President Barack Obama is taking some hits for referring to America’s “arrogance.” Karl Rove rushed onto Fox News this morning, huffing and puffing, to criticize the president, saying that he could have made the same remarks with a positive spin on the subject. He should say what good things American is going to do not dwell on the bad she has done. If he needed to, Rove opined, he could even show a contrast with the past, but without admitting to our weakness. Act presidential.
But there is a time to quit “acting.” Most of the people in the world think that we are arrogant and talking about that perception openly is disarming and long overdue.
The Pope could have answered the Church pedophile crisis by announcing a new “quality search” for the best men, the most balanced and moral of men to serve the Church as priests. “This is a new, forward looking program that will make the Catholic experience better for us all.” But ignoring the truth of what was happening would not have helped. Sometimes you have to hit the problem head-on.
It doesn’t hurt for Americans to learn what the rest of the world thinks. They think we are myopic, self-centered and foolishly arrogant know-it-alls who are wrong at least half the time and should quit trying to tell everybody else how to run their countries. Balance your own budget, they say. Don’t lecture us on how to solve the Global economic crisis, you started it, you ninnies. Educate your own stupid children, they say. And start doing something about your own epidemic of pornography and violence, as in the spate of killings this week, before you lecture us on “freedom.”
Mary Wells transformed Madison Avenue by her “truth in advertising” philosophy. According to Wells, you simply state a truth, especially a negative one, and people will then believe everything else you have to say.
In the 1960’s the French automobile manufacturer, Renault, took out full page ads in major newsweeklies to headline why their cars broke down on American highways. People read the ads and thought, now why did Renault pay all that money to talk about their mistakes? But then the ad went on to say something along these lines, “our cars broke down because they were built for the smaller European roads but now, the engineers who built the bestselling automobiles in Europe have designed a new car for the American highways.” They started with the unpleasant truth and everything else they said was believable.
Barack Obama cannot be blamed for the worldwide perception of American arrogance. But in an age when some believe that it is only a matter of time before a terrorist will possess a nuclear device, it is a dangerous, isolated place for this country to be. The first way out is to see what others see and admit it and try to solve it. At least now, thanks to Obama, they will listen to what else we have to say.
Of course, the next step is to listen to them.
I’m not a socialist and I feel the painful irony as Europe looks on aghast at America’s flirt with the very leftist policies that sent their economies reeling. No wonder the Germans and Swedes are horrified. Has America lost its’ mind? And I am hoping that the first thing America learns in its retreat from arrogance is that embracing what Europe has already tried and abandoned will not work. I am hoping that President Obama means what he says and that he is actually rethinking things after encountering Merkel and others at the summit. But admitting to American arrogance is not a bad start.
Now if Obama will only admit to his own.