Michelle Obama: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country”

Michelle Obama just said these words:

…What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something — for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change…

Instapundit has a round-up of various reactions to Michelle Obama’s comments, including John Podhoretz:

…Michelle Obama is 44 years old. She has been an adult since 1982. Can it really be there has not been a moment during that time when she felt proud of her country? Forget matters like the victory in the Cold War; how about only things that have made liberals proud — all the accomplishments of inclusion? How about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991? Or Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s elevation to the Supreme Court? Or Carol Moseley Braun’s election to the Senate in 1998? How about the merely humanitarian, like this country’s startling generosity to the victims of the tsunami? I’m sure commenters can think of hundreds more landmarks of this sort. Didn’t she even get a twinge from, say, the Olympics?
Mrs. Obama was speaking at a campaign rally, so it is easy to assume she was merely indulging in hyperbole. Even so, it is very revealing.
It suggests, first, that the pseudo-messianic nature of the Obama candidacy is very much a part of the way the Obamas themselves are feeling about it these days…
Second, it suggests the Obama campaign really does have its roots in New Class leftism, according to which patriotism is not only the last refuge of a scoundrel, but the first refuge as well — that America is not fundamentally good but flawed, but rather fundamentally flawed and only occasionally good…
And third, that Michelle Obama — from the middle-class South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, Princeton 85, Harvard Law 88, associate at Sidley and Austin, and eventually a high-ranking official at the University of Chicago — may not be proud of her country, but her life, like her husband’s, gives me every reason to be even prouder of the United States.

Unfortunately, this kind of talk by Michelle Obama is not new. (Nor is the topic of liberal fundamentalism new, as this 1984 WSJ editorial reminds us. Some reflections on the broader issues can be found here, where this linked post offers these clarifying thoughts from Richard John Neuhaus:

Politics and religion are different enterprises…But they are constantly coupling and getting quite mixed up with one another. There is nothing new about this. What is relatively new is the naked public square. The naked public square is the result of political doctrine and practice that would exclude religion and religiously grounded values from the conduct of public business…
When religion in any traditional or recognizable form is excluded from the public square, it does not mean that the public square is in fact naked…
The truly naked public square is at best a transitional phenomenon. It is a vacuum begging to be filled. When the democratically affirmed institutions that generate and transmit values are excluded, the vacuum will be filled by the agent left in control of the public square, the state. In this manner, a perverse notion of the disestablishment of religion leads to the establishment of the state as church…
The conflict in American public life today, then, is not a conflict between morality and secularism. It is a conflict of moralities in which one moral system calls itself secular and insists that the other do likewise as the price of admission to the public arena. That insistence is in fact a demand that the other side capitulate…
The founding fathers of the American experiment declared certain truths to be self-evident and moved on from that premise. It is a measure of our decline into what may be the new dark ages that today we are compelled to produce evidence for the self-evident.)

In that context, John O’Sullivan explains Obama this way in The Obama Appeal: He’s post-racist, but also post-American (available for a fee):

…More important even than that is his recent rhetoric on American unity. Obama has mastered the lost art of delivering patriotic speeches that sound sincere and sensible. Such rhetoric used to be a Republican specialty, but liberal opinion long ago bullied them out of it (“super-patriotism”), and now they have lost the knack. The American people retain a taste for patriotic unity, however, and will likely respond to it with added respect when it comes from a post-racist black American.
But there are two kinds of American unity: the natural unity of citizens with equal rights, and the managed unity of groups with equal rights. These are in direct conflict with each other. Obama’s rhetoric is undoubtedly sincere, but it gives the impression that he favors the first sort of unity when he actually wants to ratify and advance the second. A glimpse at his speeches and programs demonstrates that he is committed, like all the Democratic candidates, to such policies as racial preferences, multiculturalism, liberal immigration laws, and the transfer of power from America’s constitutional republic to non-accountable global bodies and international law. For Obama is not merely a post-racist; he is a post-nationalist and a post-American too…

Apparently a post-American world view means it is acceptable not to wear a USA flag lapel pin as he runs for the USA Presidency. Or to attend a church where, if whites said the same things in reverse at their churches, they would be labeled racists. [ADDENDUM #1: More on the latter from Kaus, Kaus, Cohen, Hill, Dreher, and Knippenberg.] This world view suggests We Are Paying Quite a Price for Our Historical Ignorance, a problem Ronald Reagan warned us about in his 1989 Farewell Address:

…Finally, there is a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewells, and I’ve got one that’s been on my mind for some time. But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I’m proudest of in the past eight years: the resurgence of national pride that I called the new patriotism. This national feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.
An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over thirty-five or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood…Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed, you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the midsixties.
But now, we’re about to enter the nineties, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren’t sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.
So, we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important…If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual. And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.

So, as an antidote to this ahistorical, multicultural and relativistic world promoted by the Obama’s, we would do well to go back and rediscover the first principles of our American Founding and ponder what it means to educate Americans in our unique heritage:
Calvin Coolidge:

…In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignity, the rights of man – these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in religious convictions…Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish…
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776..that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final…If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people…
In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people…

Mac Owens:

Before the American founding, all regimes were based on the principle of interest – the interest of the stronger. That principle was articulated by the Greek historian Thucydides: “Questions of justice arise only between equals. As for the rest, the strong do what they will. The weak suffer what they must.”…
The United States was founded on different principles – justice and equality…It took the founding of the United States on the principle of equality to undermine the principle of inequality…Thanks to the Founders, the United States was founded on a principle of justice, not the interest of the stronger. And because of Lincoln’s uncompromising commitment to equality as America’s “central idea,” the Union was not only saved, but saved so “as to make, and to keep it, forever worthy of saving…”
“Every nation,” said Lincoln, “has a central idea from which all its minor thoughts radiate.” For Lincoln, this central idea was the Declaration of Independence and its notion of equality as the basis for republican government – the simple idea that no one has the right by nature to rule over another without the latter’s consent…
Indeed, it is the idea of equality in the Declaration, not race and blood, that establishes American nationhood, constituting what Abraham Lincoln called “the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land…”
The United States is a fundamentally decent regime based on the universal principle that all human beings are equal in terms of their natural rights…

Roger Pilon:

Appealing to all mankind, the Declaration’s seminal passage opens with perhaps the most important line in the document: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident.” Grounded in reason, “self-evident” truths invoke the long tradition of natural law, which holds that there is a “higher law” of right and wrong from which to derive human law and against which to criticize that law at any time. It is not political will, then, but moral reasoning, accessible to all, that is the foundation of our political system.
But if reason is the foundation of the Founders’ vision…the method by which we justify our political order…liberty is its aim. Thus, cardinal moral truths are these:

…that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.

We are all created equal, as defined by our natural rights; thus, no one has rights superior to those of anyone else. Moreover, we are born with those rights, we do not get them from government…indeed, whatever rights or powers government has come from us, from “the Consent of the Governed.” And our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness imply the right to live our lives as we wish…to pursue happiness as we think best, by our own lights…provided only that we respect the equal rights of others to do the same. Drawing by implication upon the common law tradition of liberty, property, and contract…its principles rooted in “right reason”…the Founders thus outlined the moral foundations of a free society.

Contrary to Michelle Obama’s viewpoint, the American Founding – however imperfectly practiced over the years – is something to be proud of for a lifetime.
And even a “plagiarizing” Barack Obama assures us that those American Founding principles aren’t “just words.” As a first step to show their seriousness that they are not “just words,” perhaps Barack and Michelle Obama could acquaint themselves with and develop some pride in these core principles of the very country he seeks to lead and which gave each of them the freedom to live the American Dream as they have. As a next baby step, they could even encourage their partisans to hang posters in their campaign offices which celebrate that Founding instead of the late murderous communist thug Che.
If they are unwilling to take those tangible steps, then I agree with Kathryn Jean Lopez, when she writes: “Maybe the Obamas do take after the Clintons. It’s all about them too.”
More on the left-wing messianic posturing by Obama from Lopez, Steyn, Charen, Krauthammer, Last, and Brooks.
[ADDENDUM #2: More from Lowry, Hanson, Derbyshire, Goldberg, Henninger, Stuttaford, Geraghty, Lopez, Samuelson, Blankley, Levin, Malkin, Hemingway here and here, and Stein, a blogger for that right-wing attack machine, Mother Jones. Bronson writes: “I think pride in the country doesn’t come from what the government or the military or even our heroes do; I think it comes from realizing that every day, in every thing we do, we are making our country into something new. If you don’t believe in where we came from, how can you expect to get to someplace worthwhile?”] Or, as Malkin writes: “When Republicans talk about broken souls in the context of civil society, the nutroots start screaming about the obliteration of the church-state line. When the Obama campaign uses the same rhetoric to get him elected to the White House, everyone swoons.”
[ADDENDUM #3: Goldfarb writes this about Obama’s attempts to clarify his wife’s comments: “It’s still the same creepy message. Apparently the only thing that might redeem this country in the eyes of Michelle Obama is the election of her husband as president of the United States. That’s not good enough. This implies that the Obamas aren’t running for office in order to serve the country that they love–because this country has, in fact, been so good to them–but in order to save the country from itself.”] Liberal fundamentalism is alive and well, albeit with some fancy new packaging.

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16 years ago

Wow, and you folks say the left is “unhinged” about Bush.
Obama and Che have posters, ergo, they’re both communist thugs, right? Well, Bush and Hitler both refused to withdraw from countries invaded under false premises… so they’re the same too, right?
The “plagiarizing” thing is barely even worth dignifying. Patrick is a national co-chair of Obama’s campaign, and ENCOURAGED him to use the, what, four lines, to make the same point that Patrick made when he was likewise under attack.
Really, the attack lines just sound more and more desperate and pathetic.
Oh, and quoting that bigoted hack Michelle Malkin does little to help your credibility.

16 years ago

What a ridiculous, bloated, pretentious blog post. A guy gets popular, and suddenly the people who support him are blind sheep who worship him as a messiah? Sheesh. Dig out a video of the 2004 Republican Convention if you want to see a rally worthy of Leni Riefenstahl. Can’t a wife use hyperbole when she’s proud of her husband and inspired by her country? And the church thing…. get over it. Why is it so hard to grasp the concept of black pride? Also – I find it hilarious that the premise of your post is about Obama the messiah, yet you manage to squeeze in some cliche Reagan messiah worship of your own. Classic.

16 years ago

It’s inevitable that the Obamas will have to endure the same kind of cheapies the Clintons did.
I sense a panic from the attack dogs of the right who have gearing up for an assault on Hillary practically from the moment Bill and Dubya shook hands in front of the moving vans seven years ago. They never thought of the possibility that Hillary might NOT be the nominee.

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
16 years ago

“… murderous communist thug Che.”
Hey, Pat Crowley probably has a Che poster in his office too (indeed, he might even have one of Che flipping the bird)!
In ignorance there is strength!
Viva la educational mediocrity!
Viva la NEA!

16 years ago

Kudos to you Donald. Appears you struck a major nerve with the hate America left. Nice!

Richard Tuoni
16 years ago

I’m on the left and I don’t hate the United States. I probably do hate your idea of the United States. I’m sure that you hate my idea of the United States.
Can you see the difference? If not take a few civics courses and read Aristotle’s “Politics” for starters. You don’t own the flag and you cannot define patriotism for me or anyone else.

16 years ago

For all the silly folks who made a big deal of Michelle Obama’s quote: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country”, well…
For once in my life I have someone who needs me
Someone Ive needed so long
For once, unafraid, I can go where life leads me
And somehow I know Ill be strong
For once I can touch what my heart used to dream of
Long before I knew
Someone warm like you
Would make my dreams come true
For once in my life I wont let sorrow hurt me
Not like it hurt me before
For once, I have something I know wont desert me
Im not alone anymore
For once, I can say, this is mine, you cant take it
As long as I know I have love, I can make it
For once in my life, I have someone who needs me

16 years ago

Greetings, Michelle Obama has clarified her remarks. The Associated Press provided her comments. I hope this will settle everyone’s heart and mind. Michelle Obama Clarifies `proud’ Remark PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The wife of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama sought Wednesday to clarify her comment that for the first time she’s really proud of her country. On Monday, Michelle Obama told an audience in Milwaukee that “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change.” Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential contender John McCain, later sought to capitalize on the remark, saying “I have, and always will be, proud of my country.” Asked by WJAR-TV if she would like to clarify her comment, Obama replied that she has been struck by the number of people going to rallies and watching debates, as well as record voter turnouts. “What I was clearly talking about was that I’m proud in how Americans are engaging in the political process,” she said. “For the first time in my lifetime, I’m seeing people rolling up their sleeves in a way that I haven’t seen and really trying to figure this out — and that’s the source of pride that I was talking about,” she added. When asked if she had always been proud of her country, she replied “absolutely” and said she and her husband would not be where they are now if not for the opportunities of America. Obama himself gave a similar explanation during an interview Tuesday with WOAI radio in San Antonio, Texas. Expressing frustration that his wife’s remarks had been taken out of context and turned into political fodder, the Illinois senator said, “What she meant was, this is the… Read more »

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