Neither Putin nor Obama Get It; American Exceptionalism Isn't a Matter of Muscle but Mission
Bauer, Gary, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Gary Bauer, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
There is something tragically ironic about a former KGB agent lecturing America and its president about the meaning of American exceptionalism in the pages of a U.S. newspaper. Then again, that Russia's president-cum-dictator was given such a plum platform to deliver his discourse only underscores how exceptional America is.
In the end, neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor President Obama seems to understand what truly makes America exceptional.
In the final paragraph of his recent and much-discussed New York Times op-ed, Mr. Putin questions Mr. Obama's assertion that America's willingness to intervene abroad on humanitarian grounds is what makes America different [and] exceptional.
It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, Mr. Putin writes, We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
It is odd that Mr. Putin mentions God in arguing against American exceptionalism. He is right that God creates all people equal, but what makes America exceptional is that it was the first country whose founding was rooted in the recognition of this important truth.
At the core of America's founding was a simple, yet literally revolutionary, idea: that all people deserve to be free because they are created by God in His image, and that our rights come from God, not government.
This was articulated in the most important sentence in America's founding, the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Those 36 words are sometimes called the best-known words in the English language because they are an expression of America's moral standard of conduct.
American exceptionalism is not a synonym for patriotism. Nor is it a belief that America is inherently superior to other countries, or that God loves Americans more. Indeed, the stains of slavery and abortion, to name two, are proof that America is far from a perfect country, and that it has at times fallen woefully short of its own standards.
However, that doesn't diminish the truths contained in America's founding documents. They have provided inspiration and hope to oppressed people around the world for centuries. …