In April 2009 in Strasbourg, France, President Barack Obama was asked at a press conference if he “subscribe[d], as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy?” President Obama then responded: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

In other words, the President does not see anything unique about America’s role in history or the world. Some of our past Presidents have seen it differently, including President Ronald Reagan who once explained to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev:

When World War II ended, the United States had the only undamaged industrial power in the world. Our military might was at its peak, and we alone had the ultimate weapon, the nuclear weapon, with the unquestioned ability to deliver it anywhere in the world. If we had sought world domination then, who could have opposed us? But the United States followed a different course, one unique in all the history of mankind. We used our power and wealth to rebuild the war-ravished economies of the world, including those of the nations who had been our enemies.

So strongly did Reagan believe in American exceptionalism that he often described our country as “this experiment in liberty, this last, best hope of man.” But President Obama disagrees. He sees the United States as just another declining power like Britain or Greece. These were telling examples for President Obama to choose since both countries are facing crushing government debt crises due to profligate welfare state spending. And President Obama’s budget puts us on the exact same path.  It would: 1) borrow 42 cents for each dollar spent in 2010; 2) leave permanent annual deficits that top $1 trillion as late as 2020; and 3) dump an additional $74,000 per household of debt into the laps of our children and grandchildren.

All of President Obama’s aggressive welfare state spending leaves little left over for national defense. Heritage Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies Kim Holmes, Ph.D., writes:

We are headed down a European path. … According to the President’s budget, defense spending over the next few years will continue to fall relative to the economy, from 4.9 percent to 3.6 percent of GDP by 2015. Indeed, defense was the target of roughly half of the Administration’s $17 billion in spending cuts in 2010. Some 50 defense programs were truncated or eliminated, compromising not only our future air and naval superiority, but also our defense against ballistic missiles.

Are Americans really ready to abandon President Reagan’s “peace through strength” doctrine and replace it with President Obama’s strength through apology tour? We think not. That is why starting today The Heritage Foundation is promoting Protect America Month, starting with a speech this morning at 10 a.m. by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA). You can watch the event live, here.

And then for the next four weeks, join The Heritage Foundation as we examine defense spending and foreign policy in our nation, by releasing special publications and hosting events that showcase why we must commit to protecting America in an increasingly dangerous world. Events and products will include speeches by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, as well as special commentaries from Members of Congress and Heritage scholars regarding the need for a strong national defense.

Dr. Holmes concludes: “Freedom and prosperity at home and abroad depend on America’s continued projection of power around the world. But that will depend on our commitment to national defense, which is the first obligation of the federal government listed in the U.S. Constitution. We have been here before. We have seen darker days … We may well be at that moment again. After Jimmy Carter, we elected Ronald Reagan. He restored not only our belief in America, but our commitment to defense. Conservative principles and traditional American values prevailed then. They can prevail again.”

Quick Hits:

  • Customs and Border Patrol agents arrested Pakistan native and U.S. citizen Faisal Shahzad on a plane about to take off for Dubai in connection with Saturday’s failed Times Square bombing.
  • Citing inadequate federal funding, eighteen states have already told the Obama administration they will not work with the federal government to set up Obamacare-created health insurance pools.
  • Heritage’s Rob Bluey details how the American Hospital Association used Obamacare to kill off physician-owned hospitals.
  • According to Gallup, the Obama administration is hiring new federal workers faster than the private sector can create jobs to support them.
  • Also according to Gallup, 68% of Americans say it is very important to halt the flow of illegal immigrants into the country, 80% are concerned that illegal immigrants burden schools, hospitals and other government services, 77% worry that illegal immigrants drive down wages, and 80% believe that allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the United States will encourage others to move here illegally.