BrEaKiNg! In NYT Op-Ed, Vladimir Putin Fails to Disclose PhD

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As you’ve no doubt already read, Vladimir Putin published an op-ed in the NYT last night, one in which he lectured Obama (in Christian terms) that no one should think of theirs as an exceptional country.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. 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. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

And while NYT identified Putin’s potential conflict in giving such a lecture …

Vladimir V. Putin is the president of Russia.

… It did not reveal that the thuggish dictator has a PhD on the importance of energy in Russia’s future.

I mostly raise that because a key figure in John Kerry’s case for war, Elizabeth O’Bagy, got fired yesterday for lying about having a PhD. Kerry had used her work to make claims that the Syrian rebels are a whole lot more secular and peace-loving than, according to House Homeland Security Chair Mike McCaul, our own intelligence community believes them to be.

Meanwhile, amid complaints from at least one reader about the op-ed, NYT’s public editor provided an explanation (without, however, disclosing that Ketchum is the PR firm that contacted the NYT).

The Times editorial department was approached Wednesday by an American public relations firm that represents Mr. Putin, offering the piece. At the same time, Mr. Rosenthal said, Mr. Putin’s spokesman had called The Times’s Moscow bureau with the same purpose in mind.

Mr. Rosenthal agreed to review the article and quickly decided to publish it. It was posted on the Times Web site by Wednesday evening.

“I thought it was well-written, well-argued,” he said. “I don’t agree with many of the points in it, but that is irrelevant.”


Rosenthal said there was no way of knowing whether Mr. Putin himself wrote the article – “with a public official you can never know,” because they tend to have staffers who write their speeches and other communications. But, he said, it needed virtually no editing and went through almost no changes. “It was an amazingly good translation,” he said.

Guess what?!?!

Our foreign policy caters to interest groups of all sorts. No matter the pretty stories we cloak it in, it is ultimately about serving someone’s interest (and that interest is increasingly second-hand for the average citizen of the United States). And while Putin didn’t admit to his PhD, he was clearly presented as the leader of a foreign nation.

Any arguments about foreign policy are going to be driven by the public influence industry, whether it’s a DC think tank or a giant PR firm. (Which is why you should support an independent site like Emptywheel!) Like it or not, Putin’s case on most issues save who launched the CW attack on August 21 holds together better than the US case thus far (Max Fisher fact checks it here; while I absolutely agree with his claims about Putin’s hypocrisy, I do question his trust in US assurances).

For that reason, among others, the thuggish Doctor is correct. The US would be well-served to stop cloaking its interest-based policy choices in the tawdry exceptionalist claims that worked — more for media reasons than fact — for the second half of the 20th Century (during precisely the period when Putin’s country improbably claimed to be the champion of oppressed workers). We have spent the last 12 years making it clear we don’t abide by those exceptional principles. And frankly, our arguments for or against war would be far stronger if we didn’t try to use that crutch. (The people who seem to object most strenuously to Putin’s op-ed seem to be those who cling to this myth most desperately.)

After 12 years, in any case, Americans have become well aware such myths don’t deliver them personal benefits.

We are, supposedly, a democracy. And if the Administration wants to bring us to war (but not in the “classic sense,” Kerry insists), it would do well to make a stronger argument than the thuggish Doctor.

Disclosure: Marcy Wheeler has a PhD that makes her an expert in, among other things, how the entrancing avenger Count of Monte Cristo helped pave the way for authoritarian Louis Napoleon.

19 replies
  1. omphaloscepsis says:

    “The Kagans are classic neocon entrepreneurs who rely on nepotism and cronyism to work their way through the system. Kimberly studied ancient history at Yale under Donald Kagan and then married his son. She is now billed as a “military expert” by the neocon media in spite of her lack of any actual military experience.”

    “Though the Kagans received no pay from the U.S. government, they drew salaries from their respective think tanks which are supported by large corporations, including military contractors with interests in extending the Afghan War. Frederick Kagan works for the American Enterprise Institute, and Kimberly Kagan founded the Institute for the Study of War [ISW] in 2007 and is its current president.

    According to ISW’s last annual report, its original supporters were mostly right-wing foundations, such as the Smith-Richardson Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, but it now is backed by national security contractors, including major ones like General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and CACI, as well as lesser-known firms such as DynCorp International, which provides training for Afghan police, and Palantir, a technology company founded with the backing of the CIA’s venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Palantir supplies software to U.S. military intelligence in Afghanistan.”

    Which brings us back to Capt. Louis Renault:

    “Your winnings, Dr. Kagan”

  2. grayslady says:

    Personally, I’m not sure Putin is any more thuggish than Obama, who spends his Tuesday mornings deciding whom he’s going to kill next with illegal drones–or who accuses Chelsea Manning, Tom Drake, and Edward Snowden of espionage, and gags Barrett Brown. Putin is correct about our so-called “exceptionalism”. Our misguided belief in our “exceptionalism” has resulted in poorer health outcomes and poorer economic outcomes for the majority of our citizens than any other “developed” nation, all based on a myth that our systems really are better, even though the outcomes aren’t better.

    I expect the leader of a nation to try to gain advantage for his/her country. I don’t expect that leader to declare that international law doesn’t apply to that country’s citizens or actions.

  3. geoschmidt says:

    well to start off with: You looked really good on TV last night!

    Here on the Putin thing, I wonder if anybody could be at the top in Russia with out “some street creds” so, at least it makes sense that Putin is tough, care to bet on who would be top dog in a cage fight, (my money -puty… !) O wouldn’t last one round, but I bet P would stretch it out for the show.

    I don’t know why those dickeds can’t make Paypal easier to work, godamned, some donate soon!

  4. What Constitution says:

    While I didn’t see anyone actually yet call Mr. Putin a “dirty commie rat”, it’s been awful close to that out there. I find it amazing that so many people seem anxious to heap invective on Mr. Putin without recognizing how stingingly accurate some of his observations are (even if not all of them are). It’s pretty humbling to have a major world leader — indeed, especially a world leader we’ve feared and hated for years — be able accurately and mattter-of-factly to accuse our government of flouting international law, and to directly conflate our pious reliance upon some vague and jingoistic concept of “exceptionalism” with the blatant and despotic imperialism that the use of that term to excuse international lawlessness connotes. Ouch.

    I do particularly like the chutzpah reflected by those espousing the idea that the NYT should not have accepted a submission from the undisputed leader of Russia for their Op-Ed page — what, there are standards here? or it’s OK to give Bill Kristol a forum but not Putin? Come on, people, at least pretend you have an interest in informing your opinions by considering arguments.

    Looking forward to seeing what happens next. Gee, this morning there are some stories grudgingly acknowledging that the US intel appears not to confirm Assad’s direct involvement in the CW release of August 21: hmmm, if that might be true, and you were Assad, wouldn’t you jump at the chance to agree to turn CW over to international authorities if for no other reason than to keep them out of the “opposition’s” hands? Just maybe there’s something here that could be made to work out without killing more civilians in Syria.

  5. Scott Lazarowitz says:

    Par4: Dr. Wheeler has no need to rethink the word “thuggish,” as Putin really is thuggish, just as much as Barack Obomber, George W. Bush and the rest of them.

    As far as “exceptionalism” goes, yes America is exceptional. Its government is exceptional at starting wars of aggression against other countries who were of no threat to us, trampling the civil liberties of foreigners as well as Americans, killing as many people as possible each year, and showing how crazy government bureaucrats and their enforcers are by waging a “war on drugs” and a war on immigrants.

  6. orionATL says:

    @What Constitution:

    the reason putin is being criticized publicly by journalists is also the reason we have so much foolish analysis in our media and why reporters appear willfully stupid sometimes –

    it’s called “socially expected/acceptable public speech”.

    that’s the reason why, when pollsters ask respondents about their behaviors or beliefs, the answers they get may prove out of line with the actual beliefs or behaviors of the population from which the respondents were drawn.

  7. Peterr says:

    I enjoyed Putin’s last paragraph, simultaneously taking on Obama’s ending that combined American Exceptionalism and nationalistic prayer — a part of the speech that rubbed me the wrong way as well.

    Disclosure: Peterr has a PhD that makes him an expert in, among other things, religious rhetoric and communications.

  8. Peterr says:

    @What Constitution:

    I do particularly like the chutzpah reflected by those espousing the idea that the NYT should not have accepted a submission from the undisputed leader of Russia for their Op-Ed page.

    I don’t think it’s chutzpah at work, but envy.

    Lanny Davis is just pissed that Putin hired Ketchum and not Lanny Davis and Associates. “I’m the go-to guy for thuggish leaders in other countries who want to influence US policy!” he lamented over drinks with an unnamed reporter from an unmentionable DC publication.

  9. What Constitution says:

    @Peterr: Oh, fine — drag the discussion down to the level of mentioning Lanny Davis. Sheesh. All these Ph.D.s, and you just have go there. I mean, hasn’t this “Syria thing” dredged up enough with mentions of Kissinger and Rumsfeld? Lanny Davis? Who’s next on the list of “people I appreciate not having had occasion to think about for a while now”, Doug Feith?

  10. geoschmidt says:

    Wow, ain’t that the truff, “Drag it down to… ” that is what is done!! all discussion must be sidelined down, all commerce of intelligence must be thwarted…

    Hey why not have a … wonderfull… Media complex… with all pretty ladies… and Jack ass guys like Ted on the Mary Tylor More show… wooonderfulll!

    bottom line is: LCD (lowest possible common denominator). Is the sweet point.

  11. A Doctor says:

    The gas attack has been attributed to Assad by acclamation, not evidence. You are wrong to accept it as a settled question. Former President Carter at least had the sense to note that there is “division among world leaders about who is responsible for the atrocity.” You should do the same.

  12. JThomason says:

    The idea of “exceptionalism” was not born out of thin air. The seeming providence guiding the American experience is easily manifest in the historical formulation that “a people met a continent.” That we are tipping over sovereign nations in the the North Africa and the Mid-East like dominoes in the quest for natural resources is a sure indicator that the providence and its accompanying “exceptionalism” has expired.

    Onward to Greenland! seemed like a viable option ’til the news broke that the ice cap is reasserting itself or open the Bering Straits for a Westward driven settlement of Siberia! Didn’t Russia sell us Alaska?

  13. fatster says:

    “Assad has signed chemical weapons decree”

    Oil prices down slightly “as Syria talks continue”

    Raytheon enjoying nice stock prices. (Compare current to late July.)

    Rebels “angry”; Kerry “cautiously optimistic” about Syria “weapons offer”

  14. SharonMI says:

    wooo, I had a sad when someone said fatster not posting at FDL but I seez ya here! Hi!, and emptywheel too (“Hi from Marshall!”)

    I am exceptionally embarrassed (but not surprised) by all this

Comments are closed.