Republicans are constantly complaining that President Obama apologizes for this country. What is becoming more and more apparent is that there is a lot to apologize for -- particularly Republicans. While Republicans like to talk about American exceptionalism, the sentiment behind that statement is, in fact, unquestioned superiority. Time and time again Republicans have shown their disrespect, ignorance, and contempt for other nationalities and cultures. It's as if they've never left the country and think that the rest of the world lives in grass huts and has yet to discover indoor plumbing.
Simply stating that we as a country are exceptional, defined by Merriam-Webster as "much better than average," doesn't mean that it's true. We are behind most developed countries in education, infrastructure, standard of living, workers' rights, freedom of the press, health care, and public transportation, to name just a few areas where we fall behind. It's worth mentioning that Merriam-Webster also defines "exceptional" as mentally or physically disabled.
Republicans may not like to admit it, but the rest of the world is full of other countries, many of which they've never set foot in, and the people in those countries not only think we're crazy but are starting to think we might be stupid. Simply watching anyone from the right wing interact with someone they consider foreign is evidence of the false sense of superiority they have in themselves and the assumed ignorance they perceive in others.
When Rep. Steven King was confronted on immigration by a woman who has been here for 17 years, his assumption was that she hasn't mastered English -- you know, because she's not from here. "You're very good at English. You can understand the English language, so don't act like you don't. ... You understand the English language. Your ears work too," King says to her in this video. He says this after the woman, Erika Andiola, introduces herself as an Arizona State University graduate.
As Chris Cillizza from the Washington Post puts it:
King's words aren't great but it's his tone that makes this so bad politically speaking. He comes across as condescending, sarcastic and annoyed. None of those are traits you want to display publicly as a politician.
Then there's freshman U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson (R-Florida), who mistook two senior State Department and Commerce Department officials for representatives of India, most likely because of their names and appearances. Despite the fact that they had no detectable accents and were sitting behind a couple of pretty official-looking name cards, Clawson seemed confused by their brown skin when he suggested that the two countries cooperate and said, "I am familiar with your country, and I love your country." He may as well have said, "People from Mars, we welcome you."
The two officials are Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State, and Arun Kumar, Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service and Assistant Secretary for Global Markets at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Bishwal was born in the United States and attended the University of Virginia. Kumar was born in India and has a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Kerala and a master's in management from the Sloan School of Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Neither represents the government of India; both are of Indian descent.
Whenever a member of the GOP addresses anyone from another country, it's in a slow, deliberate tone as if they took speech lessons from Fred Rogers.
Watch Michele Bachmann, flanked by the other two stooges, Steve King and Louie Gohmert, addressing the Egyptian people as if they were addressing a cafeteria full of third-graders.
The video is largely being panned by the American media. Fisher calls the video a "doozy," Business Insider's Brett Logiurato calls the video "bizarre, to say the least," and the New York Times quotes a political scientists who "called the lawmakers' statements 'utterly absurd' and compared the conference to 'a 'Saturday Night Live' skit -- unbelievable, ludicrous, almost comic if it wasn't so painful.'"
Adding, "The trio's call for support stand against where the administration seems to be heading."
Bachman had previously claimed that members of the Muslim Brotherhood had "infiltrated the highest levels of U.S. government," including the White House. She was quickly corrected by the Muslim Brotherhood.
"I haven't heard these rumors, but they strike me as ridiculous," said Ahmed Al Nahhas, a long-time Brotherhood activist and leader in Egypt's second-largest city, Alexandria. "Surely the United States government selects its employees very carefully."
Republicans saying stupid things about other countries and being corrected by people from those countries is becoming the norm. When terrorist attacks shook France, GOP talking heads quickly took the air to claim that French police don't carry guns and that both France and Britain are riddled with "no-go zones" that are infested with Muslims who wear Osama bin Laden T-shirts and "make their own rules" in these zones.
To which the French responded:
The reliably cynical Fox News network has been broadcasting an interview with Nolan Peterson (photo at right), a supposed security expert and confirmed bozo who has declared Paris to be dotted with "No-Go Zones" where "in just a ten-minute cab ride from the Eiffel Tower, you can be walking through streets that feel just like Baghdad."
Baghdad, eh? How wonderful for Baghdad if their streets are also filled, as these districts are, with modern bistros, craft breweries, natural wine haunts, vegan cafés, and spots for Philly cheesesteak. Not to mention a place that ranks among the World's 50 Best Restaurants and a bakery that won the Best Baguette in Paris competition.
Great Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron pulled no punches, calling Steve Emerson of Fox News a "complete idiot," adding, "What he should do is actually look at Birmingham...."
Earlier this week 47 Senators, led by newcomer Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), the same guy who told an uninsured constituent not to use Obamacare because Russian mobsters would steal her identity, wrote an open letter to the Iranian government. There has been enough written about the contents of that letter here and here that I'm not going to get into it. The New York Daily News called the senators traitors, The Daily Banter suggested that the letter could be a violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from starting or engaging in "any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof" for the purpose of interfering with a foreign policy negotiation, and radio host Bill Press suggested that the 47 be tried for treason, saying:
What's the penalty for treason? Life in prison without parole? Or death by hanging? Perhaps 47 Republican Senators should have thought about that before they all signed a letter to the Supreme Ayatollah of Iran, warning him not to make a deal with President Obama.
In the letter, the 47 senators write:
It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system ... Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.
See that? The condescending comment, in writing, that assumes that those uneducated Iranians living in dirt huts don't understand how our government works. As it turns out, the senators who wrote that letter are the ones who don't understand how our government works.
First off, the authors, all 47 of them, made an error pertaining to the constitution:
The letter states that "the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote." But as the Senate's own web page makes clear: "The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification" (my emphasis). Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate's role in treaty-making states (at 117): "It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent." Ratification is the formal act of the nation's consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: "When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented ... is returned to the President," he may "simply decide not to ratify the treaty."
As if it weren't embarrassing enough that a letter meant to educate the Iranians on Constitutional law, written by purported lawmakers, was technically inaccurate, the Iranian Foreign Minister and a professor of international law, Dr. Javad Zarif, also responded to the letter, saying:
Not only do [they] not understand international law but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.
Zarif went on to say that "in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy."
It's flabbergasting to think that 47 members of Congress agreed to sign something as significant as a letter to Iran and not one of them thought to ask if it was a good idea or research the content. It takes a certain amount of hubris, if not good old-fashioned stupidity, to let something like that slip past you.
There are to date at least five scientific studies claiming that Republicans are lacking in the smart department, and that watching FOX can make you stupid. Even Bruce Bartlett, Ronald Reagan's political advisor, in response to a question about the current GOP, said, "But yes they are really rather stupid and not very well read."
Not that science matters or has much of an impact on the current political conversation in any real sense, and that's becoming evident with each election. As John Cleese puts it in this video, "If you're very very stupid, how can you possibly realize that you're very very stupid? You'd have to be relatively intelligent to realize how stupid you are."
That said, as it doesn't look like morons will stop being elected to public office, it looks as though we'll continue to do and say stupid things out loud and publicly. We'll have to rely on the rest of world pointing them out to us.
Since there seems to be a trend these days for people to prove how much they love this country unconditionally and without question, let me be clear: I love this country. I love this country the way someone loves an alcoholic spouse or family member. You see the potential and the person they could be if they would just sober up and get help, but in the meantime they're a constant source of angst and embarrassment.
Catch the conversation about this article at Tony Trupiano: The Voice of the People for Thursday in the second hour