It’s a sad day for the United States when the president of any other country, but especially Russia, can outmaneuver our president and successfully claim the moral high ground on anything. But that’s exactly what happened thanks to President Obama's feckless “foreign policy by gaffe” – if you can even it call it policy – toward Syria in recent weeks.
But in the course of seizing that high ground, Vladimir Putin got a couple of things wrong.
He wrote a column in The New York Times Wednesday that concluded, “My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
Contrary to Putin's prose, American exceptionalism is not based on “policies” but the principles upon which our nation was founded. For what it’s worth, President Obama misunderstands this too, but the thought of a Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB invoking God and citing the Declaration of Independence is beyond ironic. Yet aside from what Putin gets wrong, he gets one thing right, if only by accident.
When Putin wrote, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” he was, dare I say it, right.
Our nation is exceptional, but you, me and every other American – we’re not exceptional simply because we are American, even though we, more than any other people on Earth, have the opportunity to become exceptional through our actions.
This concept of individual exceptionalism simply through the act of existing is the greatest threat to American exceptionalism we face today.
We are raising a generation of people to believe they are special, that like every child in Lake Wobegon they’re all “above average.” Of course that’s not only impossible, it’s dangerous.