WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2016 — Secret Service agents had to intervene on behalf of Susan Rice. President Obama’s national security advisor got into an argument with a Chinese airport official who tried to keep her from joining the presidential motorcade on the tarmac of Hangzhou airport in China.
Another row erupted over which set of stairs would wheel up to Air Force One, allowing the American president to deplane—the one belonging to China or the one belonging to the White House advance team.
A Chinese functionary tried to settle the issue with an appeal to nationalism. “This is our country,” he told a White House staffer, “this is our airport.”
The standoff forced Obama to deplane via Air Force One’s belly gangway.
On the way to Laos for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Obama planned a stop in the Philippines to meet with the plain-spoken President Rodrigo Duterte. It was rumored that he would ask Duterte hard questions about the thousands of extra-legal killings in the Philippines drug war.
“I am no American puppet. I am the president of a sovereign country and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people,” Duterte declared to the world press ahead of Obama’s visit.
To make sure the American president knew exactly where he was coming from, Duterte added, “Son of a bitch, I will swear at you.”
The meeting was canceled.
In 2008, President-elect Obama told an adoring throng in Berlin, “A continent [Europe] came together [against the Soviet Union], and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.”
The world came together then because America produced strong leaders, like the one who dropped two atomic bombs on a brutal and expansionist Japan, and dared the Soviet Union to shoot down American planes delivering food to blockaded Berliners.
Or the one who risked nuclear war by establishing a naval blockade around Cuba until the Russians removed their short-range nuclear missiles from Fidel Castro’s prison island.
Both Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy were Democrats.
“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism,” said Obama during a state visit to France in 2009.
Nearly eight years later, world leaders like Duterte throw Obama’s contemptuous view of American exceptionalism back in his face.
Some say Obama’s legacy is that he is America’s first African-American president. Others, that he gave us the collapsing government-run healthcare system mockingly called Obamacare.
They are both wrong.
His crowning achievement is that he has managed to lower America’s greatness to his unexceptional level.