While he never addressed him directly, or even mentioned his name, it was clear who President Obama took a jab at during his speech at the UN General Assembly when he said, “Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional.”
But that wasn’t all the president said. He continued:
“In part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all. I must be honest though, we’re far more likely to invest our energy in those countries that want to work with us, that invest in their people instead of a corrupt few, that embrace a vision of society where everyone can contribute, men and women, Shia or Sunni Muslim, Christian or Jew.”
His opening line was a direct poke at the op-ed Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote earlier this month that was embraced by some Republicans as “sticking it to Obama.” In it, Putin wrote that it’s, “extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional” — implying that Americans see our country as something special.
Which I am unapologetic in thinking that it is. For all of our flaws (and we have many) this is still one of the greatest nations on earth. We just need to keep Republicans from turning it into a homophobic theocracy cloaked in the veil of a “Constitutional America.”
Obama’s comments might not have been extraordinary, and they probably flew over the head of many people who weren’t aware of Putin’s op-ed. But make no mistake about it — this was clearly his subtle (yet effective) response back to the Russian president’s attempt to scold our country and our citizens.
Which is somewhat ironic coming from Mr. Putin, a man who seems unable to have a photo taken of him where he’s not shirtless riding (or killing) some sort of animal. And he wants to scold us and tell us we’re not exceptional? Give me a break.
Now I’m sure Putin couldn’t really care less about Obama’s remarks anymore than Obama cared about his. However, I did enjoy the fact that, while he couldn’t really write a similar op-ed himself, President Obama didn’t let Putin’s remarks slide. He made it a point to address the key point of the op-ed that many Americans found most offensive.
So, while it wasn’t the equivalent of giving Putin the middle finger, it was still our president’s way of saying, ‘I know what you said, and you can kiss my exceptional American…’