Cop” or enforcer.
But to the American Exceptionalists, former President Obama, no matter how many drone attacks he ordered or terror leaders whose deaths he secured as commander-in-chief, broke the code by apologizing around the globe. Simply stated, to those of this ilk, America never apologizes–period!
In June of 2009, barely six months into Obama’s first term, the conservative Heritage Foundation issued a report with the following conclusion: “The Obama Administration’s strategy of unconditional engagement with America’s enemies combined with a relentless penchant for apology-making is a dangerous recipe for failure. The overall effect of this approach has been to weaken American power on the world stage rather than strengthen it.”
While the Heritage Foundation is composed of intellectually capable conservatives, it did not matter to them that Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize that first year, in part, due to his willingness to assuage year’s of American mischief abroad. No, neither conservative think-tanks nor weaker minded conservatives who did not hold political science, public policy or law degrees were willing to see the greater good of the following Obama apologies:
*To France and Europe, where he stated that “America Has Shown Arrogance;”
*To the Muslim World, where he stated that, “We (America) have not been perfect;”
*To the Summit of the Americas, where he stated that, “At times we sought to dictate our terms and have not been good neighbors;”
*To the G-20 Summit of World Leaders, where he stated that, “Some restoration of America’s standing in the world” was necessary;
*To the world writ large for CIA torture of terror suspects at Naval Base Guantanamo, what Obama then termed as a “sacrifice of our values.”
(Nobel Laureate, President Barack Hussein Obama, circa December 2009)
While I, as a humanist, respected Obama and at times, his predecessor, George W. Bush, for seeming willing to acknowledge where America had erred in ages past, those acknowledgments angered those American Exceptionalists among us who believe that America was always great–and always right.
To that end, while the majority of Democrats and even some Republicans cringe each time President Trump harshly criticizes allied leaders, or pushes them out-of-the-way or looks scornful during photo-ops at G-7 meetings, or claims that he will have an easier time meeting with Putin than the Allies; when he blasts long-time allies for failing to pay their share for NATO or raises tariffs on goods with those nations who, in turn raise tariffs on American goods, such not only distinguishes Trump’s relationship with allied leaders from Barack Obama’s, but it truly pleases his base supporters and right wing pundits who for nearly two decades, have pushed for an American for of nationalism that is merely a recrudecense of old school white supremacist thought.
Lest we forget that many of those who cheer Trump on for “being strong” do so because in their minds, Trump, with his tone and arrogance, is making America great again by reversing Obama’s penchant for humble apologies. Apologies, They insist, made America appear weak.