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US to Putin: 'Exceptional?' Da! (+video)

Vladimir Putin's jab at American 'exceptionalism' set off howls of criticism in the US and gave The White House, the Congress, and Jon Stewart a rare something they could agree on.

By Staff writer / September 13, 2013

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Friday. Meanwhile, his mid-week oped nixing American 'exceptionalism' is still firing up critics in the US.

Vladimir Voronin/AP

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WASHINGTON

Who is Vladimir Putin to tell Americans they’re not exceptional?

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That was a general, bipartisan reaction in the nation’s capital and US politics in general on Friday to Russian President Putin’s controversial Thursday opinion piece in the New York Times.

Putin’s piece was a lengthy argument against any US strike on Syria and against the general US practice of intervention overseas. Parts of the article were bluster, such as his assertion that it was Syrian rebels who carried out the alleged chemical weapons attack of Aug. 21, not the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Parts were unexceptional, in the sense that they repeated arguments made by domestic critics of a possible US military action in Syria.

But the words of Putin that really roiled the nation’s capital were at the end, tacked on in a manner that almost seemed an afterthought. They were a direct response to President Obama, who in his Tuesday night speech to the nation referred to America as “exceptional”.

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional ... we must not forget that God created us equal,” Putin wrote.

Game on, Vladimir.

First up was White House spokesman Jay Carney, who quickly defended the president’s exceptionalism assertion.

Russia offers a stark contrast that demonstrates why America is exceptional,” said Mr. Carney. “Unlike Russia, the United States stands up for democratic values and human rights in our own country and around the world. And we believe that global security is advanced when children cannot be gassed to death by a dictator.”

Members of Congress were quick to wave the exceptionalism flag. Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, a presumed 2016 presidential hopeful, penned his own opinion piece for Time Magazine as to why the US is exceptional.

The US sense that it is different, wrote Senator Paul, is rooted in the nation’s founding values and documents, particularly the Constitution. US constitutional checks and balances have been on full display in recent days, wrote the Kentucky senator, as President Obama has turned to Congress for a vote authorizing military action in Syria, which Paul opposes.

“While Putin is correct that God created every human being as an equal in His eyes, clearly the results of each of our efforts on this earth, individually and collectively, are not equal,” wrote Paul.

Many commentators pointed to the Constitution and guaranteed US rights as exceptional, noting almost without exception that in Russia those rights have proved fungible over the years.

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