“Why no apologies? Because America, operating under conservative ideology, is seen as the world’s ultimate legitimate authority, whose actions define what is right.”– George Lakoff, explaining Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney frequently denounces Pres. Obama for “apologizing for America.” He never quite says that America has done nothing wrong or even that it has done nothing apology-worthy, but that no president should ever apologize for it. He named his campaign book “No Apologies: The Case for American Greatness.”
As I mentioned the other day, fact-checkers who studied the text of Obama’s statements during what Romney calls Obama’s “apology tour” or 2009 generally conclude that Obama didn’t actually, literally apologize. But to me, that’s not the main point.
In a piece for “Reader Supported News,” liberal linguist George Lakoff and co-author Elisabeth Wehling take on the “no apologies” meme and do a good job of explaining what Romney hopes to get out of it. Here’s an excerpt:
“Romney’s use of ‘apology’ for diplomacy will continue to surface. Here is what Romney said in his book: [Obama] ‘has apologized for what he deems to be American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, and for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and for feeding anti-Muslim sentiments; for committing torture, for dragging our feet on global warming and for selectively promoting democracy.’ A great many other Americans agree with Obama that such an approach to foreign policy must end because it does not lead to peace.
There is a clear division here on what American foreign policy should be. America, Romney suggests, should continue those behaviors that characterize a foreign policy based on force and intimidation as opposed to treating other nations with the respect required for effective diplomacy and the protection of human life around the world.
The Heritage Foundation, when discussing President Obama’s diplomacy efforts in 2009, used the apology frame that also Romney adopted: “Apologizing for your own country projects an image of weakness before both allies and enemies. It sends a very clear signal that the U.S. is to blame for some major developments on the world stage. This can be used to the advantage of those who wish to undermine American global leadership.”
Romney’s statement has to be seen in this larger context. It does not merely reflect Romney’s attitude and it is not just about this political moment. The frame he chose reflects a core belief among extreme conservatives about foreign policy, diplomacy, and America’s role in the world.
Romney’s framing of the events goes far beyond an attempt to score political points in the midst of a national tragedy. It is intended to strengthen extreme conservative beliefs about American foreign policy. Why no apologies? Because America, operating under conservative ideology, is seen as the world’s ultimate legitimate authority, whose actions define what is right. Therefore, there should be no need to apologize for doing what is right, and since that authority must be maintained, it would be wrong to apologize even if an apology were warranted. Even operating diplomatically, with real mutual respect, would be showing weakness by giving up the authority that should be maintained in all negotiations. That is a view that poses a real danger to peace both in the US and abroad.