The debate over military intervention in Syria has split both political parties, but Russian President Vladimir Putin’s blunt op-ed in the New York Times Wednesday night gave politicians of all backgrounds something to agree about.
The op-ed, called “A Plea for Caution from Russia,” urged the United States not to launch military strikes against Russia's ally, Syria, and warned about the dangers of “American exceptionalism.”
“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” Putin wrote.
That was enough to unleash a torrent of criticism from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.
“I was insulted,” House Speaker John Boehner said flatly.
Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told MSNBC that the op-ed “turned my stomach.”
“Putin's NYT op-ed is an insult to the intelligence of every American,” tweeted Republican Sen. John McCain, one of the main proponents of arming rebels and striking military targets in Syria.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the administration was “not surprised” by Putin’s words but that Russia “offers a stark contrast that demonstrates why America is exceptional.”
The publication of the Russian leader’s statement in America’s preeminent newspaper is worth noting as a part of that contrast, he said.
“It reflects the truly exceptional tradition in this country of freedom of expression and that is not a tradition shared in Russia,” he added.
Putin’s op-ed also prompted some zingers from Congressional leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cracked to reporters that the Russian leader was “just looking for an excuse to show off his Superbowl ring" -- a reference to Putin's possession of an NFL award once owned by the owner of the New England Patriots.
Adding herself to the chorus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dinged Putin’s record on human rights, citing the Russian government’s ban on gay and lesbian “propaganda.”
“I don't know exactly what his words are [in the piece,] but he says that we are all God's children," she noted. "I think that's great. I hope it applies to gays and lesbians in Russia as well.”
“As an American, I hold the exceptionalism of my country dear,” Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, submitted in an op-ed to a Russian newspaper, according to POLITICO. “I also know of the many exceptional achievements our two countries made together, such as defeating Nazism and discovering space.”
Frank Thorp and Kasie Hunt contributed.
First published September 12 2013, 3:06 PM