Monday, May 18, 2009

Neither doormat nor bully

During and following President Obama's trip to Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America, including a meeting of the Group of 20 and the NATO summit, ultra right-wing pundits and media (such as Fox News) have twisted Obama’s words and accused him of turning the trip into an "apology tour," smearing the president with half truths and lies – and calling him the "Apologizer in Chief." These right-wing pundits have also accused Obama of "running down his own country." They claimed that his remarks made overseas are indicative of how "liberals enjoy apologizing for America."

As CNN anchor Tony Harris put it during the April 7 edition of CNN Newsroom: "Day after day, country after country, the president tried to repair America's strained relationships with key allies, but his critics say his gestures of reconciliation amounted to apology after apology after apology."

Many of these attacks have been based on distortions of Obama's remarks. For instance, one statement that right-wingers have targeted is the following remark Obama made during an April 3 speech in Strasbourg, France: "In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." (This is a very true statement.) Ultra right-wing pundits such as Sean Hannity and Nicolle Wallace claimed the remark was an example of Obama "blaming America first," when, in fact, Obama was criticizing both American and European attitudes toward each other, and also spoke of "the good that America so often does in the world."

Right-wingers love to cherry-pick and then twist everything Obama says into something negative that he did not say nor mean. Then they magnify their twisted statement while leaving out the many good things that he said. Why do they do this? They do this out of pure hate for Obama – because he is a Democrat. But even worse, many right-wingers hate him because he is a black Democrat.

Hannity has falsely claimed that Obama "seemingly apologized for our engagement in the war on terror" when Obama stated during an April 6 speech before the Turkish parliament that "the United States is not ... at war with Islam." However, in those same remarks, Obama also stated that "Iraq, Turkey, and the United States face a common threat from terrorism" and that "we are committed to a more focused effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda." (These words sound very much like statements Bush made for eight years, but that fact is ignored by the right-wingers.)

Similarly, several Fox News pundits criticized Obama's comment that "we do not consider ourselves a [purely] Christian nation," which he made during an April 6 press availability with the president of Turkey. They refuse to admit that Obama was making a broader point about the ecumenical nature of our country – that the United States has citizens of many different religions.

The Obama administration has just released memos showing that the Bush-Cheney gang authorized torture. Before this event, everyone had already figured out that America was involved in torturing others. It is only right that we take responsibility for our transgressions, including the global recession, poor bank regulation, committing inhumane acts against others, and so forth. America is responsible for much more than President Obama has supposedly “apologized” for to date.

Obama is acknowledging to the world what it already knows -- the U.S. made some terrible mistakes under the "leadership" of George Bush. Only arrogant, self-centered Americans would refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Anyone who has actually given thought about this issue would know that Obama is improving perceptions of America. Oh yeah, I forgot, those who watch Fox News are incapable of thinking. They just open up their heads and allow Fox to pour in thoughts for them with half truths, distortions, and lies. These people never actually listen to President Obama's speeches; they just allow Fox News to tell them the twisted and lying version of what he said.

In the book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten the premise is play well with others, including neighbors. If you do something wrong, arrogant, and bullheaded, then you should apologize and then get on with the greater good! Let’s restate that: If America does something wrong, arrogant, and bullheaded, then we should apologize (at least acknowledge it) and then get on with the greater good!

Obama has not acted as a kiss-a** apologist, but he has acknowledged to the world some of America’s mistakes. That is the right thing to do. He is trying to mend the fences so that the U.S. can start acting like a partner in the world community. That does not mean we lie down and become the world’s doormat. It does mean that we are no longer the bully on the block.