There are many reasons to wish Ronald Reagan was still President. We would need him to combat government intrusion into every area of our life, including healthcare and our privacy; to steer us out of a mindless foreign policy and call to account a complacent media. Now we can add to our nostalgic wishes how he would’ve countered Vladmir Putin’s rebuke to America for considering itself “exceptional.”
We are certainly not getting a principled rebuttal from our current President, who’s previous mention of American exceptionalism was that all countries consider themselves “exceptional,” which is the same as saying none of them are.
But consider if Reagan were alive. He would certainly correct the definition of our exceptionalism presented by a former KGB agent whose op-ed appeared in the king of the mainstream media, the New York Times.
For Putin, American exceptionalism is based on our policies, carried out to tell the other countries how to live their lives. But for Reagan, it was based on nothing of the sort. America was a haven for those who desired freedom, not for those who had it imposed upon them:
“You can call it mysticism if you want to, but I have always believed that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.”
Reagan eschewed the view that American Exceptionalism was a top-down policy, originating from Pentagon Planners. For the Gipper, it came from the people:
“The greatness of America doesn’t begin in Washington; it begins with each of you—in the mighty spirit of free people under God, in the bedrock values you live by each day in your families, neighborhoods, and work-places. Each of you is an individual worthy of respect, unique and important to the success of America. And only by trusting you, giving you opportunities to climb high and reach for the stars, can we preserve the golden dream of America as the champion of peace and freedom among the nations of the world.”
It is telling that Putin and Obama view American Exceptionalism as something to do with policy, with government. Both have no notion of what it really means. And it is apparent why they either articulate what it means wrongly, or cannot even put it into words. Both see events through a socialist prism, while Reagan, viewed America through a libertarian one.