Anyone familiar with the views of Barack Obama’s pastor of twenty years might wonder if Reverend Jeremiah Wright is the chief inspiration behind the president’s foreign policy. ~Mark Hyman

Well, anyone familiar with the foreign policy views of Barack Obama might wonder if Mark Hyman is very confused. First, he misrepresents what Obama has done in office as an “apology tour.” This is taken as a given in many conservative circles, but even this part isn’t correct. If anyone can show me where Obama has actually apologized (i.e., expressed regret, asked for forgiveness, etc.) for a single thing the United States has done, I would be very interested to see it. He has mostly acknowledged things that everyone already knows to be true, otherwise reiterated things that his predecessors have already said, and in other cases simply refused to take the bait offered him by ridiculous foreign leaders (e.g., Ortega). The pointed dismissal of Ortega is taken by Hyman as “deference,” which suggests that Hyman does not understand what deference is. Contemptuously ignoring someone is the opposite of deferring to him. A good example of deference would be what the now-disgraced Mark Sanford did when he yielded to Gingrich’s allegedly superior understanding in a discussion on North Korea.

Far from “finding unlimited fault” with America, as Hyman claims, Obama can earnestly spout the most predictable self-congratulatory nostrums about the country and America’s role in the world. From the first convention speech that catapulted Obama to national prominence till now, Obama has never allowed acknowledgment of past mistakes to dominate his rhetoric about America. The Obama who has repeatedly praised an America of possibility and opportunity, which conservatives were so keen to cheer on in 2007, is the same Obama who gave the speeches in Cairo, Ankara and Berlin. Bizarrely, even though the Cairo speech was laced with as much pro-American rhetoric as one could ever expect in an address presumably designed to conciliate Muslims worldwide it has been taken as some sort of calculated insult. Contrary to the caricature Hyman and others have drawn, Obama can barely bring himself to find fault with America, and even when he does he is always offsetting this by drawing attention to the flaws of others. So while he said that Americans were sometimes “derisive” of Europeans, he accused Europeans of tolerating and practicing an “insidious” anti-Americanism. Which of the two statements is stronger and more critical? Clearly, it is the latter. Naturally, conservatives are whining about the first one, because even minimal acknowledgment of American error (especially when it is an error in which they participated so enthusiastically) is intolerable in their eyes. To attempt to link this to Wright’s vastly more aggressive, vehement condemnations of U.S. policies, almost all of which are the same policies that Obama fully endorses, is simply ludicrous.

As it happens, criticism of this kind makes it that much easier for Obama to pursue his agenda overseas, because his opposition is continually sabotaging its own credibility with wacky claims about how the boring establishmentarian Obama is taking his cues from Farrakhan and Wright.