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Friday, 10 June 2011 03:48

Ten Ways in Which American Exceptionalism Hurts the Nation

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STEVEN JONAS, MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Ah Newt Gingrich, how you have disappointed me. The moment that I heard that you had decided to enter the race for the GOP Presidential nomination a few weeks back, I started planning this column. After all, based upon what you had been saying about President Obama for the last few months, I was certain that I would have a very nice fat target to shoot at. (Fat indeed, Newt, for you have gotten rather heavy in recent years, no doubt due to the fact that you are spending much less, if any, time chasing after women.) And it would be an exceptional one, not built around substance, like programs designed to pull the US out of the foreign and domestic mess it is in, but around the process arguments you love so much, like the first eight components of your famous "Contract on America" (oops, sorry, "Contract for America") http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contract_with_America.

But then you went and spoiled it all by making a mess of your campaign right from the git-go. First you were for US involvement in Libya, then when the President undertook to do that you were against it. Then you were for an individual mandate for the President's something-short-of-national health insurance program. Actually, you have been for such a thing going back to your days in the Congress. After all, no health insurance program, public or private, can work if people can sign on just when they get sick and have not paid premiums during the time they were healthy. That's why the for-profit health insurance companies refused to cover pre-existing conditions. But then you were against the individual mandate (or tried to appear to be). First you were for preserving Medicare as we know it and actually called the Ryan "Plan" radical "social engineering" (a term GOPers apply to any proposed national domestic legislation they don't like), and then you seemed to be for it. At any rate, you were the talk of the political humor shows and etc. and it remains to be seen where your campaign goes.

But back to "American Exceptionalism." The other potential GOP candidateeven dumber and more ignorant than Sara, Trump was the flash-in-the-pan many thought him to be, so heeeere's Sara. And if she does get in, what she calls "American Exceptionalism" will be a major theme of hers.

That is, the US is just different from everybody else, so much better,donchaknow, that it just doesn't have to play by anyone else's rules, neither at home nor certainly not abroad. And, she will tell us, President Obama just doesn't somehow, realize that, and that's why he must be replaced. To be fair at this point, one must point out that Tim Pawlenty, "T-Paw" to his friends, an announced candidate, is moving in the direction of the "US exceptionalism" theme too. He focused his opening advertising salvo on his claim that the President "lacks courage" (the point made about four times in a one-minute ad) you know, he's different from us, he is somehow just an unexceptionalist.

Now neither Sara nor Newt (nor T-Paw) has yet given us a detailed list of just how exceptional the US is. So (and you may be surprised to read this, coming from me), I am going to help them by giving them a starter list on the subject. It's especially for Newt and Sara, but if T-Paw or Michele (who has made some American Exceptionalism noises herself) wants to use it that's fine with me.

Not necessarily in order of importance here's a list of some outstanding ways in which the US is indeed exceptional among the nations of the world.

1. The US simply ignores treaties to which it is a party, like the Geneva
Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture without so much
as a by-your leave.

2. In the US, Administrations can ignore its own Constitution, as in the case of its Article VI and the above-mentioned torture policy, without anyone in a position of authority saying boo to a goose.

3. The US is the only advanced capitalist country without a national health insurance system, to say nothing of a national health service.

4. The US has the largest military empire in the world, bar none.

5. Among the major Western democracies, it is the only one in which one major party runs in major part on right-wing religious bigotry, homophobia, Islamophobia, and climate change denial.

6. It is one of very few capitalist countries that has no civilian population with a personal recollection of war and its consequences.

7. Of the advanced capitalist countries it has the lowest proportion of workers who are unionized.

8. Of the advanced capitalist countries it is the one with the highest degree of corporate control of election outcomes, and the lowest level of citizen participation in elections.

9. Unlike every other advanced capitalist country, it has no high-speed rail system.

10. It has the highest proportion of government expenditures on the military of any nation in the world.

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This is Dr. Jonas' Commentary No. 176 for BuzzFlash, now at Truthout.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash/Truthout (http://www.buzzflash.com, http://www.truth-out.org/), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine (http://tpjmagazine.us/); a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad (http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/); a Senior Columnist for The Greanville Post(http://www.greanvillepost.com/); a Contributor to The Planetary Movement(http://www.planetarymovement.org/); a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com(http://www.opednews.com/), and a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter.