Rudy Giuliani offers a risible defense for his recent comments on Obama and patriotism:
Irrespective of what a president may think or feel, his inability or disinclination to emphasize what is right with America can hamstring our success as a nation. This is particularly true when a president is seen, as President Obama is, as criticizing his country more than other presidents have done, regardless of their political affiliation. Furthermore, this president sometimes seems to have a difficult time in expressing adequate support for important allies, particularly Israel, Ukraine and Jordan [bold mine-DL].
Giuliani is a joke, but this line of argument is worth responding to because it is a much more common one but still lacks merit. According to this view, the president has to act as national cheerleader and should never make any serious criticisms of U.S. conduct past or present without couching them in the usual triumphalist self-congratulation. The assumption seems to be that Americans are so feeble and easily discouraged that some partially critical statements will undermine their confidence unless they are balanced by even more heavy-handed statements of praise. For the purposes of this argument, it doesn’t matter that everything Giuliani says in this passage (and throughout his op-ed) is grossly exaggerated or flatly dishonest. Even if what he said were true, the correct response would be to ask, “So what?”
Americans shouldn’t need the president to lead them in regular hand-holding sessions to tell them how great their country is. They should be able to cope without being shielded daily from the country’s flaws, and they ought to be able to manage without exposure to constant, ridiculous hosannas to how “exceptional” we are. Americans should be rather more concerned with whether the president is sufficiently looking after U.S. interests rather than worrying about how much “support” he doles out to various clients and would-be clients in our name. It is oddly revealing that not one of the “allies” that Giuliani mentions is, in fact, an ally of the United States. They are states that happen to be in the news at the moment, or they are states that Giuliani expects his audience will find to be sympathetic, and therefore he cites them here in the most transparent attempt to manipulate their emotional responses. Many hawks have been prattling on about “American exceptionalism” for six years in much the same way, and it’s long past time that they were forced to own the implications of their tedious, dishonest attack.