Did anyone else find the third presidential debate just appallingly narcissistic and self-congratulatory? Good lord. Good thing America is around to show you bubble-headed foreigners the way to freedom. I could run through all the offensive, ‘America-is-tasked-with-upholding-the-mantle-of-liberty’ patronizing condescension, but why bother? (Nexon does a nice job here.) I told my students to watch it, and in retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have. It was so embarrassing, and in class this week I kept trying to explain why we talk down to the rest of the world like this while my students rolled their eyes in disgust.
I keep saying this – running around the world telling people how exceptional and bound-to-lead we are is a great way to alienate the planet and convince them of exactly the opposite – to not to follow us. We’d have a much easier time with the world if we could back off the blustery, Fox News nationalism and actually speak maturely. But Americans couldn’t give a damn about the rest of the world, no matter how much we posture about our world historic role to lead it. Our ODA totals are disgrace for a coutnry as wealthy as we are. We don’t learn languages much. The only time we worry about casualties in the war on terror is when they are own; our clear disinterest for all the collateral damage we have done since 9/11 speak volumes to the rest of the planet.
So instead, here is the debate foreigners heard:
Bob Schieffer: Mr. President, Governor, can you tell us please in a few words why America is so awesome?
(Broad grins all around; ‘USA!, USA!’ from the audience.)
Barack Obama: Well you see Bob, we are exceptional. We are the indispensible nation. Without us, the world would just fall apart. Just try to imagine where the world would be today if Spain had won the Spanish-American War. A hellish nightmare of drone-less Euro-sissies running the West. Thankfully, America is here to make my presidency a ‘teachable moment.’ I’m bringing hope to the entire planet. And they’re grateful.
Mitt Romney: Obviously the president doesn’t believe in America, because he is making America into a moocher, Euro-paradise for Greeks who don’t want to pay their taxes. And we’re not just exceptional, Mr. President; we’re the most exceptionalest country ever. Greece, Rome – they pale in comparison, well, except for Israel though. We’ve got the greatest military in the world, at least until you stopped building coal-fired battleships for the Navy. And Adam and Eve were Missourians. So, we’ve got the greatest people on earth. We are rugged individualists–
BS: Even though 60% of the budget goes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, corporate welfare, regular welfare, education assistance, and other transfers?
(‘ObamaCare is for wusses!’ catcalled from the audience.)
MR: As I was saying, we are the last, best hope for mankind bound to lead the 53% to a city on the hill in a new American Century at the end of history. We liberate, not dictate.
BS: Governor, can you answer the question without recycling mindless talking points?
MR: No, Bob. No I can’t. Did I say Israel?–
BO: (Interrupting) That’s a ‘shining’ city on the hill, Governor. Indispensability casts a unique red-white-and-blue glow which you’d know about if you weren’t studying your retirement portfolio so much.
MR: Mr. President, I’m still speaking…
BS: Ok, let’s move–
MR: And John Galt will be…
BS: (Smiling) Ok, I’d like to–
MR: I see on the clock that I have some time, and if he can talk like that, then–
BS: Maybe we should–
MR: (pushing through) And John Galt will be the architect of that city, because we the people built it, not the government. And in that city, Israelis will be safe from Palestinian rockets, and all the shining will block out the daylight that the president wants to have with Israel.
BS: That sounds very expensive, Governor. How will you pay for this city?
MR: The numbers add up, Bob. I’m a business-man; you’re from the liberal media. My presidency is the last best hope for the city on the hill’s economy, which you’d know if you’d read my 7-point plan, ‘How Barack HUSSEIN Obama caused the Great Recession just by Getting Elected: Regressive Tax Cuts for non-Moochers in the new American Century.’ Did I mention that I love Israel, and women, and teachers?
BS: Ok, ok. Mr. President, how you characterize American leadership?
BO: We’re the greatest country on earth. When we act others follow. If we don’t act, others don’t know what to do. Without America, the world is inert. It drifts. Peoples of the world look up from the dingy streets of their miserable existence, and they see hope; they see change; (lifting his chin) they see America! They expect our leadership. I know that because I lived in Indonesia, and European grad students swoon over my speeches. They crave it, because we love freedom. Without America, people everywhere might lapse into backwardness and salafism, and then I’d have to drone-strike their asses.
(Romney leans in to give Obama a fistbump. ‘Hoo-rahs!’ from the audience.)
So you see we must lead. Our exceptional character tells the world that we’re making progress. I’m bringing… we’re bringing hope and change. Did I mentioned that I got a Nobel Peace Prize while I run a kill-list at the same time? (Romney guffaws in agreement.)
BS: Governor Romney, any final thoughts on American leadership?
MR: Bob, because we’re exceptional, rules are meant for others, not us; kinda like Wall Street. I have a strategy to restore American greatness from ObamaCare socialism. Point 32 of that plan says that the UN let Iran’s centrifuges spin, so I will reappoint John Bolton to drop the top ten floors of the UN building onto those centrifuges. We can’t just give apologize tours to these jihadists. I’ll never close Guantanamo, because I love freedom, and today, Muslims are free to invest in Bain Capital. But they aren’t free enough to find a job, because the president doesn’t know how to create jobs.
(Leaning back expansively) We didn’t ask for the mantle of freedom to be placed on our shoulders. But we carry the load for the world, because we’re awesome. We liberate those in chains, and they are grateful for our drone-strikes. When I traveled to Israel, an old lady coming back from the grocery store, looked-up at me with tears in her eyes, saying, ‘Lead the world, Mr. Romney, the world needs your resolve.’ It is my honor to take up this burden from lazy Europeans and feckless Asians everywhere. I didn’t ask for the burden of running for president to restore American greatness. America called to me, and I won’t shirk my responsibility to restore this American Century and make it into an American Millennium.
BS: A millennium now? That’s a pretty long time.
MR: My election to the presidency makes this the most important election in the history of America.
BS: Ok. let’s look a few areas of the world. Mr. President, what’s your Middle East policy?
BO: (zoning out, caught off guard by the question, blurts) Well, I’d let Bibi run the f—— State Department for 6 months if it’d get these damn neocons and Christian fundamentalists off my back for awhile. Oh, Christ…
BS: Wait, did you really just say that?
MR: What the president doesn’t realize is that daylight exists between us and Israel. Bibi has been my friend for a long time, and he’s kinda pale. So all this sunlight gives him trouble. We need to show our resolve and strength by credibly committing to export as much suntan lotion as Likud needs to block Barack Obama’s daylight for jihadis.
BS: What about Asia, gentleman?
BO: In Ohio, I stopped people from saving money by buying cheap Chinese tires. I am proud that I defended expensive, less competitive products that are widely used by the middle class, in order to shamelessly pander for Midwestern votes. That’s what global leadership is all about. America is bringing hope to soon-to-fired Chinese tire workers.
MR: I look forward to provoking a trade war with China on day one of my presidency. America needs to show strength and resolve by picking a fight with the second largest economy in the world with four times as many people. When Mr. Obama apologizes to the world, he projects weakness. So I’ll also bomb Iran and contain the Soviet Union. I promise to bring back neocon bullying and blustery condescension to insure the tea party votes for me again in 2016. We may not be able to kill our way out of the war on terrorism, but we can chest-thump our way into a new age of American ass-kicking; I’ll bomb them till they like us. It’s morning in America, my fellow Americans, in the greatest country on earth, except for Israel, if Floridian swing voters really believe that.
BS: Yes, but what about Asia – North Korea, India, the pivot?
BO: The pivot will show the world that America is back. We are ready to lead, and our craven allies want this leadership. They look up to our vision, our hope for the future, our bootstraps, our commitment to freedom. I am excited to lead them into a ever more American-dominated Pacific hegemony that Robert Kagan told me they’ll love.
MR: Only if you’d stop cutting our military, Mr. President. There has been a staggering decline in the number of horses and bayonets in use with the Navy since 1916. Without at least 300 new ironclads, the Chinese Navy might take over Alaska which I can see from my Leer jet sometimes. The president has disarmed America. We only spend half of the world’s total defense spending and ten times what China does. These paltry sums are a travesty, a staggering failure of duty in this uncertain world. The Soviet Union is our greatest geopolitical competitor. When Jesus returns to Jackson County, Lenin will rise from that mausoleum. So I look forward to repairing our defenses and defending Israel against the culturally backward Palestinians. Uncertainty is everywhere.
BS: Thank you, gentleman. Do you have any closing statements?
MR (looking profound): I love America, and I know you do too. Barack Osama, I mean Obama, does not. He doesn’t share your values. He doesn’t understand America. He rejects our Anglo-Saxon values, and don’t forget his middle name. America’s job is to lead the world. We didn’t ask for this burden, but God and an awestruck world have given it to us. A great night of chaos awaits the world when we apologize and cease nagging other countries to be just like us. We love freedom, and we know that inside every foreigner, there is an American struggling to get out. God has made this world a better place by including America to ennoble the entire planet. The world is lucky we are here. They know it; they just won’t admit it, because they’re jealous. I am ready to patronize and condescend to those who like us, bomb those who don’t until they do, and pander to your worst nationalist prejudices. I ask for your vote. Go Israel!
BO: My fellow Americans, we are an exceptional nation. We are indispensably shining our freedom to all those trapped in tyranny, namely every other country on the planet. When the Taliban stood read to invade the US, I surged US forces and fought an illegal, unsupervised robot war against them. When Libyans needed our help, I didn’t bother to consult Congress or follow the Constitution; I just did it. When I found Osama Bin Laden, I assassinated his ass without hesitation even though we might have captured him. When the Nobel Committee gave me the Peace Prize for not being George W Bush, I accepted it and then authorized the due process-free killing of American citizens overseas. This is the kind of leadership you thought you rejected from George W Bush in 2008. But in your hearts you really want it, because you really do seem to believe that America is some kind of God-given gift to mankind. So if you love empire, just with a less belligerent face, I ask for your support.
Cross-posted at Asian Security Blog.