The American right wing is a cult. There's no one leader of this cult, no Jim Jones or David Koresh, but the members are unswervingly faithful devotees; their dogma is distributed piecemeal, in talk radio harangues, on Fox News broadcasts, in alerts posted on message boards and forwarded via email. The key point about all this is that no canonical right-wing assertion is ever debunked, and none ever loses its power to stir outrage. Right-wingers still think Barack Obama was born in Kenya and still think Hillary Clinton is a lesbian who killed her male lover, Vince Foster, when she wasn't hanging sex toys on the White House Christmas tree.
Certain outrage moments are reduced, distorted, truncated versions of actual utterances by right-wingers' objects of hate. The meanings of the remarks as actually uttered differ greatly from the wingers' interpretation -- but that doesn't matter, because every right-winger can recite these utterances from memory, and all right-wingers agree that the true meaning in every case is the sinister interpretation they share: Hillary Clinton expressed indifferent contempt for the Benghazi deaths when she said, "What difference does it make?"; Barack Obama's call for a "fundamental transformation" was a reference to a socialist/fascist/jihadist anti-American revolution; Obama said entrepreneurs "didn't build" their own businesses.
Well, the wingers may have another one that they're never going to let go. The new outrage-quote that will probably be added to the right's carefully curated collection of grievances is showing up at the Drudge Report right now:
JOHN KERRY: I Get 'A Little Uptight When I Hear Politicians Say How Exceptional We Are'... http://t.co/Iu3B3V4GaW— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) July 15, 2014
Omigod! John Kerry, our traitor president's treasonous secretary of state, doesn't think of America as exceptional!
Well, no, that's not what Kerry said -- though Weekly Standard blogger Jeryl Bier fed it to the right that way, in this post. Kerry spoke to a gathering of diplomatic staff and families in Vienna; Bier gives his remarks in context, but the key phrase is carefully highlighted, in bold, presumably for the convenience of Matt Drudge, Fox News, and other conduits of demagoguery:
... towards the end of his talk he recalled his two Yale commencement speeches, forty-eight years apart, where he discussed "sort of the world we’re in" and America's place in it:Bier does acknowledge that Kerry went on to say this:
...I was privileged to speak to the graduating class of Yale this year, and it was particularly a pleasure because it happened to turn out to be, literally, I hate to say it, 48 years to the day that I was privileged to speak as a graduating senior to my own class. And I talked to them about sort of the world we’re in right now, but at the end I tried to remind them all, which I remind you of, we are -- I get always a little uptight when I hear politicians say how exceptional we are -- not because we're not exceptional, but because it’s kind of in-your-face and a lot of other people are exceptional, a lot of other places do exceptional things.
But we are exceptional in a certain way that no other nation is. We are not defined by thousands of years (inaudible) of history. We are not defined by ethnicity. We are not defined by bloodline or by anything except an idea. And that idea was expressed in the Declaration of Independence and in our Constitution, the idea that people are created equal and that all people have a chance to aspire for greatness, for anything they want. Pretty amazing, right? So think about that. It's the only country that is literally united and formed around and whose rule of law is based on that idea, one idea, and it's pretty special. So thank you for representing it. Thank you. (Applause.)Now, you and I might conclude that it's unfair to truncate the quote as Bier clearly wants right-wing media demagogues to truncate it. You and I might conclude that Kerry makes his belief in American exceptionalism abundantly clear, even in the very sentence that's highlighted. You and I might conclude that Kerry also made this belief clear in that recent Yale commencement speech (which Bier does go on to quote briefly).
In that commencement speech, Kerry said:
That is what has always set America apart: our generosity, our humanity, our idealism.Kerry sure sounds like a mainstream, centrist patriot to me. But no, there's a right-wing morning to win, and there are future Two-Minutes' Hates to craft, so the Vienna remarks will be distorted and quoted out of context, now and probably forever on the right.
Last year I walked through the devastation of the typhoon that hit the Philippines. The U.S. military and USAID and regular volunteers got there before countries that lived a lot closer. We went there without being asked and without asking for anything in return. And today Americans are helping to bring that community back to life.
In Nigeria, when Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of girls, the government didn't turn to other powerful countries for help – and by the way, they’re not offering.
As Josh and Nia mentioned, it was my privilege to stand here 48 years ago at Class Day. Before coming here, I did re-read that speech. A lot of it was about Vietnam, but one line jumped out at me. In 1966 I suggested, "an excess of isolation had led to an excess of interventionism." Today we hear a different tune from some in Congress and even on some campuses and we face the opposite concern. We cannot allow a hangover from the excessive interventionism of the last decade to lead now to an excess of isolationism in this decade.
I can tell you for certain, most of the rest of the world doesn't lie awake at night worrying about America's presence -- they worry about what would happen in our absence.
Without arrogance, without chauvinism, never forget that what makes America different from other nations is not a common bloodline or a common religion or a common ideology or a common heritage -- what makes us different is that we are united by an uncommon idea: that we're all created equal and all endowed with unalienable rights. America is not just a country like other countries. America is an idea and we -- all of us, you -- get to fill it out over time.
Because you can never put enough fuel on the fires of right-wing hate.