The Slatest

Trump Said He Doesn’t Believe in American Exceptionalism; May Not Have Understood the Question

Everything about Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency so far is predicated on a firm belief in America’s greatness. Yes, the Donald does worry the U.S. doesn’t economically bludgeon friends and foes alike all in the name of “winning, winning, winning,” but he does appear to believe America is great place. Hence the “again” in his campaign slogan. But what does Trump think of American exceptionalism?

Apparently, despite a combover that embodies its own form of American exceptionalism, Trump isn’t a big fan of the term that encapsulates the belief that the U.S. is a unique force in the world outside the realm of rules that confine mortal nations. In a clip dug up and posted by Mother Jones on Tuesday, Trump lays out his case against American exceptionalism. The clip comes from an April 2015 “Celebrating the American Dream” event hosted by a Houston-area Tea Party group.

Here’s the full transcript of Trump’s answer:

I don’t like the term. I’ll be honest with you. People say, “Oh he’s not patriotic.” Look, if I’m a Russian, or I’m a German, or I’m a person we do business with, why, you know, I don’t think it’s a very nice term. We’re exceptional; you’re not. First of all, Germany is eating our lunch. So they say, “Why are you exceptional. We’re doing a lot better than you.” I never liked the term. And perhaps that’s because I don’t have a very big ego and I don’t need terms like that. Honestly. When you’re doing business—I watch Obama every once in a while saying “American exceptionalism,” it’s [Trump makes a face]. I don’t like the term. Because we’re dealing—First of all, I want to take everything back from the world that we’ve given them. We’ve given them so much. On top of taking it back, I don’t want to say, “We’re exceptional. We’re more exceptional.” Because essentially we’re saying we’re more outstanding than you. “By the way, you’ve been eating our lunch for the last 20 years, but we’re more exceptional than you.” I don’t like the term. I never liked it. When I see these politicians get up [and say], “the American exceptionalism”—we’re dying. We owe 18 trillion in debt. I’d like to make us exceptional. And I’d like to talk later instead of now. Does that make any sense? Because I think you’re insulting the world. And you, know, Jim, if you’re German, or you’re from Japan, or you’re from China, you don’t want to have people saying that. I never liked the expression. And I see a lot of good patriots get up and talk about Amer—you can think it, but I don’t think we should say it. We may have a chance to say it in the not-too-distant future. But even the, I wouldn’t say it because when I take back the jobs, and when I take back all that money and we get all our stuff, I’m not going to rub it in. Let’s not rub it in. Let’s not rub it in. But I never liked that term.

This might not sit well with his fellow Republicans—they’re generally pretty big fans of exceptional America.