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"The Decline and Despair President"

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

"We have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge..."

That was President Obama on Tuesday, October 25, 2011, speaking to a fundraiser in San Francisco, expanding on the premise of his presidency, that America is in decline.


The president has made such statements a recurring theme of his speeches going back to his campaign, though it isn't clear whether they just pop out of his inner Alinksy or that they cross the teleprompter in front of him.

In Mumbai in 2010 he said the US was no longer in a position to "meet the rest of the world economically on our terms".

"The fact of the matter is that for most of my lifetime and I'll turn 50 next year - the US was such an enormously dominant economic power, we were such a large market, our industry, our technology, our manufacturing was so significant that we always met the rest of the world economically on our terms," the president told his foreign audience. "And now because of the incredible rise of India and China and Brazil and other countries, the US remains the largest economy and the largest market, but there is real competition."

Apple faces real competition, but it hasn't declined. It is thriving. But our president assumes American decline instead of assuming that we would win any competition, and handily.

In the UK, Telegraph columnist Nile Gardiner calls Obama "the decline and despair president."

The most famous expression of the president's disdain for the notion that America is a superpower and exceptionally situated and equipped to lead the world came a year before his remarks in India, when at the European summit of the Group of 20 in 2009, he quipped, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”


Andrew Sullivan for one denied that the president meant what he said here, and rose to his defense in 2010 with an extended quote from this same "Greek exceptionalism" speech in which the president professes pride in the United States and its core values, but this misses the point of what the president believes to be the arc of American history right now. "What cannot be done honestly, in my view, is to create a narrative from all of [the president's moves] to describe Obama as an anti-American hyper-leftist, spending the US into oblivion."

But now the president's talk of lost ambition and ruined imagination ends the debate that Sullivan attempted to join. The president keeps providing those whom Sullivan criticizes with more evidence of his bleak view of the American future, and the left is helpless to defend him when the president simply insists on telling it the way he sees it.

"What's especially remarkable about this hackery," wrote Sullivan a year ago "is that these conservative authors don't just egregiously misrepresent the president's actual position. It's that all of them actually cite, as evidence, an out of context line from the very speech that proves their analysis is wrong."

"You can call this truthiness if you like," he concluded." Better, the Dish believes, to call it what it is. A deliberate campaign of misinformation. A Big Lie."


The trouble for Sullivan's argument is the evidence. The president went abroad early in his presidency, and the result was what is widely known, correctly, as "the apology tour."

"President Barack Obama has finished the second leg of his international confession tour," Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal on April 23, 2009. "In less than 100 days, he has apologized on three continents for what he views as the sins of America and his predecessors."

Rove continued:

Mr. Obama told the French (the French!) that America "has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" toward Europe. In Prague, he said America has "a moral responsibility to act" on arms control because only the U.S. had "used a nuclear weapon." In London, he said that decisions about the world financial system were no longer made by "just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy" -- as if that were a bad thing. And in Latin America, he said the U.S. had not "pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors" because we "failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas."

After the first apology tour came the "Greek exceptionalism" moment, and after that his Mumbai confession and now his San Francisco sigh. The apologies merged with the dire assessments and have evolved into explicit pessimism.


"We have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge..."

This is not the man to lead an American renaissance, any more than Jimmy Carter could be expected to rise above his personal sense of malaise which he projected on to the country thirty years ago.

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