Alex Massie

Only in America

Text settings

Ben Smith has this snippet from Rahm Emanuel's fledgling campaign to become mayor of Chicago:

Bob Sirott (and Playbook) channel the candidate: Only in America can someone be in the Oval Office negotiating with leaders of the free world one minute, and the next -- in a Loop basement being degraded by rejects from an old "Let's Make a Deal" audience.

As usual, any time you see the phrase "Only in America" you should prepare for some preening and baseless piece of self-regard. "Only in America" is almost always used to describe things that are perfectly normal and found in any number of western democracies. It's one of the ways in which American Exceptionalism tries to redefine the ordinary.

This is one such example. Why, Prime Ministers the world over switch between the grand affairs of state and the tiniest of constituency details. Off-hand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Israel are just three examples of countries where this kind of thing is a routine feature of political life. I suspect you could add the Nordic countries, Australia and, to the extent that world leaders ever visit, New Zealand to the list too.

The suggestion is, however, that Rahm Emanuel should receive some kind of medal for swapping the White House for the Loop and, more importantly, so should everyone else. Only in America, you see...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleInternational