Trump On American Exceptionalism: ‘I Don’t Like The Term'

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jun 08, 2016 1:10 PM
Trump On American Exceptionalism: ‘I Don’t Like The Term'

Well, we knew some of these nuggets were going to be unearthed as time goes on—but it looks as if Mother Jones has found a clip of the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump saying he didn’t really agree with the term “American exceptionalism,” nor did he like it. The publication added that these remarks were uttered in April of 2015, a month before the billionaire real estate magnate launched his 2016 presidential campaign:

…[H]e [Trump] spoke at an event called "Celebrating the American Dream" that was hosted in Houston by the Texas Patriots PAC, a local tea party outfit. The mogul sat in an oversized leather chair and fielded questions from Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, a prominent local businessman. About an hour into the program, McIngvale posed Trump this query: "Define American exceptionalism. Does American exceptionalism still exist? And what do we do to grow American exceptionalism?"

[…]

When Trump finished those remarks, the crowd was largely silent, and McIngvale moved on to another subject. Yet Trump had just trampled one of the mainstay tenets of GOP ideology—and undercut a line of attack often used by Republicans.

Here’s what Trump said:

I don't like the term. I'll be honest with you. People say, "Oh he's not patriotic." Look, if I'm a Russian, or I'm a German, or I'm a person we do business with, why, you know, I don't think it's a very nice term. We're exceptional; you're not. First of all, Germany is eating our lunch. So they say, "Why are you exceptional. We're doing a lot better than you." I never liked the term. And perhaps that's because I don't have a very big ego and I don't need terms like that. Honestly. When you're doing business—I watch Obama every once in a while saying "American exceptionalism," it's [Trump makes a face]. I don't like the term. Because we're dealing—First of all, I want to take everything back from the world that we've given them. We've given them so much. On top of taking it back, I don't want to say, "We're exceptional. We're more exceptional." Because essentially we're saying we're more outstanding than you. "By the way, you've been eating our lunch for the last 20 years, but we're more exceptional than you." I don't like the term. I never liked it. When I see these politicians get up [and say], "the American exceptionalism"—we're dying. We owe 18 trillion in debt. I'd like to make us exceptional. And I'd like to talk later instead of now. Does that make any sense? Because I think you're insulting the world. And you, know, Jim, if you're German, or you're from Japan, or you're from China, you don't want to have people saying that. I never liked the expression. And I see a lot of good patriots get up and talk about Amer—you can think it, but I don't think we should say it. We may have a chance to say it in the not-too-distant future. But even the, I wouldn't say it because when I take back the jobs, and when I take back all that money and we get all our stuff, I'm not going to rub it in. Let's not rub it in. Let's not rub it in. But I never liked that term.

Well, for starters, does this undercut his whole “Make America Great Again” mantra? Not really. He’s noting that he wants to make us exceptional, he notes that we have a serious $18 trillion to pay, and that given how other nations are “eating out lunch,” coupled with the national debt, it’s not the best term to describe America at present. Moreover, Trump says that he would like to…make us great again—but it’ll be in a more humble mindset.

During his speech last night after winning the last bunch of critical primary contests that gave him enough bound delegates to clinch the Republican nomination, he spoke about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disaster, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, and he would never approve it. He wants to get America back to work, he wants to create jobs, and promised only to make terrific deals on trade.

Allahpundit also noted that this passage is still consistent with what Trump is conveying on the stump over at Hot Air. You can’t say “Make America Great Again” if the country is exceptional. Then, that means there’s really nothing to fix, especially on immigration—and that free loaders’ economic inactivity won’t have a collective detrimental impact on our socioeconomic fabric. American society can just soak them up:

You can celebrate all of that while still agreeing with Trump that the country’s seen better days and needs a dramatic course correction to return to true greatness, but like I say, if you’re a committed nationalist, why would you want to? Nationalism succeeds when people are convinced that parasites, both foreign and domestic, are sapping the national culture of its health and that purging them is the path back to wellness. Standing up and crowing about American exceptionalism undermines that message by suggesting that the nation is already so strong that the parasites can’t do much damage. Especially if you’re a narcissist to Trump’s degree (enjoy the joke in the excerpt about how his ego isn’t that big), you want voters convinced that you’re the key to restoring American exceptionalism, not the Constitution or a return to traditional morality or what have you. He’s going to deport the Mexican illegals and block the Muslims and “take back all that money and … get all our stuff” from foreign countries, as he so eloquently puts it. Then America will be exceptional. Not before.

Yet, Allahpundit also mentioned that President Obama made similar references about American exceptionalism abroad as well, which he found humorous since the right went apoplectic over the president trivializing the term. Now, we’re going to nominate someone who thinks that Obama said it too much.

There will always be the Never Trump folks going haywire over findings like this. Trump is a different Republican. We should stop trying to predict what he’ll do from here on out. We tried, and everyone was proven wrong. He’s changing the playbook, and it appears that one of them is shifting attacks away from the president’s past remarks on American exceptionalism. Maybe it’s time since voters didn’t think this supposed lack of faith in our culture and institutions was cause enough to vote for Mitt Romney or John McCain.

Right now, the Never Trump side wing the GOP will add this to their ammo dump, yet they're sort of stuck in a rut concerning this group’s serial failure in stopping the real estate magnate from clinching the nomination. David French, Never Trump’s possible candidate to challenge him from the right, bowed out. It’s time to face reality, vote for Trump or Clinton—even if he didn’t necessarily endorse the concept of American exceptionalism that traditional Republican candidates have supported on the campaign trail. Now, as AP noted, I get the nationalist vibes and the proposed deportations of people (and taking their stuff), will make the country more exceptional, instead of things like the Constitution, is problematic. I can see why this could cause some hesitancy in Republican voters.

Yet, it doesn’t seem to be too paralyzing, as GOP voters are rallying behind Trump as if he were any other Republican running in years past. The game is over. Donald won. And him knocking American exceptionalism doesn’t seem to undercut his battle cry to make things again for the country. Yet, Trump supporters aren’t going to abandon him—and that’s probably the most important point. While we debate on the right whether this exposes him as a RINO, a narcissist, or a hypocrite, our balance sheet for our fiscal health is out of control. More importantly, the more we debate these passages as if it will scare off delegates before the nominating convention is a bit absurd. As of now, maybe we shouldn’t be debating past statements, or sifting through evidence of Trump being a possible RINO—we should be focusing on Hillary Clinton who has now amassed enough delegates to become the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2016.

Let’s make America exceptional again.