But then I turned on MSNBC today and watched the talking heads on "Race for the White House" debate whether or not Obama's admitting in Berlin, every so gently and briefly, that the U.S. has faults might hurt him politically.
Why might saying something so patently obvious hurt him? Well, as the panelists rightly noted, many Americans don't like politicians or celebrities currying favor abroad--or appearing to curry favor abroad--by saying bad things about the U.S. of A:
David Gregory: "Eugene Robinson, is this the message that Americans want to hear Obama delivering overseas, not in this country, but going to a foreign capital ...
There's not the same wounded pride here that you sometimes hear in China, but there is the same sense of not talking to stuffy foreigners about something that's our business. If there's not the same wounded-ness it's because there's a tad more bluster.
It reminds me of a friend who said that in some ways China and America are more alike than America and Europe. Now, I don't mean to let Europeans off the hook (their attitude to the U.S. tends to be similar to Northeastern Americans' attitude toward Southerners: "Well, since we're clearly not as bad as them, we have no problems--not on race, not on religion, not on nothing"). But it's true, I think, that what frustrates Americans and Chinese about each other is not some vast cultural gulf but that we're so remarkably similar.