Election 2016

That Time Trump Agreed With Putin on “American Exceptionalism”

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

In comments made by Donald Trump in 2013 and flagged by Buzzfeed yesterday, the Republican presidential nominee launched a full-throated defense of Vladimir Putin.

The New York Times published an op-ed column written by Putin in which he criticized President Obama for using the term "American exceptionalism." Not everyone took kindly to Putin's column, but Donald Trump certainly did.

“You think of the term as being fine, but all of sudden you say, what if you’re in Germany or Japan or any one of 100 different countries? You’re not going to like that term,” said Trump. “It’s very insulting and Putin really put it to him about that.” [...]

“Other nations and other countries don’t want hear about American exceptionalism. They’re insulted by it. And that’s what Putin was saying.”

As I've said before, I'm not going to defend "American exceptionalism" to the extent that Republicans generally define it as a unique moral righteousness, but that's not the point.

For the past eight years, Republicans have repeatedly said President Obama does not believe in American leadership. They say he doesn't believe in American values. They say he leads from behind. They say he has weakened America's moral standing in the world.

None of that is true, but in any event the Republican party has now nominated a man who openly questions the idea of American exceptionalism on behalf of his good ol' buddy pal Uncle Putin.

Obviously I can't speak for the president, but I can say that he does not define American exceptionalism as some kind of shield that protects the nation from all criticism. The president has defined American exceptionalism through his own life experience; the experience of being raised by a single mother, attending Harvard Law School, organizing on the south side of Chicago, and eventually becoming the president of the United States.

The president defines his own life experience and the opportunities he had as an example of American exceptionalism. That I can believe in and that is what we're defending, isn't it? We're defending it from Trump and the Republican party so that others may have that opportunity.

  • muselet

    Back in 2009, Barack Obama, at a press conference held during a NATO conference, was asked about American exceptionalism and gave a thoughtful and nuanced answer:

    I believe in American exceptionalism, 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. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don’t think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

    And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. 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.

    Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we’ve got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we’re not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

    And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.

    In response, the Right raged and howled and accused him of everything up to and including treason for daring to suggest other countries are anything other than hellholes and vassal states.

    Donald Trump didn’t get savaged for his much less thoughtful and much less nuanced comments on the subject (gee, I wonder why) nor for his full-throated support for Vladimir Putin (gee, I wonder why).

    I look forward to the denunciations of Trump and the withdrawal of support for the man’s presidential bid by every prominent R for his terrible faux pas.


  • We live in “Opposite World” now. For years the left, as embodied by Pres. Obama, was accused of not touting American Exceptionalism by the Right. Now the Right wants to scold him and us for using the term. F*ck him, seriously.