"That's how we roll." With four words in a 60 Minutes interview Sunday, President Obama punctuated a forceful expression of American exceptionalism—a belief that the United States is qualitatively different from other nations.
"America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world. And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don't call Beijing. They don't call Moscow. They call us. That's the deal.
CBS's Steve Kroft had just questioned the legitimacy of the coalition Obama is assembling against the Islamic State. "I mean," Kroft says, "it looks like we are doing 90 percent."
Steve ... when there's a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who's helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there's an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who's leading the charge and making sure Haiti can rebuild. That's how we roll. And that's what makes this America.
Technically, "American exceptionalism" doesn't necessarily suggest superiority, but in political debates the phrase carries a strong inference of American greatness—particularly among conservatives who recall Ronald Reagan comparing the United States to a "shining city upon a hill." A nagging GOP talking point is that Obama doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, which has become code for questioning the president's pride of country—even his patriotism. That's hogwash.
There are far more honest reasons for criticism of Obama, including one illuminated by the same 60 Minutes interview: the president's maddening habit of shifting blame. This is more than a tic; it's a personality flaw and a political problem, because Americans want their leaders to be accountable and credible. Obama could summon neither attribute when Kroft asked whether he was surprised by the ISIS surge.