Flashback: Obama Criticized ‘Cosmopolitan’ ‘International Elite’

Obama Speaks 2018
Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama criticized a new “international elite” who are “cosmopolitan in their outlook” in a 2018 speech and drew little charge of antisemitism compared to Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) recent use of the same words.

Hawley said Tuesday that the “liberal thought police” do not want politicians to discuss the outsourcing of American jobs and the weakening of American families.

Sen. Hawley, one of the Senate’s rising conservative figures, delivered a speech recently at the National Conservatism conference, charging that the “cosmopolitan class” seeks mass globalization and “closer and closer economic union, more immigration … more trade on whatever terms,” which blurs the “boundaries between America and the rest of the world” and ultimately undermines American sovereignty.

However, despite the Missouri Republican’s vigorous defense of the institutions that he believes uphold the American community – such as family, neighborhood, and church – many elites took the opportunity to strike at the populist Republican, alleging that Hawley’s use of the word “cosmopolitan” carries antisemitic overtones.

In 1946, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin started an antisemitic campaign against “rootless cosmopolitans” that purged many Jews in the Soviet Union and promoted antisemitism throughout the soviet republics.

Naya Lekht, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), said that Stalin’s fight against “rootless cosmopolitans” “aimed to disenfranchise ethnic Jews by showing them to have loyalties outside of the Soviet Union.”

However, despite the charges of antisemitism levied against Sen. Hawley, it appears that other world leaders, including former President Obama, criticized a new “international elite” class that had a “cosmopolitan” outlook in a speech in South Africa in July 2018.

Obama said that this new elite has a “disproportionate influence on their countries’ political life and its media” and that this elite remains out-of-touch with the average citizen.

The former Democrat president also argued that this elite often makes business decisions to outsource manufacturing, move a company to a tax haven, or take advantage of “lower-cost immigrant labor” because they are “detached” from any “locale” or “nation-state.”

Despite Stalin’s use of “cosmopolitanism” as part of his antisemitic purge, experts such as Yoram Hazony contend that one can use the term “cosmopolitan” to describe out-of-touch elites and “citizens of the world” without connecting to its antisemitic past.

Hawley’s use of “cosmopolitan” drew swift condemnations, accusing the senator of antisemitism despite the Republican Jewish Committee (RJC) backing him amidst the leftists’ censure of Hawley.

New York Times‘ op-ed columnist Paul Krugman said that Jews should be scared by Hawley’s use of the word “cosmopolitan.”

Adam Blickstein, the vice president of the Glover Park Group, called Hawley an antisemite, “full stop.”

Never Trump neoconservative Bill Kristol said Hawley was engaging in “demagogic dog-whistling.”

Washington Post columnist Max Boot said that Hawley used the word “cosmopolitan” as a “euphemism” for “Jews” by “excoriating the ‘cosmopolitan elite’ that he claims secretly controls America.”

Karen Aroesty, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in St. Louis, Missouri, said that Hawley might not have intended to offend listeners to his speech; however, she said terms such as “cosmopolitan” and “globalist” have a history of antisemitic dog whistles and that Hawley should apologize.

The leftists’ condemnation of Hawley raises the question why many of the same pundits did not equally slam Obama for using the word “cosmopolitan.”

Obama said:

 A decent percentage consider themselves liberal in their politics, modern and cosmopolitan in their outlook. Unburdened by parochialism, or nationalism, or overt racial prejudice or strong religious sentiment, they are equally comfortable in New York or London or Shanghai or Nairobi or Buenos Aires, or Johannesburg.

But what’s nevertheless true is that in their business dealings, many titans of industry and finance are increasingly detached from any single locale or nation-state, and they live lives more and more insulated from the struggles of ordinary people in their countries of origin. And their decisions – their decisions to shut down a manufacturing plant, or to try to minimize their tax bill by shifting profits to a tax haven with the help of high-priced accountants or lawyers, or their decision to take advantage of lower-cost immigrant labor, or their decision to pay a bribe – are often done without malice; it’s just a rational response, they consider, to the demands of their balance sheets and their shareholders and competitive pressures

Sen. Hawley questioned whether the “language police” will “denounce” Obama for using a word with antisemitic overtones.


Matt Stoller, a former Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) aide and fellow at the Open Markets Institute (OMI), said that Hawley was right to call out America’s Silicon Valley and Wall Street elite as ruining the American middle class.

Stoller said that “cosmopolitan” serves as more of a “critique of corporate power” that is “out of the bounds of liberal discourse,” which may explain why so many leftists attacked the Missouri Republican after he delivered his keynote speech at the National Conservatism conference.

Stoller continued, saying that Hawley has served as the one Republican to continually call out the nefarious effects of “corporate power.” The OMI fellow said that Hawley “is at war with the Koch brothers,” while too many Democrats are “still in thrall to Google.”

“If you don’t want to be criticized as favoring cosmopolitan elites, then next time there’s a financial crisis, don’t bail out bankers, shovel growth to the technology sector, and pour money onto wealthy lawyers in coastal mega-cities. Or throw tantrums,” Stoller added. “Either one’s fine.”

Hawley said that the “liberal thought police” do not want to discuss American outsourcing of jobs, the declining middle class, or weakened families.

“Or maybe the pretentious liberal thought police will admit the truth. They don’t want to talk about their policies that have offshored American jobs, hurt American workers, weakened American families – and they’ll scream & attack if you dare question them,” Hawley wrote.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.