The Limits of Exceptionalism

Addressing America's flaws, as well as its glory, will make Obama a better President

Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images

Barack Obama will be sworn into office Jan. 20 as only the seventh U.S. President to have been elected in consecutive terms with more than 50% of the vote. And yet he is still routinely charged with not being fully American and not embracing the idea of American exceptionalism. Because of his race, his name and his international parentage, Obama has had to work hard to assuage anxieties prompted by what some see as his otherness.

The patriotism of most Presidents is taken for granted. Not so with Obama. That may be why, even as he dramatically revises American history through...

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