2012: An election about American exceptionalism?

Obama “has clarified and personified secular socialization and a European view,” says former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who is weighing a presidential bid in 2012. Obama, he says, made “disastrous” comments on the subject during his first trip overseas as president in an exchange that has become a cause celebre among conservatives.

Gingrich predicts the debate over protecting American exceptionalism will be “one of the two or three deciding issues of 2012.”…

“What Republicans are doing by saying (Obama) doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism … is a safe way of saying he’s un-American,” Pease says.

It may be a way of questioning the president’s core, Pease says — the way fringe critics do by making false allegations that Obama wasn’t born in the United States or that he is a Muslim. He likens it to the loyalty charges hurled against some public figures during the post-World War II Red Scare.