On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry continued his bumpy first out-of-the-country tour with an homage to the ugly Americans he represents. Speaking in Germany, he told students, “In America, you have a right to be stupid, if you want to be, and you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be. And we tolerate that – we somehow make it through that.”
Portraying Americans as idiots disconnected from the world or reality is a Kerry specialty; in 2004, he infamously said that if you were stupid, you’d get stuck in Iraq. But it’s also a specialty of the Obama administration abroad. President Obama was happy to spend his first days in office traveling to countries with largely anti-American populations begging them for forgiveness for America’s supposed foolishness and insularity. In France, Obama bashed America for showing “arrogance” and being “dismissive, even derisive.” In London, Obama blathered about the evils of American egocentrism, saying financial decisions couldn’t be made by “Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy.”
Kerry’s defense of the “right to be stupid” mirrors President Obama’s bizarrely apologetic position that freedom of speech is awkward and unwieldly, if ultimately justifiable. In his speech to the United Nations in September following the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, Obama gave a half-hearted defense of free speech, whining, “I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do,” and shrugging, “I know that not all countries in this body share this understanding of the protection of free speech.” In that same speech, Obama explained, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” That is hardly a robust defense of free speech principles.
The Obama administration agrees with much of the European community that the ugly American is a force for negativity in the world. But the question remains: is that belief driven by actual ugly Americans, or by leftists who constantly portray Americans as ugly?
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).