Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s op-ed in the New York Times on Thursday. Putin, using President Obama’s own complaints about the United States against him, lectured Americans about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and decried American exceptionalism. “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” Putin wrote. “There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.”
Speaking to Sean Hannity on Fox News Thursday, Cruz pulled no punches in defending American exceptionalism and reminding viewers about the brutal Soviet regime:
[2:00] It was truly astonishing and I think the final paragraph was the most striking where he castigated the president and Americans for believing in American exceptionalism and I actually think he was right.
Autocrats have reason to fear when Americans focus on our principles and focus on exceptionalism because it’s been American exceptionalism that stood up to the Nazis and stopped the murder from the Nazis and it was American exceptionalism that stood up to the Soviet Union and freed hundreds of millions from behind the Iron Curtain. So Putin is right to be concerned about American exceptionalism.
Cruz said Putin and the Russians have been bad actors throughout the Syrian proceedings and he favors President Reagan’s approach of “trust but verify,” saying he is skeptical of Putin’s motives. “It is a very dangerous time and one of the principles that has been true from time immemorial is that bullies and tyrants don’t respect weakness.”
Other responses to Putin’s op-ed were more tepid and cautious.
House Speaker John Boehner sniffed that he was “insulted” by Putin’s op-ed in the Times, adding that he had “real doubts of the motives of the Russians and President Assad in offering this current path.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney responded in tit for tat-style: “Unlike Russia, the United States stands up for democratic values and human rights in our own country and around the world.” Carney added that the United States is committed to freedom of expression: “That is not a tradition shared in Russia. … And it is a fact freedom of expression has been on the decrease over the past dozen or so years in Russia.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he had a visceral reaction. “I almost wanted to vomit,” said Menendez. “I worry when someone who came up through the KGB tells us what is in our national interests, and what is not. It really raises the question of how serious the Russian proposal is.”
In his interview with Hannity, Cruz criticized the president’s Syrian policy.
“The administration’s policy consistently has been not to further U.S. national security interests. At the end of the day, what was most problematic with this Syria proposal is that it was — according to the president — he wanted the U.S. military to ‘defend international norms and make a statement.'” Cruz said neither is the job of the American military.
“Our soldiers and sailors and airmen signed up to defend the United States of America,” Cruz said. “And if the president had succeeded at weakening the Assad administration — look, he’s a monster – and if they had weakened him and the result was al Qaeda or al-Nusra taking control or seizing those weapons, that would have undermined U.S. national security rather than enhancing it.