Oh, no you didn't.
In his direct appeal to the American people, Putin denied that the government of Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. He claimed that the culprits were opposition forces trying to provoke an outside military response. He said an American missile strike could inflame the violence in Syria, unleash a new wave of terrorism and potentially destabilize the Middle East, North Africa and, yes, the entire world.
All right. Fine. That's his opinion.
But the Russian president's barbed dismissal of American exceptionalism?
How. Dare. He.
“It’s an outrage,” exclaimed
In the last few years -- especially in the last presidential campaign -- the term "American exceptionalism" has come to be used by
President Obama suggested as much in 2009, at a
"I believe in American exceptionalism," he replied, "just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world."
By the time the 2012 presidential race rolled around, the term, which had been promoted by American neocons bent on imposing democracy on undemocratic countries, had become a kind of all-purpose signifier of patriotism.
Onetime Republican vice presidential nominee and
Historians say it was Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville who first used the word “exceptional” to describe the new nation in the early 19th century.
But the actual phrase, they say, was coined in the late 1920s by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to dismissively describe the refusal of the relatively optimistic American proletariat to engage in revolution. Here's a fun Atlantic essay on the topic.
Limbaugh may be wrong about whether a communist can grasp the meaning of the phrase, but he's right that Putin is off base. When Obama invoked "exceptionalism" at the
"It is not that we are better people, it is not that we are superior people, it is not that we are smarter people," said Limbaugh. "It is not that God loves us and hates everybody else, it is not that God prefers us. American exceptionalism has nothing to do with anything but freedom and liberty."
And though conservatives like Limbaugh never play Obama's full quote from that NATO summit in Strasbourg, I have to think that deep down, even he would agree with what the president said next:
"The United States remains the largest economy in the world," the president said. "We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality that, though imperfect, are exceptional."