Obama has once again responded to Romney’s blustering hegemonism by fully embracing the same thing. This is what he said today at the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ convention:
“If anyone tries to tell you our greatness is past, that America is in decline, you tell them this,” Mr. Obama said. “Like the 20th century, the 21st century will be another great American century. We are Americans, blessed with the greatest form of government every devised by man.”
In other words, Obama recommends that Americans should ignore reality and cling to a satisfying illusion. I would say that this is a reversion to the old “defensive crouch” on national security that so many Democrats perfected over the last forty years, but it is more accurate to describe it as the pre-emptive sneer. Instead of challenging any of the triumphalist thinking that is bound up in the phrase “American Century,” Obama wants to appropriate it for himself. This is another reason why Beinart’s defense of Obama isn’t very persuasive.
Beinart mocks Romney for invoking Luce’s idea of the “American Century” as something best suited to a vanished world, but Obama uses the exact same rhetoric and falls back on the same lazy assumptions. If Romney has anachronism and nostalgia problems, and I agree that he does, Obama also has them, and evidently he wants everyone to know it. This isn’t the first time that Obama has resorted to adopting Romney’s use of the “American Century” rhetoric to oppose him. We saw a preview of this in the State of the Union address, and Obama said it again at a commencement ceremony at the Air Force Academy. The most absurd aspect of the election may be that Obama and Romney are fighting for the right to facilitate an “American Century” that is not going to happen.