Steve Chapman

Don't you miss the days when we had a Republican president who was not afraid to speak up for America in the face of foreign criticism? The kind of president who didn't feel the United States is always in the wrong?

I have fond memories of when George W. Bush ventured abroad to defend his country: "The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words -- within our borders, and around the world."

Beg your pardon? Oh, my mistake. Those were not the words of President Bush. They were the words of President Barack Obama, in a speech in Cairo last June -- one stop on what Republicans see as his never-ending "apology tour."

Among many conservatives, the rule is: Being American means never having to say you're sorry. Speaking at the National Tea Party convention last month, Sarah Palin lambasted Obama for "apologizing for America." Mitt Romney's new book -- titled, naturally, "No Apology" -- says the president has a deplorable impulse to "apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined."

Sean Hannity FREE

Oh? In that Cairo speech, Obama wasn't exactly groveling in self-abasement. He argued that America was entirely justified in confronting "violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security." He called on Muslims to disavow terrorism. He urged democracy and religious freedom in the Islamic world.

But he made a mistake inexcusable to conservatives: acknowledging that the United States has not always conducted itself in perfect accord with its highest ideals. Romney is appalled that an American president would express regret for "unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations," "committing torture" and "selectively promoting democracy."

As in libel cases, though, truth is a defense. No grownup can deny that the U.S. government has sometimes done things in the world arena that do not inspire pride -- our acceptance of the Soviet colonization of Eastern Europe, our role in overthrowing Iran's democratically elected government in 1953, our handling of the Vietnam war (where we were either wrong for going in or wrong for getting out).

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

©Creators Syndicate