At the end of President Obama's Tuesday night speech on Syria, he threw in a line about America being "exceptional" because "with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act."
Separate from the question of whether one can really term something that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars a "modest effort" (how easily Obama spends other people's money!), the ability to kill people and break things is NOT what makes us exceptional. Obama's trying to sell military might as "for the children," a typical talking point for liberal policy, does not make his point fundamentally about the use of force.
But we know what Barack Obama really thinks about American Exceptionalism, based on his own words spoken in 2009: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
It is not hard to find other Obama utterances in the same vein.
So the president's Tuesday throw-away line about exceptionalism was just that...a statement he probably choked on when saying it because it is so antithetical to his fundamentally anti-American world-view.
In the Bizarro World into which Obama has thrust the US through his ad-libbed "red line" about Syria, a world in which Nancy Pelosi is clamoring for war while most Republicans are opposing it (despite the too-easy but too predictable cave-in by John Boehner), let's add another oddity: Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin agree on something.
In an op-ed in the New York Times, Russian President Putin, making arguments about why the US should not attack Syria, closed with this paragraph:
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.
It can indeed be dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional. Just ask anyone who lived in Europe in the early 1940s. But that was exceptionalism supposedly based on one's genetic lineage and implying inherent superiority on a person-to-person level.
That is not the nature of American Exceptionalism; ours is not based on an individual American necessarily being better than an individual Russian, Syrian, or Martian. Instead, it is about the nature of America itself due to our Founding Principles, including that "all men are created equal," a philosophy which Vladimir Putin most certainly does not share despite his parroting it.
Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin may not agree on much. But despite the lies from both of them, one thing is clear: they agree that America (other than its current military superiority) is not exceptional.
With that fundamental basis in worldview, when it comes to the United States, if Vladimir Putin is somewhere between a competitor and an enemy, just what does that make Barack Obama?