Ira Chernus at Religion Dispatches argues that Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday was a mixture of American exceptionalism and "semi-Niebuhrian" realist rhetoric:
Whether the president truly believes his Niebuhrian rhetoric no one will ever know. But if he is deploying words merely to win political victories, he is proving himself just as much a disciple of Niebuhr, who assumed that every political leader would do the same.
What the great theologian did not foresee when he first baptized the ascendant political “realism” was that every president from FDR to Obama would go out to political battle armed with semi-Niebuhrian words, praising America as exceptional both because it is a sinless nation threatened by sinners (thus entitled to slay those sinners) and because it is mired in its own sin, yet uniquely able to transcend that and come together “civilly” in a domestic harmony of natural interests.
In sum, Obama’s SOTU was a deft combination of centuries-old American exceptionalism and a decades-old consensus that can best be called “semi-Niebuhrianism.”