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Why Obama Won't Embrace the Declaration of Independence

The administration's admission of sins to the UN is just the latest example.

12:53 PM, Aug 31, 2010 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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In Common Sense, also from 1776, Thomas Paine wrote, “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.” As if anticipating the likes of Obama, he lamented, “Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them….”

To be fair, the Obama administration did find one occasion to refer to the Declaration of Independence by name in its report. (The report also contains the phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but the phrase is not attributed to its source, and the next line is, “These same rights are encoded in international human rights law and in our own Constitution.”)  Just seven words are directly attributed to the document, and here they are, in context:  “[W]e are committed to principled engagement across borders and with foreign governments and their citizens.  This commitment includes, in the words of our Declaration of Independence, according ‘decent respect to the opinions of mankind,’ and seeking always to preserve and protect the dignity of all persons.”

In that same spirit, the administration writes in the report’s conclusion, “The United States views participation in this UPR [Universal Periodic Review] process as an opportunity to discuss with our citizenry and with fellow members of the Human Rights Council our accomplishments, challenges, and vision for the future on human rights. We welcome observations and recommendations that can help us on that road to a more perfect union.” Many Americans will likely find it insulting that the United States is asking other nations, or international bodies, for recommendations on how we can be better. And President Obama will likely not understand why. 

Most Americans who believe that there is truly something extraordinary, and extraordinarily good, about this country, base much of that belief on our founding documents and the wise and beautiful ideals they express. They mark our nation as unique, as one whose fate is still “in many respects the most interesting in the world” — just as when Alexander Hamilton first penned those words. 

In marked contrast, President Obama was asked last year whether he believes in American exceptionalism. He replied, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” These words, like the U.N. report, are telling:  In his disconnection from the glorious events and ideals of America’s founding, President Obama stands disconnected from America itself.

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