Condi Rice’s endorsement of Romney was expected and it isn’t politically significant, but something she said in the endorsement deserves brief comment:
“If America is going to rebuild its strength at home, rebuild its sense of who we are, it needs a leader that also understands how really exceptional the United States of America is, and is not afraid to lead on the basis of that exceptionalism [bold mine-DL],” Rice told about 300 donors.
Granted, these are endorsement remarks, so they are bound to contain a lot of nonsense. It’s not as if Rice can praise Romney’s keen insights into Russian foreign policy, and she has to say something. Even so, what does all this exceptionalism talk mean in this context? Will Romney’s supposedly superior understanding of America’s exceptional status reverse de-industrialization, eliminate wage stagnation, improve social mobility, or reduce income inequality? If his leadership is informed by American exceptionalism, will that suddenly persuade firms to begin hiring on a much larger scale? No doubt the Iranian government will offer Romney their unconditional surrender after they are awed by his conviction that America is not “just another place on the map with a flag.”
American exceptionalism has been a favorite theme of Romney’s campaign, and it has become a regular part of Republican rhetoric over the last three years. In both cases, it has proved to be a very effective substitute for thinking. How does greater enthusiasm for American exceptionalism remedy any contemporary economic or political woes? Romney’s understanding of American exceptionalism is defined by his support for U.S. hegemony abroad, which he wants to maintain with an expanded military. This is a response to a security problem that doesn’t exist, and it comes at enormous cost that would increase the government’s fiscal problems. Other than being more aggressive overseas and more dismissive of international institutions and other states’ interests in the conduct of foreign policy, Romney’s understanding of American exceptionalism seems to have no practical consequences at all. It is just a phrase that is attached to a conventional Republican policy agenda. Far from conveying how “really exceptional” America is, the Romney campaign’s overuse of the theme of American exceptionalism just demonstrates how unimaginative Romney and his campaign are.