The Other McCain

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Chris Matthews: Exceptionally Idiotic

Posted on | August 19, 2011 | 12 Comments

I’ve been sitting here with MSNBC on my office TV and have twice today seen a particular “Lean Forward” promotional spot in which Chris Matthews uses the phrase “American exceptionalsm” in a way that is both wrong and tendentious.

Strangely, this MSNBC spot isn’t available on YouTube, and some Birthers have claimed it was taken offline because Matthews appears (they say) to be granting the possibility of Obama’s foreign birth. That’s too conspiratorial for my taste, but yet it is remarkable that this ad is still running regularly without being available online. WorldNetDaily describes the ad:

“Sometimes I think the critics of the president are just clearly unfair when they say he doesn’t love this country,” says Chris Matthews, anchor of MSNBC’s “Hardball” program in one of the “Lean Forward” ads directed by Spike Lee.
“And here’s a guy of mixed background, and he said ‘Only in this country, my country, is this story possible.’ I think that was the greatest testament to American exceptionalism. I don’t think that you can say that in Japan or in China. You can’t go these countries and become Chinese.”
Then while pointing to the White House in the background, Matthews concludes by saying, “And look where he is.”

The first objection is this: Which critics are saying Obama “doesn’t love this country”? Can Chris Matthews produce a list of such people, with relevant quotations? But if Obama’s critics are saying this, isn’t the accusation in some sense fair?

“We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” Obama told a cheering crowd on Oct. 29, 2008. If he loves America so much, why the need for fundamental transformation? How can you, on the one hand, be a patriotic believer in “American exceptionalism” and then expect people to cheer when you proclaim you are intent on “fundamentally transforming” America? There is a discordance between these two ideas.

Beyond that, however, Matthews seems to have a mistaken notion of what the phrase “American exceptionalism” actually means. Quoting Wikipedia:

American exceptionalism refers to the theory that the United States is qualitatively different from other states. In this view, America’s exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming “the first new nation,” and developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire. This observation can be traced to Alexis de Tocqueville, the first writer to describe the United States as “exceptional.” Historian Gordon Wood has argued, “Our beliefs in liberty, equality, constitutionalism, and the well-being of ordinary people came out of the Revolutionary era. So too did our idea that we Americans are a special people with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty and democracy.”
The specific term “American exceptionalism” was first used in 1929 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin chastising members of the American Communist Party for believing that America was independent of the Marxist laws of history “thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions.”

So if we accept the Wiki etymology of the phrase, it was Tocqueville who first wrote of the “exceptional” qualities of our nation, and this proved an obstacle to the ambitions of Stalin, who shrewdly perceived how “American exceptionalism” (and our citizens’ widespread belief in American exceptionalism) hindered Communist aims toward this country.

That isn’t what Matthews is talking about in the MSNBC promo, however. What he is talking about is one of the favorite themes of open-borders multiculturalists, who like to speak of America as a “propositional nation” — i.e., referencing Lincoln’s descripion in the Gettysburg Address of America as a nation “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” According to advocates of the “propositional nation” theory, the key to American citizenship is whether one accedes to this egalitarian formula.

One can (and many have) criticized the “propositional nation” thesis, but my point is that Matthews has managed to conflate this idea with “American exceptionalism,” so that merely by the fact of being sired by a Kenyan — “mixed background,” as Matthews puts it — Obama becomes a symbol of that exceptionalism.

All of which is sort of an aside to the question of why MSNBC, which purports to be a news network, seems to have devoted itself to a politician’s re-election.


12 Responses to “Chris Matthews: Exceptionally Idiotic”

  1. Anonymous
    August 19th, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

    Have fun swirling the rim of the bowl on the way down with this vile regime, Tinkerbelle… history will say you sucked-up just great

  2. Zilla of the Resistance
    August 19th, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

    I’m a “critic” of the Leper Messiah and I say that he doesn’t love America ALL THE TIME! Well actually what I say, dozens of times a day is that he HATES America, and anyone who has been paying attention would see that I am right.
    Funny about Matthews admitting that Captain WTF ain’t from here though. 

  3. JeffS
    August 19th, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    Obama loves America only when America loves Obama.

  4. ThePaganTemple
    August 19th, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

    history will say you licked boot just great

    Among a few other things.

  5. ThePaganTemple
    August 19th, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

    Obama doesn’t even love America then, he’s only capable of loving his narcissistic ass self. For some strange reason only he can comprehend, he seems to think Michelle is a trophy wife.

  6. Anonymous
    August 19th, 2011 @ 11:11 pm

    Dammit, man! Every time I forget this little shitburger exists, along you come to offer me a bite!

    Cut it out.

  7. KingShamus
    August 19th, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

    So, Cwissy is employing the old beating the shit out of a strawman routine.

    Well, at least Matthews learned something from Barack Obama after all these years burying his nose in the President’s butt.

  8. Adjoran
    August 20th, 2011 @ 7:51 am

    Matthews has a long history of this sort of ignorant misstatement, he seems to have faith in his Cliff Notes version of the Constitution and American History.

  9. Anonymous
    August 20th, 2011 @ 8:26 am

    From Barack’s hidden mail stash…

    My Dearest Michelle,

    You know how very much I love you.  And in five short days we are to be married.  Just think about that.  I’ll be marrying the woman of my dreams.  I love her and would die for her.

    I can only  imagine your excitement to know that I am only five days away from fundamentally transforming you into someone entirely different.

    Your Main Man,


  10. Dell Hill
    August 20th, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

    There’s a reason for Mathews.  Not an excuse, mind you, but a reason.  When your television network is mired so friggin’ far down the Neilson list you can’t see the top, you grab on to anything that’s handy and run with it.  That’s what PMSNBC has been doing for several years and will continue to do for the foreseeable future.  The few who watch him are pretty much indicative of the overall number of far left-wing idiots who are lined up right now, awaiting their Obama handouts.  For three years, they’ve done quite well.  With any luck that line will come to a screeching halt in January, 2013….if not sooner.

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    August 31st, 2011 @ 12:14 am

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