Get ready to crank up the conservative faux-outrage machine:
President Obama will make a historic trip to Hiroshima, Japan, on May 27, becoming the first sitting U.S. president
to visit the site of the world’s first atomic bombing.
The White House formally announced the visit Tuesday after weeks of speculation that Obama would stop in the city after attending the Group of 7 economic summit in Ise-Shima. The president is expected to deliver a speech on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will join Obama on the visit, where the president will “highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” the White House said in a statement.
Obama aides say there will be no presidential apology for the U.S. decision to drop the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, which killed an estimated 140,000 people in Hiroshima. Three days later, a second atomic bomb killed up to 80,000 people in Nagasaki.
If you’re wondering why the White House rushed to make sure everyone understood there would be no apology for the decision to drop the bomb, that’s because for the entirety of his presidency, Republicans have charged that Obama “apologizes for America” and goes on “apology tours” to foreign countries. This claim is and has always been utterly false, but they cling to it like a toddler with his favorite toy. The belief is so ingrained that when Mitt Romney penned his campaign book for 2012 he called it No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.
When you actually ask them for evidence of all this “apologizing,” they point to cases where Obama has criticized a previous administration’s policy choices or said that we as country are less than perfect. The idea that that constitutes an “apology for America” is completely ludicrous (here’s the Post’s Fact Checker, Politifact, and FactCheck.org all coming to the same conclusion), but they continue to believe it. And if criticizing the decisions of an American administration makes you an America-hating apologist, then that would make the Republican Party the most anti-American organization in the world today, putting Al Qaeda and ISIS to shame.
While the final decision on the Hiroshima visit was announced today, the idea was floated some time ago, and conservatives were ready to raise their voices in condemnation of the inevitable apology. “Will Obama’s Apology Tour End In Hiroshima?” asked the Weekly Standard in September. “Let’s hope this isn’t another example of Obama’s extended Apology Tour,” said the National Review last month. “Don’t Apologize for Hiroshima,” read an op-ed by Lawrence Haas three weeks ago.
It’s still early, so perhaps conservatives are busy honing their statements of shock and fury. But so far, a search for prominent voices on the right shaking their fists at this offense to America turns up…not much at all. People who used to view any acknowledgement that America’s actions throughout history have been anything less than perfect as a humiliating betrayal are, this morning anyway, having some trouble getting their dander up. Could this have something to do with the man they’ve just chosen as their presidential nominee?
Donald Trump describes this country as a miserable hellhole where nobody has a job, nobody makes anything, nobody respects us, our military is pathetically weak, and an America that’s worth anything to anyone is a decades-old memory. “Our country doesn’t win anymore,” he said in a debate in December. “Nothing works in our country.” It’s a message he repeats all the time. He actually titled his campaign book, which barely anyone noticed, Crippled America.
Conservatives have always had contempt for Barack Obama’s capacity for complex thought and tolerance for nuance. A president willing to say that decisions can be complicated and we need to worry about unintended consequences? That we might want to learn from our mistakes? That this is a great country but not a perfect one? Despicable.
But when your party’s champion is practically campaigning on the slogan, “America: What a Dump,” it may be a little harder to muster up outrage when the president acknowledges, even if only implicitly, that the incineration of an entire city was a terrible thing, no matter how defensible in the circumstances. Could it be that the shame of having Donald Trump as their leader is forcing Republicans to be a little more thoughtful in their criticisms of the other side? Anything’s possible.