Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


What I wish Hillary Clinton had said about American exceptionalism

REUTERS/Chris Keane
Hillary Clinton speaking at Futuramic Tool & Engineering in Warren, Michigan, on Thursday.

I went a little crazy the other day ripping Hillary Clinton for her embrace of “American exceptionalism.” In the discussion thread and in discussions I had with friends, a common reaction was something like this:

She’s a politician preparing to run for president. She was asked if she believes in American exceptionalism. Of course, she had to say yes. To say no would be political suicide. Give her a break.

I get that, sorta. Clinton’s riff on exceptionalism set me off in part because in my mind the subject went straight to her worst blunder: the 2002 vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq. And that sent me to my least favorite aspect of the conceit we call American exceptionalism, which is the belief that the United States is an “exception” to the international norms, rules and laws that seek to prevent wars except in the most necessary cases. I’m pretty tired of my country being in a perpetual state of war, especially since most of the wars turn out to be unnecessary, often sold to the public on premises that turn out to be false and most of them bringing higher costs and lower benefits than we are generally promised.

And, of course, there’s the killing.

So, for the heck of it, I decided to imagine what I wish Clinton had said in 2014 to Jane Pauley, when asked whether she believes in American exceptionalism. To clarify, the following is a made-up quote of what Clinton might have said to that question:

Of course I believe America is an exceptional country. By exceptional, I mean that it is a great country and I thank the fates that caused me to be born here and grow up here and have the great life that I’ve been able to have. Some Americans face more challenges than others in getting to a great life, and reducing those disparities must remain on our to-do list. But sometimes, lately, it seems that everyone is so focused on their grievances that they overlook the basic good fortune we share just to be Americans, considering some of the possible alternatives and considering that most of us did nothing to become Americans other than being born here.

One thing I very much appreciate about America, although we are not the only nation in the world that has done this, is that we are always striving to be better, and to overcome the dark stains and strains of the past, like racism and sexism and, of course, the original sin of what the first Europeans did to the real natives.

We have made strides, but still have challenges in those areas.

It’s amazing, when you look back at our history, that we are currently benefiting from the excellent, outstanding presidency of my friend Barack Obama, the first African-American president. And if the people of America give me the honor, I hope next year to demonstrate something that would have amazed our Founding Fathers, that a mother can also be a very good president. But, notwithstanding the symbolic importance of the race or gender of the president, we still have a lot of work to do to equalize opportunities across race and gender and class lines, and I am committed to doing what I can, to keep pushing toward full equality of rights and opportunities for all.

Of course, countries all over the world are striving to make themselves better and to make life better for the people who live there. Some countries are doing a better job than we are in some areas, like extending health care to all, providing higher educational opportunities to all, distributing the basic necessities of life more evenly from the top to the bottom of the scale of wealth and income. It’s important that we not get so involved in our pride in America that we overlook opportunities to learn from experiments in other countries, and adopt and adapt some of their ideas and programs that have proven successful. If American exceptionalism means we think we’re so exceptional that we can’t learn from successful experiments in other countries, then it starts to become a bad thing.

And then there’s the area of foreign and military affairs. The United States is, and has been since at least 1945, the most militarily powerful nation in the world. That’s one way we are “exceptional.” And with that power, I think, comes a moral obligation to play a leadership role in the world to work for peace and justice. If I am president, I will seek to help my country play that role, as it has often done, or tried to do.

But if, when people say they believe in American exceptionalism, they mean that we are an exception to the rule of international law, and an exception to the fundamental law, embedded in the U.N. Charter, that no member nation can use military force or the threat of military force to resolve their differences, then I have a problem with our country, or any country, declaring itself to be an exception to that rule. We can’t expect others to observe that rule if we violate it whenever we feel like it.

The United States will always defend itself, and we will fulfill our treaty obligation to, for example, defend any of our fellow NATO members that come under attack. But the big problem is that too often too many people expand American exceptionalism into a free pass to start wars or foment covert coups to overthrow governments we don’t like but that have not attacked the United States or any of its allies. Many of those actions turn out badly. And all of them send a signal to the world that we are not willing to abide by rules and laws that we expect them to follow.

A recent and very relevant case is the U.S. decision to bomb, then invade Iraq in 2003 in order to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein. Saddam was, surely, a vile, evil dictator whom I hope is now rotting in hell. But for the foreseeable future, there will continue to be dictatorships, including some led by vile, evil men. And I hope that the United States will always seek to promote the spread of democracy in a way that will reduce the number of such dictators.

But as long as we subscribe to the U.N. Charter and the rule of law, we must not use military force to decide who is fit to rule in other countries, unless a particular dictator has committed such evil that the U.N. authorizes a collective action to remove him.

Even if not for our respect for the rule of law, recent history teaches us that these kinds of operations do not make the world or the United States safer. And the Iraq case demonstrates powerfully – through the ongoing horrors of most of the Mideast 13 years after the death of Saddam Hussein – that such operations can and often do have unintended consequences.

Yes, as a senator, I voted to authorize the use of military force. It’s a vote I regret. Yes, I disapproved of the way President Bush used that authorization, but my vote helped make it happen, and I will have live with that mistake forever. And I will try to learn the right lesson from that experience.

But for now, on the subject of the vague and beloved notion of “American exceptionalism,” I would like to reassure the nation and the world that I do not consider the United States to be an exception to the rules and laws that govern the rest of the world in the area of respecting the sovereignty of other nations and rules for the use of force between nations.

Please don’t mistake this for any kind of “isolationism.” Without getting involved in constant wars, the United States can remain very involved as a force for good in the world. There may be cases when the United States, because of its leadership role and its capabilities, sees an opportunity to get involved on the edge of a conflict, perhaps to create a safe haven for refugees from the conflict. The current horrible civil war in Syria might be an example where there’s an opportunity, without being drawn into the middle of another country’s civil war, to play a humanitarian role like that. Because we do occupy what one might call an exceptional role as a world leader, I would be open to missions like that.

As president, I would hope to strengthen the role of the U.N., especially as an organization that can prevent wars or, when necessary, authorize a coalition of nations, to restore peace.

Thank you. I’m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message, even though it was written for me my some clown in Minnesota.

End of imaginary Clinton statement.

Here, by the way, is Chapter 1, Articles 1 and 2 of the U.N., which lay out the laws of war and peace.

As evolved, the power of any one of the five permanent members of the U.N. to veto any resolution often makes it impossible for the U.N. to authorize collective military action. Perhaps the U.N. system cannot work as it was designed to work. Personally, I would be open to reform of that system, in a way that makes a U.N. resolution to take action a truer reflection of the opinion of the civilized world. But that is unlikely to happen, which makes the dilemma worse.

Comments (94)

  1. Submitted by Patrick Joseph on 08/17/2016 - 08:59 am.

    The Soucheray of Minnpost

    A few years ago, Joe Soucheray wrote a column where he started with a line “What I think about…” This is a sign of the end of days for a columnist or writer. Mr. Black has now reached that point with his last two columns. You can picture him, sipping a cup of coffee, writing “What I think about Donald Trump” or “What I wish Hillary Clinton had said”. The categorical error is in believing that we, the reader, MUST want the world interpreted through their visions, that we no longer want reporting, interviewing of others, different perspectives, we just want Eric Black to have a cup of coffee and vent, because his view is SO informative, because…………….

    In your next column, talk to other people, and struggle, please struggle to remember that a column is not personal therapy.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/17/2016 - 09:31 am.

      Oh, but it is….

      “please struggle to remember that a column is not personal therapy”

      It is about opinion and a columnist has been given license by their employer to express their opinions until that license is taken away.

      Expressing opinion is universally personal therapy, whether here at the bottom of the page, or at the top of the page.

      Now I feel better….

    • Submitted by Kyle Lysford on 08/17/2016 - 11:40 am.

      What else is a column?

      If you want ‘just the facts’ why not stick to reporting done by the AP? What’s the point of a column if we don’t want the world interpreted through the vision and writing of the writer? Eric does plenty of what you’re talking about. He stated right in the beginning why he was writing this. I personally thought it was a great way to dig into the nuances of his biases (which we all have).

      There is no such thing as objective reporting, so I actually very much appreciated a dive into the nuance and minutiae of his thoughts around this subject. I think that the best way to strive for an ‘objective’ understanding is through an honest examination and reflection on your own values and biases, and attempting to be as forthright as possible about them. I thought the post was well written and displayed a great depth of thinking about an issue that is so commonly presented as a simple binary (is America great/exceptional/THEBEST or NOT?). It’s not an either or proposition. (This 2nd paragraph isn’t a reply to your comment, by the way, I just didn’t want to write a 2nd comment to express my initial reaction to the piece 🙂 )

    • Submitted by Roy Everson on 08/17/2016 - 11:40 am.

      Voters determine if A.E. is good or bad

      Huge diff between a what-if spouted by someone who is intellectually lazy and someone who has a long career as a hardworking journalist. A.E. is a theme that is destined to stay with us a while. The only issue is if it is perceived in positive or negative light. The right wing has stolen and perverted words such as patriot, liberal, liberty and freedom, etc. They do the same with A.E., but perhaps will be thwarted if we’re in the midst of a new Progressive Era.

  2. Submitted by Marcia Wattson on 08/17/2016 - 09:32 am.

    Eric for President!

    Actually, you don’t need to run. We have a candidate already who has shown clear evidence throughout her entire career that she would agree with your statement. Her name is Hillary Clinton. I have every confidence that, as President, she will act to further the vision you describe. She may not be a paragon, but there is no substantial evidence to support the exaggerated claims about her trustworthiness. It is nothing but the repeated Big Lie.

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 08/17/2016 - 10:57 pm.

      I second the nomination

      Or at least Secretary of State. But however much I may endorse the sentiments of fictional Hillary, I know real Hillary would never say such things, not because she happens to have been running for President for the last eight years but because she does not believe a word of them. The stampede of neoconservatives of all political stripes rushing to endorse her candidacy is telling.

  3. Submitted by John Appelen on 08/17/2016 - 09:39 am.

    Turn Back on Majority

    So in your view the USA and England should have turned their backs on the requests by the majority of Iraqis to oust Saddam? (ie Shiites and Kurds)

    Which Option did you support?

    1 Maintain No Fly Zone indefinitely

    2 Walk away and let Saddam take vengeance on Shiites and Kurds

    3 Invade, oust Saddam and give Iraqis a chance at self rule

    Since Russia would block any declaration to oust Assad and they are now intentionally bombing hospitals in the rebel areas. What do you think should be done?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/17/2016 - 11:15 am.

      Which Option?

      Which option is a viable one, under international law?

      A request by a “majority” to oust a recognized government does not count, I’m afraid.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 08/17/2016 - 12:22 pm.

      Bring Me Up To Speed

      Was there some sort of vote I never heard about? Just how did this majority you speak of ask for the US to invade their country?

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/17/2016 - 12:41 pm.


      I do not believe there was any opinion polling in Iraq in 2001; so, to imply that we just gave the Iraqi’s what they wanted is a stretch.

      All manner of atrocities have and continue to occur on the African continent and yet we have not had our troops on the ground since Rommel. So; to imply that we do these things for the people is wrong: We do it for our own self interest and that self interest is sometimes extremely misplaced when we allow ideologues the likes of Paul Wolfowitz to influence our decision making.

      Want to restore the luster of American Exceptionalism? Take the 5 Trillion we have spent since 911 and use it to cure cancer and share that with the world.

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 08/17/2016 - 10:53 pm.


      Contain Saddam and his military just as we contained the Soviet Union from 1945 until its collapse. The option I would not have supported would have been to launch a war of choice on trumped-up grounds with inadequate forces or international support to fulfill the obligation to maintain public order after removing the de facto regime and disbanding its army, causing a wave of chaos to wash over the entire region and turning Iraq into the leading power in the Middle East. What I wish Hillary or someone of her stature would say is that that was by far the worst debacle in the history of US foreign relations and that failing to learn from it will leave future generations with the wistful feeling that once upon a time their country was a force to be reckoned with in the world, just as Great Britain, France, Spain, Rome, Macedonia and the Pharaohs were in their day.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/18/2016 - 08:16 am.

        Sounds like 1

        So you would be okay if the USA was still maintaining the No Fly Zones now?

        Now it has been reported often this week that the Syrian Government and it allies are proactively targeting hospitals and emergency service personnel.

        What should we do? Watch?

        • Submitted by Doug Gray on 08/18/2016 - 09:46 am.

          Perfectly OK

          Yes. Containment isn’t “watching.” Had we contained Saddam we would not have had to worry about Syria dropping bombs on its own people, Iran being the major regional power, Yemen in flames, chaos in Iraq, etc. etc.

          A question for you: how has US intervention in the Middle East since 2003 made it a better place or its people more free, secure or prosperous?

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/18/2016 - 02:33 pm.


            Since the past and consequences is uncertain, what do you want to do about Syria and Russia dropping bombs on hospitals?

            What have we learned and what should we do today?

            • Submitted by Doug Gray on 08/18/2016 - 07:46 pm.

              Certainly not…

              …repeat and compound the mistakes of the past with a similar “ready, fire, aim” response. I’m more than happy to leave the details of what needs to be a diplomatic solution to the experts in this Administration. What we have learned, if we needed to learn it, is that despotic regimes will do anything to hang onto power including oppressing, torturing and attacking their own people; something that is as true when US-backed governments do it as it is in Syria.

              Now, do you care to answer my question or do you concede that US intervention since 2003 has made the Middle East worse off, not better, and that any pretense of concern for oppressed peoples that may have been cited as justification for that intervention is exactly that, mere pretense?

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/18/2016 - 09:28 pm.

                So though bullies are killing children and emergency personnel that come to save them. Did you know they have an interesting technique to maximize the number of casualties? Apparently the planes drop half their bombs, and then they come back and drop the other half after the help has arrived. Your answer is leave the details to others. It is an interesting opinion. It is like watching two young bullies beat another child while standing in the crowd asking for others to help before intervening.

                Please remember that the path to hell is paved with good intentions… Just as welfare sincerely meant to help people has created many more dependent poor people, the invasion sincerely meant to free the Iraqis from oppression did create more chaos. They just weren’t prepared for the freedom and Obama took the training wheels of way too soon.

                Here is an interesting more pragmatic perspective from an Iraqi

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/19/2016 - 10:33 am.

                  “Obama took the training wheels of way too soon.”

                  Leaving aside the implications of your choice of imagery, I will note–yet again–that the US downgraded its military role in Iraq because the government of Iraq would not agree to any further mission. Under the very clearly delineated norms of international law, the US has no right to be in Iraq without the permission of the Iraqi government (still a sovereign government, recognized as such by the US). This is true regardless of whether we decide they aren’t “prepared for freedom” and are just going to let sloth and heathen folly bring all our hopes to nought.

                  • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/19/2016 - 11:16 am.

                    Takes cynical leaders to control cynical leaders

                    Of course you do remind us of technical reasons (perhaps excuses here, as some argue).

                    As one who believes new Presidents “purchase” predecessor problems rather than “inherit” them, I believe any move like this withdrawal must realistically plan for after-action results. The rise of dormant factions seen since that withdrawal were all predicted by Saddam Hussein in one of his televised speeches as we first entered Baghdad, before he fled. I’ve looked for web copies to reference here, but cannot yet find them. I very clearly heard those prescient predictions as I watched him. He was not “crazy,” either in demeanor then or in accuracy of what is now. He was “angry,” angered by our naïveté, our stupidity in letting loose demons.

                    One may blame George W. Bush for many short-sighted (stupid some say) actions. One must also fault Barack Obama for stubborn adherence to a faulty vision of his own regarding that region and his personal priorities. You buy a bad house, you own it. Do you fix it, sell it or walk away from the mortgage? Regardless of decision, you own the consequences. Nobody gets out free on this one.

                    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 08/19/2016 - 11:50 am.

                      The choices were limited

                      The Obama Administration tried hard to get a new SOFA with the Iraqi government, but refused the concept of trying American servicemen in Iragi courts. (one can only imaging the outrage from conservative folks if he had agreed to such a notion.) It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback it and say that Obama could have obviously done *something” to get around that without providing evidence of what exactly he could have done that would have been mutually acceptable. President Obama can’t force the American Congress to do what he wants, why are we to believe that he can force the Iraqi legislative body — most of which were elected on the basis of ending the occupation, it should be noted — to do what he wants?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/19/2016 - 12:36 pm.

                      He Wanted Out

                      It was simple, Obama’s heart was not in the negotiations. He had made an election promise to withdraw and that was what he intended to do.

                      I am pretty sure it would have been easy to buy a Military base in NW Iraq, but that would not have been a complete withdrawal. And the rest is history.

                    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 08/19/2016 - 12:48 pm.

                      Bogus Narrative

                      President Obama promised to get us out of Afghanistan, too, yet the next President is going to inherit thousands of American troops there. So what evidence is there that Obama is so rigid on that point?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/19/2016 - 07:23 pm.

                      He Can Learn

                      I would say that Obama learned from the disastrous mistake he made in Iraq.

                      By the way, that is a compliment to him.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/19/2016 - 02:56 pm.

                      Omnia Vincit Pecunia?

                      “I am pretty sure it would have been easy to buy a Military base in NW Iraq, but that would not have been a complete withdrawal.” Well, no. Countries don’t “sell” military bases unless they are ceding sovereignty over a part of their territory. US bases in foreign countries are leased for a definite period, and the rules governing the operations of those bases and the actions of troops stationed there is likewise governed by treaty (a “Status of Forces” agreement, if you’ve ever heard that term).

                      Even if the US did lease a base in NW Iraq, there still would have to be some agreement about what the troops stationed there could do. There would also have to be agreement regarding whether those troops were subject to Iraqi law once off the base.

                      “He had made an election promise to withdraw and that was what he intended to do.” Honestly! How dare he try to keep a campaign promise, especially in light of the fact that it reflected popular opinion in the US. It’s as if that Obama thinks he is President of a representative democracy!

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/19/2016 - 12:25 pm.

                      Technical Reasons v. Excuses

                      I hate to sound like a one-note on this, but the norms of international conduct are neither “technical reasons” nor “excuses.” They are instead the rules by which civilized nations conduct themselves.

                      Real estate imagery cannot alter the fact that the US is, and has always regarded itself as, bound by the same rules as any other nation state.

                    • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/19/2016 - 04:20 pm.

                      Officially, at least

                      I believe the housing example is simple, clear and applicable. The Obama team bought this property along with others. They bought this and essentially “flipped” it in an attempt to leave the neighborhood revitalization to others. They were following no norm of international conduct here, in a region lacking normative conduct. This administration basically took over a deed they knew to contain a restrictive covenant; and, then did little to seek modification of that covenant. Since then that neighborhood has significantly decayed and become more violent with the rise of many new street gangs.

                      The prior owner certainly did damage this property; nevertheless, the new owner quickly dumped it, doing little to repair it. And there it now sits in the midst of gang wars.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/19/2016 - 04:53 pm.


                      Your argument has no curb appeal.

                      “They were following no norm of international conduct here, in a region lacking normative conduct.” The Status of Forces Agreement required US troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. No new agreement was put in place. The norm of international conduct was following the dictates of a valid agreement between two nations.

                      The norms of international conduct are the same all over the world. Agreements are honored. It is not for the US to say where they do or do not apply.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/19/2016 - 07:35 pm.

                      I agree

                      Well, I think your comparison makes sense.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/18/2016 - 08:36 am.

      Muddled reasoning begets disaster

      There’s was never any “request” for invasion by the people of Iraq, there was only the delusion among White House staff that the invasion would be welcomed with candy and flowers. Since there was no “request” to ignore the entire premise of this argument is simply facile.

      The no fly zone was far less costly to maintain in every way than the war, and would never have produced ISIS.

      The invasion didn’t prevent sectarian vengeance, it promoted it (Someone must have missed the whole civil war thing that happened after the invasion).

      There is no legal or moral authority that any American president can claim that gives them the right to decide that a million Iraqi’s are better off dead and maimed for life than they would have been living under Saddam. The notion that killing a million Iraqi’s in order to “give” them a chance at self rule is morally justified is moral bankruptcy pretending to be moral justification.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/18/2016 - 02:27 pm.


        Do you truly believe that the vast majority of Shia and Kurds weren’t begging Clinton and Bush to remove Saddam from power by any means? Even as he was hunting and killing them. Really?

        I often find it amazing how folks want to lay the death of a million people at the feet of the invasion. First, 10’s of thousands of people were dying in Iraq each year before we showed up. Second, the invasion apparently only lasted ~21 days.

        Unfortunately it was “civil war” that has ensued since that caused the deaths. We killed off the warden, but it was the inmates who chose to kill each other instead of cooperating.

        It would have been interesting to hear the comments here, if we were still maintaining the No Fly Zones and Saddam was still threatening to blow up Israel.

        • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/19/2016 - 11:49 am.


          You will never sway the rigid. Facts do matter, even when rejected.

          So many simply wish to declare 1991 the valid campaign, the clean and moral decision to form our usual suspects into yet another war coalition. I buy that, but not without clarity of what we discovered then and remembered (planned for?) in 2002. Does everyone not know about or respect just one issue of reality: the SCUDs? The Gulf War proved Saddam was a vicious opponent. We attacked from Kuwait and he launched missiles into Israel. Does that come under some definition of “asymmetric,” do you think? I do.

          As we came into 2003 Baghdad, reports told us two angry guys in a Benz were stopped at our northern city checkpoint. Apparently, sources later identified them as former Soviet Army officers, now discussing an entrepreneurial plan to replace those remaining pieces of junk with more modern and dependable missiles.
          At least that hasn’t happened….or has it?

          We little folk rarely know details of what, where, and why–just who and when, usually. I’m getting very tired of pointless re-litigation of pointless calamity. We may soon be arguing Gulf War 3, for all we do/don’t know now.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/19/2016 - 08:08 pm.

            Short Memories

            It does seem that many have short memories. And I find it fascinating that people are unwilling to admit that we Americans would really hate living under a dictator, and would be thankful if a benevolent country freed us. (ie my scenario at bottom of comments)

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/20/2016 - 07:17 am.

          The other thing muddled thinking begets…

          More muddled thinking. We had ONE guy begging us to invade Iraq and he turned out to be a fraud.

          Yes, Saddam was a bad guy but he wouldn’t have killed a million Iraqi’s and OUR president has no moral or legal authority to decide that those people are better off dead. We did more harm to Iraq than Saddam was doing AND we destabilized the entire region.

          And by the way, these arguments are always illuminating in that when the guys who claim to be all about personal responsibility screw up in any way large or small… you see them argue why in a million ways to Sunday and more anyone and everyone but they themselves are to blame. It seems they simply have no coherent concept of “responsibility”.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/20/2016 - 03:27 pm.


            “We did more harm to Iraq ” We will have to disagree.

            From my view all the USA did was remove a repressive oppressive violent murderous regime who represented a small segment of their society (Sunnis) from power at the request of the majority (Kurds and Shiites).

            I also believe whole heartedly that if the USA is ever taken over by such a Dictator/group, we would be wishing and praying for someone to free us from that situation. Do you disagree?

            As for responsibility, we removed the violent warden/guards and donated lives / money / expertise to free and help the prisoners improve their lives. Unfortunately they chose to fight and kill each other instead of seizing the incredible gift they were given. That choice and the following consequences are theirs to own.

  4. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 08/17/2016 - 10:23 am.

    We need a new definition of exceptionalism

    Definition of EXCEPTIONALISM.
    The condition of being different from the norm.

    We are definitely different from the norm in many unfavorable ways.

    Exceptionalism is not:
    Perpetual political grid lock.
    An inability to work for a common goal.
    Fiction being the gold standard.
    The most powerful military which keeps getting beat by IED’s triggered by cell phones.
    Congress’ inability work together.
    Congress’ inability to vote to declare war, so we fight undeclared wars instead.
    Fighting undeclared wars but forgetting about our veterans needs when the politicians are done with them.
    Congress’ salary and lifetime benefits being vote by the politicians for the politicians.
    Claiming we have the best medical system in the world, but we don’t.
    Claiming we have the best education system, when our kids are failing to make the grade.
    Proclaiming you will order our troops to break the law.
    Choosing to handle classified information on a personal server of your choice.
    A political system that is stewing in it’s own unforced errors.
    Hard work and ingenuity not paying off for those actually doing the work, only those at the top.

    Feel free to add your own exceptions to the claim of exceptionalism.

    New definition of exceptionalism:
    The condition of being different from the norm in a positive way.

  5. Submitted by Jim Million on 08/17/2016 - 11:38 am.

    President, Precedent, Precipitant

    That’s my word association challenge for this day, and this day’s visit to the Black Hole.

    Seems Eric read my previous comment noting the sensible (proper) interpretation of “American Exceptionalism.” For those who missed the source reference, here it is again:

    “The word “exceptional” has two definitions:
    1. forming an exception or rare instance; unusual, and 2. unusually excellent; superior.”

    Please note the primary and proper interpretation. Those who denigrate and apologize seem to prefer #2.
    Protocol places the formal, the most used and universally recognized meaning in #1 position:

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/17/2016 - 01:52 pm.


      Historically, this in the correct interpretation. American “exceptionalism” originally, and most accurately, in my opinion, refers to the fact that the United States did not go through an extensive feudal period. Political institutions born of the Enlightenment were transplanted as they were onto a new territory.

      Of course, that read on American history is not entirely true, but it is the received version of events.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/17/2016 - 02:44 pm.

        Textbook, Yes

        Really doesn’t reflect our position after Hamilton and Tocqueville discussed our experience. Seems proper to look at “exceptional” probably more in terms of 20th Century “exception to the rule.” That’s the important nuance to me.

  6. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/17/2016 - 03:27 pm.

    My 2¢

    I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Blaise and Mr. Lysford, particularly the latter’s point about “objective” reporting, of which there is no such thing. We cannot help but be creatures of our time, place and circumstance, and likewise can’t help but have that reflected in our thought (and in this case, our writing). What I always hope to see in a news item I read is an equally-elusive tone wherein an oppositional view might be given its due, and then the reader is shown why the author thinks that oppositional view is flawed, or wrong, or cosmically stupid, or something along those lines. I’d argue that readers will see far more of an attempt at that sort of “fairness,” however one chooses to define it, in one of Eric’s pieces than is likely to ever occur in a similar piece written by one of the two or three most-frequent writers on a site like Power Line. “Doctrinaire” is one rather polite term to use to describe the most common approach to domestic and foreign policy-related political issues on Power Line, though I assume there are equally-rigidly-ideological sites at the left end of the spectrum, as well. Also, as is often the case, I lean toward RB Holbrook’s view, since I’m an old, broken-down history teacher…

  7. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 08/17/2016 - 03:53 pm.

    Better to be clear

    For good or bad, “American exceptionalism” has apparently snuck into political vocabulary and is now bandied about as if everyone knows what it really means. The fact that there’s even a wikipedia entry for the concept is interesting for that fact if not for describing this disagreement and a brief intellectual history of this concept.

    Maybe HRC agrees with Eric’s statement. But from what she’s on record as saying, who knows? Andrew Bacevich believes (and I agree with him) that HRC is fully invested into the national security consensus aka “American exceptionalism” which has reigned in Washington DC since WWII. In my mind, HRC’s fuzziness on this point is the best evidence of her continued adherence to it. Having embraced it while she was Secretary of State and while she was a US Senator, the burden on her is to make herself clear. I interpret Eric’s column as how she might do so.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 08/17/2016 - 05:41 pm.

      I read Mr Black’s piece

      As an effort toward how a thoughtful and moral politician might thread the needle between what could be said to a thoughtful and moral people, and what needs to be said to we the people as we are, between which there is a tremendous gulf, and in order perhaps, for civic improvement, to impart ever so slight an increased capacity for reflection among us. In that sense it is a reasonable attempt, though as always Mr Black bends over backwards to ascribe good faith to those who exercise the power and authority of this nation purportedly on our behalf.

      Putting the words in Ms Clinton’s mouth is an unnecessary conceit, and as improbable as it is unnecessary, since there is little question but that Ms Clinton sincerely sees the levers of U.S. power as there for the only derivatively benevolent exercise of those few who have held them since before living memory.

  8. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 08/17/2016 - 06:54 pm.

    Hillary, define your terms…

    along with a few other statesmen, this nations’s leaders, the CIA, the Pentagon, military spokesmen etc, to name a few?

    How too, is the word interpreted by those who are the receivers of our “American Exceptionalism”?

    How do we justify overt acts that smell of arrogance too often than not… and justify such acts as acceptable because we are above-the-rest or view our acts beyond other than acceptable?

    Defining the term will not make it all better, whatever is meant by the term through whomever’s eyes?

  9. Submitted by Mike Davidson on 08/18/2016 - 04:51 am.


    Mr. Black,

    You have consistently, in your criticism of Secretary Clinton, labeled her vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq as her worst blunder. It’s very easy, in hindsight, to look back and say “yes, that was a huge mistake.” Clinton herself has said as much. I’ll admit I don’t read every single article you write, but I’ve read many, especially those that pertain to this presidential election cycle. You, like many who criticize Clinton for her vote to authorize the use of force, seem to always fail to mention important pieces of information in your criticism: 1) Clinton’s speech on the floor of the US Senate when she cast her vote, which clearly demonstrated how conflicted she felt, 2) the fact that the then-administration withheld information (which would later come to light), or that 3) she went above and beyond to pressure the Bush administration to make sure that 9/11 first responders and victims (and their families) were taken care of (most especially with respect to the EPA).

    Now that I have that out of the way …

    I’ve never been a fan of the term “American exceptionalism,” because I don’t think there is any real definition that fits. It’s important to be proud of your country and where you come from, but it’s also important to recognize the danger of ego. This is why I cringe every time a member of the press asks a politician about “American exceptionalism.” There is no good way to answer the question that will satisfy everyone, so you answer the question the broadest terms that will appeal to the most people. Anyone who puts a damper on the “traditional” use of the term is committing political suicide.

    You are a columnist with a voice; I respect your right to use that voice. However, I do not really see the point of what you’ve done here. I could sit here and write a dozen “What I wish this person said about that topic” pieces to make them more palatable to my own views, but at the end of the day it means nothing. I think you should really ask yourself: is this fluff piece, where you have essentially reimagined Hillary Clinton as something closer to Bernie Sanders, while ignoring the nuances of her personality, worthy of your voice?

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/18/2016 - 07:51 am.

      Thanks for joining here…

      I have little doubt Mr. Black does wish HRC were truly closer in philosophy to Bernie Sanders.
      One does choose to seek what one believes, regardless of reality. Wishes that become dreams often become fantasies.

  10. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 08/18/2016 - 07:52 am.

    Desperately seeking Hillary

    as the alternative to Trump?

    Power brokers indeed coming in under the affluence of big money and committed power agendas,…but to whom?

    Is Hillary the one lmore capable of governing us out of past mistakes established by past brutal expeditions into wars for oil etc?

    I don’t think so but Trump as had been rightfully so,,. the lesser of two evils?

    The world recognizes our “exceptionalism’ and they have an opinion…ask the man on the street in Prague or Berlin or Iraq etc?

    We lost so much by the Bush debacles as the Constitution as it once promised, now is a ragged document? The right of privacy; torture a given as long as it camps out side our borders…surveillance a given in this ever-growing watchdog society?

    What remains. of any power to ensure democracy, now but a ragged promise… damaged goods in the Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights so carelessly compromised… soon to be tossed in the dumpster in a back alley behind the big white house on Penn? Who can we trust this time around?

    The White House will be a fixer-upper this time around and it is not fun to watch or speculate whomever rents the place for the next four years,,,sad indeed…

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/18/2016 - 08:26 am.

    To those who say give Clinton a break…

    You’re exactly right, she’s running for president. Given the fact that she’s running for president and this is something she’s been planning for years; one would expect that she’d anticipate questions like this and be prepared with more thoughtful answers. Let’s not lower the bar for presidential candidates.

    On the other hand, the fact is that Clinton didn’t offer Eric’s response because she simply doesn’t agree with Eric. I see no reason to assume that her answer to the question of American Exceptionalism doesn’t reflect her actual attitude and reasoning. There’s no “break” to be given when candidates answer questions truthfully, and there’s no reason for voters to ignore those answers. Clinton does in fact support regime change and other foreign interventions based on the belief that the United States is not subject to the same rules as we expect other nations to follow. This is clear and she’s made this point many times. Asking people to ignore fundamental policy and moral differences isn’t giving candidates breaks… it’s collective denial. Collective denial in liberal democracies more often than not leads to disaster.

  12. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 08/18/2016 - 08:33 am.


    Fourth paragraph:

    ” I don’t think so, yet we vote for the lesser of two ‘evils’ when any sense of honest choice is not in the cards…Hillary is the alternative?”

    My apologies but a wee bat is resting in our library and no scholar but possibly looking for a way out of this bad choice society…good luck bat wherever you are…I’m outa here!

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/18/2016 - 08:43 am.

    Free speech and Eric Black

    The idea that Mr. Black ought to be limited to the function of regurgitating or summarizing the thoughts and words of other instead of sharing his own thoughts and words is simply antithetical to the whole notion of free speech and the free press. Such demands are nothing less than an attempt to silence the voice of one you disagree with.

    I for one wish Eric would write more original content and share more of his thoughts because I think he’s more interesting than many of the stories he write about. From what I’ve seen he’s certainly knowledgeable enough.

    What’s depressing is the fact Eric’s imaginary answer is soooo much more thoughtful and knowledgeable than the one Clinton actually gave. That’s good on Eric but not so much for Clinton.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/20/2016 - 10:24 am.

      Let’s be honest in factual admiration.

      Erik does much “cut-and-paste” writing, using snippet bits of others. Readers must judge the effect. I’d rather read full-fledged Black think, however, not his library list. There seems to be some current pressure to fill space…don’t know the source.

  14. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/18/2016 - 09:41 am.

    Mr. Black can write anything he wants, it’s his OPINION column. It is clear from his recent columns he is intensely uncomfortable, as are many others, with the choice of this election. But these counterfactual columns are pretty pointless because, hey, if Trump said this, Mr. Black would probably vote for him. SO what is the point of inventing the desired candidate in one’s mind? I could never really get into science fiction or magic-based novels— this is kind of along those lines—so, meh.

    But there is kind of a fine sour irony in the fact of the Republicans stale-mating the past 8 years, essentially breaking the government until they could bring in their guy–the real heir to the throne. But then ending up with Trump as their flag-bearer.

  15. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 08/18/2016 - 11:08 am.

    Maybe, just maybe

    the power of the presidency has been so downsized by an ineffective congress that realistically, change just might suggest a tyrant could soon be in control?

    Let’s say if all candidates or at least the major two, pass by the concept of a free society, then all credibility; hope for a functioning democracy is a dream ending…who knows?

    Sleeping at the gate: The ‘people’ are left out…and rather than ever being the recipients of positive change like universal health care etc..and if major parties are content with or zeroing into those false gods like money and power and greed, downsizing the people who seem at times to be in a catatonic state of denial? Better wake up Joe B and Joanna too eh?

    I do swear on my Great Aunt Berta – gods rest her radical soul shouting down her epithets to me from somewhere between heaven and hell…telling me in certain terms,that ‘chaos’ is the hallmark of this next election?

    I spot beady eyes in the near bookshelf…paws up leaning against Tom McGrath, the poet’s last collection called :
    “The Death Wish” and reading most intently one of the fatter volumes of IF Stone. Bat is reading as if there’s no tomorrow so won’t disturb for now.

    I will call him IZZY and hope bat is not as rabid as the fine journalist he appears to be absorbing…you too Eric Black do enjoy your latest indeed and will recommend you to IZZY, the next time he flies by…have a fine day.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/18/2016 - 05:27 pm.

      Left Out

      “The ‘people’ are left out…and rather than ever being the recipients of positive change”

      Now you do realize that a large portion of US citizens consider that changing to Single Payer would be a negative change…

      My point is that people’s voices are being heard, but their voice opposes your view of “positive”. Maybe because they will be paying more and getting less.

      I work with people from many countries, there are definitely pros and cons to single payer plans. That is why most countries have Private Options on top of the public system. Personally I am against single payer for several reasons:
      – Patient does not bear the costs. Little incentive to live healthy.
      – Rationing and long waits for some services.
      – Price controls do not work well, something is going to slip.
      – other

      So I am happy that my voice is being heard.

      • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 08/18/2016 - 10:39 pm.

        Rationing of health care under single-payer systems isn’t caused by the fact that they are single-payer. They’re caused by other policy decisions — specifically, the desire to limit health care spending. Need proof? There’s a single payer system very near to us that doesn’t ration care in the way that, say Canada or Britain do — it’s called Medicare and it serves every American over the age of 65.

        We should also acknowledge that our current multiple-payer system also rations care — by the ability to pay. Every system will ration care to some extent, what we need to decide is on what basis we choose to ration.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/19/2016 - 12:42 pm.


          People in America who go to school, learn, work hard, make good choices, work hard, etc get the best medical care in the world when they need it. The disabled and old get the best medical care in the world when they need it.

          Those who do not fit into either category struggle and are handled on a case by case basis. Makes sense to me.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/19/2016 - 02:10 pm.


            Ask a doctor if she decides who gets the best care based on their moral worthiness.

            If a disabled or old person did not go to school, learn, work hard, make good choices, work hard, etc does he or she still get the best medical care in the world when they need it?

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/19/2016 - 08:02 pm.

              Moral Worthiness

              I am not sure this is a moral issue, I think this is more of a capitalism and person financial management issue. Thankfully the USA’s systems reward the smartest hardest working saving /investing people very well. This is one reason why we are such an exceptional country.

              And yes the best hospitals / Doctors would like to get paid. Thankfully we do live in a society that believes in charity and caring for the old, disabled, so they get good care.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/19/2016 - 01:13 am.


        The British National Health Service provides ammunition for your position, to be sure.
        The latest concern regards “junior doctors” strikes if no pay increase is authorized.
        These are the people who staff “A&E,” on weekends in particular. We call them ER doctors.
        Recent schemes have placed many primary physicians in small community practices, like the old days.
        Patients regularly complain they cannot get timely appointments. Bed shortages are common, etc., etc.
        Graft and corruption continue at executive levels while everyone else keeps slogging along.

        Perhaps we have not heard serious proposals to use our VA model in extension to all for very good reasons.
        No proponent of U.S. conversion has put forth a scheme that would successfully replace our current system, regardless of pricing. The ultimate issue of single-payer systems is budgetary control/service delivery.

        Most importantly: Too few people really understand the true details of Health Insurance and Health Care.
        Medicare’s single biggest virtue for patients is full national provider access. It’s single biggest threat to providers is very small reimbursement schedules, many below true cost. Given the significant patient flow everywhere today, providers have become incredibly efficient in scheduling and care delivery…perhaps optimally so. Geriatric care is starting to stress many systems, as expected. Expanding access to patients would meet huge public approval. Doing so while maintaining reasonable cost/price ratios is the unsolved issue. That can be done, I’m very sure. Leadership and knowledge are key requirements of the task. Picking winners and losers (traditional thinking) just makes people unhappy and schemes ineffective in the long term.

        Old management joke: But, we’re losing money on every unit! Oh, that’s OK, we’ll make it up in volume.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/19/2016 - 12:48 pm.


          I have 2 co-workers from Sweden.

          One has nothing good to say about their system, and the other had a child with autism. The one with the child disliked the care their child received so much that he took a job in the USA so that the child could take advantage of our healthcare and public school systems.

          To be fair, I did talk to a Canadian peer who did like their system.

          So be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

          I often wonder who is going to pay for all the new techniques, equipment, drug, etc development if every country started choking off the funding?

          • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/19/2016 - 04:57 pm.

            Drug Revolution

            Not so many years ago, Germany, France to some extent and Britain for awhile were global pharmaceutical industry leaders. Today, U.S. companies are the leaders, with facilities now in those countries.

  16. Submitted by John Appelen on 08/18/2016 - 10:13 pm.

    An Interesting Thought

    Doug got me thinking…

    Let’s say that the USA was being harshly controlled by a violent Dictator with the backing of ~10% of the citizens. Friends would occasionally disappear to be tortured and/or killed.

    Would we want a foreign country to remove the Dictator and his military, help provide security for years, invest billions of dollars in our country, sacrifice 1000’s of their citizens, help us develop a new government and leave with no strings attached?

    Or would we want them to stand by watching?

    Even if we did have civil war after we were freed and many people died. Would we prefer the freedom or the Dictator?

    I am thinking we would prefer to die free rather than live as powerless pawns. On second thought I am pretty sure of it. Something about “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”…

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 08/20/2016 - 04:36 pm.

      What we would want…

      …would be to control our own destinies rather than be subject to the whims of an invading power. Who, with what authority or standing, asked the US to invade Iraq in 2003? Even the UN opposed it.

      …regardless of that, would be that any invading power that overthrows our existing government and disbands its military, whatever their faults, fulfill its international obligation to maintain public safety and public services rather than abdicating them to its hand-picked Provisional Government after displaying a banner reading “Mission Accomplished.”

      “…we would prefer to die free?” “We?” You got something in your pocket?

      Insisting on some fictitious motivation for the US invasion of Iraq such as concern for the Iraqi people is really just digging your rhetorical hole that much deeper.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/22/2016 - 10:20 am.

        Agree to Disagree

        We will have to agree to disagree.

        If not to help the Iraqi people and giving them a chance at peaceful self rule, why again do you think the USA did what they did?

        For 10+ years we maintained “No Fly Zones” to help the Iraqi people, and this was not working. The next natural step was to remove their oppressor at the request of the Kurds and Shias, and hope they could cooperate with each other.

        They chose civil war instead.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/20/2016 - 07:30 am.

    Pay to play health care is inherently immoral

    The idea that people who fail to meet someone or another’s moral standard (such as a work ethic) are rightly doomed to suffer injury illness and death is morally bankrupt.

    The idea that financial incentives are (or should be) the primary driver of individual health care, safety, or lifestyle decisions is simply daft. People don’t exercise or eat healthy diet because it saves them money, on the contrary many people pay an incredible amount of money to exercise and eat healthy food. Nor do people seek to avoid injury for financial reasons… pain avoidance and fear of death are basic biological mechanisms.

    Furthermore we’ve seen time and time again now financial priorities distort health care and safety decisions frequently producing increased injury and illness. We never had millions of uninsured Americans because they were all lazy an “unproductive” members of society.

    I hate to say but the idea that people who fail to meet some standard of work ethic deserve their fate of death and suffering looks a lot like “final solution” logic.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/20/2016 - 08:36 am.


      No system is perfect, however I think ours is best. Pretty much everyone gets some care, but the most responsible citizens get the best care.

      The Liberal view that citizens have a right to food, housing and healthcare just because they are standing on American soil is also flawed and doomed to cause disaster. And I would say that it is also immoral because it allows “free loaders” to live as parasites on the efforts of others. (ie drain on society) And if you doubt that there are a significant number of freeloaders within our society, just take part in a group activity, look at our crime statistics, look at the academic failure within our schools, our large welfare roles, etc.

      I am actually living proof that money can be a good incentive to living healthier. My company implemented a two tier premium system and I will be paying an extra $180/month for family coverage if I do not lower my sugars and triglycerides. Therefore I am changing my diet somewhat. Now I wish more programs would do this, I mean why should my co-workers need to pay more for my bad choices?

      Why should our society have to pay the huge healthcare costs in part created because of sky rocketing obesity, etc?

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 08/20/2016 - 11:28 pm.

        Morally bankrupt indeed

        Millions strive for healthier living with no financial motivation at all, just saying…

        • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/21/2016 - 05:08 pm.

          And Millions More Do Not

          Obesity is considered one of the very serious threats to good health, leading to poor health. Some reasons are related to situation, most to self-determination. Living on pizza is a satisfying way to gain unsatisfactory weight. The delivery market proliferates.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/22/2016 - 10:12 am.


            Apparently 1/3 Obese and 2/3 Obese and/or overweight.

            Though I was frustrated at first that I may need to pay more because some blood tests indicate I make poor life choices. After awhile it occurred to me that it is wrong for my healthy co-workers to pay more just because I like my couch and my pizza.

  18. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 08/20/2016 - 09:05 am.

    Who ‘deserves’ health care?

    Another powerful one by Paul Udstrand. Thanks.

    Being one of the lucky ones, never had a medical issue since 1957… but many be they rich, middle class or poor, have not been so lucky.

    We are a nation so diverse in many ways…that’s part of this not always “exceptional” nation so often mixed up, portraying tight fisted minds battering the issue. Call it the selfie factor in this society?

    Do remember the human face, never two alike, but be it cultural, political or economic… yet we are all fellow citizens, good , bad or indifferent, yet available, affordable health care should be a ‘given’ in our so wealthy society? Let all be part of the picture. This one certainty I do advocate.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/22/2016 - 11:35 am.


    You can argue that we should balance our financials on the back of moral bankruptcy if you want but I’ll wager that’s a losing argument. Sure people have bad diets, the problem is that pay to play health care systems don’t deny health care to people with unhealthy lifestyles, they deny health care to poor people with unhealthy lifestyles. If you’re wealthy and can afford to play you can be as daft as you want as far as your lifestyle is concerned because you’ll get the diabetes/cancer/blood pressure meds and hip/knee/cataract etc. replacements. This is just another way of deciding that the wealthy are more important than the less wealthy, and there’s no moral basis for that decision.

    So you think that parents who work 50 hours a week as at-will-minimum wage employees without benefits are “Takers” who drag our economy down and blow up our health care system? OK, that’s ignorant but you can think that if you want. You think someone who inherits millions is more “valuable” and deserving of health care than someone who drives a taxi or cleans the windows… OK.

    Sure, we’d save a lot of money on health care if we denied it to smokers, drinkers, athletes, construction workers, and people with poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. Anyone who makes decisions that put them in harms way or increase they’re odds of illness or injury. People who suggest schemes like this always imagine themselves safely beyond the perimeter of personal responsibility… until they or someone they care about get sick or injured.

    When it comes to healthcare, EVERYONE lives in a glass house so if you think starting a rock fight is a good idea it’s your call but I’d recommend against it.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/22/2016 - 01:14 pm.


      You are absolutely correct that there are many rewards to be gained by going to school, learning, working, staying married, saving, investing, etc. One of which is I can easily afford the higher premiums they are going to charge me for making bad choices. This is one of the strengths of America.

      I guess I see taking money from one citizen to pay for the poor choices of another is also immoral. Trade offs…

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 08/22/2016 - 11:05 pm.

        As opposed to

        Further punishing those whose lot in life enables a meager existence fraught with the constant peril of physical and financial collapse. All in order to save oneself a pittance on the tax bill, and to impose some vague idea of “moral justice” on those percieved as “lessers”. Thanks, but I think I’ll take Mr. Udstrand’s version of morality 10 times out of 10.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/23/2016 - 09:15 am.


          As we have discussed before.

          I have 3 children, two are savers and one is a spender. When the spender can not afford to go out with her friends and I refuse to give her additional money to do so, am I punishing her?

          When my other 2 kids go out and the spender is stuck at home with Mom and me, am I rewarding them unfairly?

          If I gave the Spender more money, what message would that send to the Savers / Spender?

          What behavior would that promote?

          All Americans are given the opportunity to attend free public schooling, what they do with that societal investment in them is up to them and their Parents. There are natural consequences if one squanders that incredible opportunity. No punishment or judgment required.

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 08/23/2016 - 10:27 am.

            Here’s a better analogy

            Your “spender” child is diagnosed with treatable cancer, but lacks the funds to pay for care. Would you they receive care at the expense of us all, or forgo it to satisfy your principles?Equating life and death matters with silly family foibles is both patronizing and disingenuous. One has nothing to do with the other.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/23/2016 - 10:33 pm.


              They have everything to do with each other.

              Should you have to pay more for cable so others can get it at steep discount or free?
              Should you pay more for your property insurance so others can get it at steep discount or free?
              Should you have to pay more for a new car so others can get it at steep discount or free?

              How does this work out in your view? Every person who stands on American soil deserves healthcare, housing, food, childcare, an income, etc whether they learn, work, make good choices, etc or not? And this must be paid for by those who do learn, work, make good choices, etc because they have the money?

              Like if I gave my spender more every time she runs out, how could this ever have a happy ending for either group?

              And yet you seem to be encouraging this behavior in the area of healthcare. As for the little girl topic, thank heavens that is where charities come in.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/23/2016 - 10:58 am.

            Patently Absurd

            “All Americans are given the opportunity to attend free public schooling, what they do with that societal investment in them is up to them and their Parents.”

            Absolute nonsense. The idea that we are all starting at the same place in life, and that our opportunities or choices are all equal. They are not. The choices/options to a family in the inner city, or in a small town in a depressed area, are not the same as those available in an upper middle-class outer ring suburb. To pretend that they are is, at best, patronizing.

            The idea that children are somehow responsible for the choices made by their parents does nothing more than reinforce classism.

            “I have 3 children, two are savers and one is a spender.” All in the same family, all in basically the same station of life. I don’t see your analogy as having anything to do with anything in the real world (the real world outside a nice, affluent ZIP Code, that is).

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/23/2016 - 10:21 pm.

              Unfortunately the war on poverty has shown that you get more of what you reward.

              I am not sure what it will take before the Left leaning folks learn to understand that?

              If one eliminates the negative consequences of taking the easy path and making poor choices, there will be more people taking that path.

              By the way, you are correct that I was lucky. I had a Father and Mother who were adamant and dedicated to my becoming an academic success, and were willing to straighten me out if I got distracted.

              Now what are you willing to do encourage this behavior in our society, and discourage questionable / irresponsible parenting? Or are you with Conservatives in believing that this is a Public School systemic failure?

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/24/2016 - 09:11 am.

                Encouraging Behavior

                You are assuming that bad outcomes are always the result of bad choices. It may be comforting for some to think that–what responsibility do we owe to “those” people?–but it just isn’t true.

                What if you hadn’t been so “lucky?” Would you be where you are now, or would you be so marginalized that you wouldn’t know what the word “condescending” means? As you correctly recognize, it was a matter of luck–nothing to do with your laudable choices.

                You can dismiss the idea all you like, but the inescapable fact is that race, class, and ethnicity matter very much in America. A few stirring exemplars don’t change a thing.

                Even the man whose name is invoked to back up the “rags to riches” idea knew that luck was determinative. Try reading Horatio Alger sometime–there is always achance encounter with a wealthy man to set our ragged hero on his way.

                • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/24/2016 - 11:47 am.

                  Bad Promises?

                  Can bad outcomes accrue to those, as well? I agree that luck has much to do with many outcomes, often not.

                  Does Edison’s finally successful light bulb come from countless iterations of his raw scientific method plus luck? Does the radium discovery result from some luck, or from backbreaking, mind numbing persistence?

                  Maybe if we keep trying, we do finally “get lucky.” Roulette seems a proper metaphor, or does it?
                  Does luck come to those without a plan?

                  • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/24/2016 - 01:42 pm.

                    Luck be a Lady

                    Yes, roulette is a proper metaphor, although perhaps a little less cheery than you may have intended. You may win on your first spin. or you may stay there all night and come away empty-handed. The odds favor the house, and they take pains to make sure it stays that way (If you’re a movie buff, you will understand what I mean when I say they’re “honest as the day is long.”).

                    “Does Edison’s finally successful light bulb come from countless iterations of his raw scientific method plus luck?” Yes–one without the other would have yielded nothing. “Does the radium discovery result from some luck, or from backbreaking, mind numbing persistence? Again, both. Marie Curie got her initial instruction in science from her father. Later, family connections enabled her to take advantage of rare educational opportunities. Pierre also got his initial instruction from his father. What if they had been born to different parents, or born iton different cultures?

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/24/2016 - 02:41 pm.


                  Rarely do I use the words always, never, etc

                  I believe that bad outcomes are more often than not the result of bad choices. You are correct that some people truly have bad luck and that is why we have disability insurance, charity, etc…

                  Failing in school, being a single Parent, not continual learning, communicating poorly, being addicted, being particular about your job, working less than 40 hours, etc have a lot more to do with poor choices than poor luck.

                  • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/24/2016 - 04:58 pm.

                    Almost Always

                    A person’s choices are, as a practical matter, circumscribed by circumstances.

                    A wealthy young person from, say, Wayzata could certainly choose to go to a trade school and learn auto detailing after he got out of Blake. The odds of that happening are, however, awfully slim. Similarly, a young person who grows up in a depressed rural community with parents who move from menial job to menial job can choose to go to college and have a productive career, but the odds are against him. If he does get an education, he is not likely to be going to Yale, though if he does, I feel confident that he will not be tapped for Skull and Bones (you cannot tell me that things like that don’t matter as much, if not more, than hard work and perseverance).

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/23/2016 - 08:34 am.

        Moral… uh huh

        “I guess I see taking money from one citizen to pay for the poor choices of another is also immoral. Trade offs…”

        This is where ideology become incoherent as well as immoral. This is how a citizen of a liberal democracy is converted into a “victim” of oppressive government simply because citizens pay taxes. The horror. Yeah I don’t like paying for other people’s bad choices either… how do I get my money back for the Iraq war and all these stadiums?

        You do realize that your insurance premiums don’t actually pay for your health care and that your premium dollars aren’t earmarked for your health care and your health care alone right? One way or another we all pay for each others health care whether your in a private or public system.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/23/2016 - 09:24 am.


          You correct. Insurance is a pool of money to spread the risk. This is a very personal cost / benefit, unlike stadiums and wars.

          If people want to be covered from the pool. Please have them pay their premiums.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/23/2016 - 10:22 am.


            That’s what Obama Care is all about.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/23/2016 - 11:46 am.

            Premiums 2

            And by the way, in case no one has already mentioned this, single payer is the most efficient way of collecting premiums and ensuring the greatest level of participation. It’ also creates the largest “pool” (i.e. everyone) with the most bargaining power which is how it controls and reduces actual cost.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/23/2016 - 10:38 pm.

              Yes and No

              Single payer would have advantages and it would have severe disadvantages, as mentioned above. I think we should have learned long ago that government mandated price controls cause a lot of pain.

              The reality is that the stool has at least 3 legs:

              And if you focus on cost, the other 2 will suffer.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/24/2016 - 08:49 am.

                Actually just yes and yes

                The primary objective of single payer is universal and unrestricted availability for everyone; cost containment is just a natural feature of single payer. Quality also improves because resources and priorities are directed and driven by best practices rather than ability to pay or marketing. Colonoscopies in the US aren’t “better” than colonoscopies in Germany despite being twice as expensive for example.

                You’re higher insurance premiums for instance don’t buy better quality health care, they just buy more coverage for health care. In fact even expensive health insurance in the US can actually trap you in a mediocre provider system depending on the network you’re restricted to. We used to call the old Group Health “Group Death” when I worked in a hospital for instance. At any rate it’s much much much easier for a nation to focus on best practices in health care once you move all this other garbage out of the way. It’s a basic principle of engineering: KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid.

                The US ranks at the bottom of every health care metric (i.e. cost, availability, quality, etc.) among our group of peers and one basic reason for that is our system is ridiculously and needlessly complex compared to our peers. Medicare for all would be the simplest, best, and easiest way to bring our system up to par.

  20. Submitted by Howard Miller on 08/22/2016 - 06:08 pm.

    kudos to Mr. Black

    I have learned from and enjoyed Mr. Blacks reporting and editorializing since his Strib days. His move to Minnpost- and Doug Grow too – drew me to be a member here. Can’t think of an op/ed writer who is more careful than Mr. Black about making accurate assertions, or clearly separating evidence from opinion (and nonsense), in his and others’ commentaries. He is one of the best in the business. I look forward to more of his reporting, musings and opinion.

Leave a Reply