Putin’s message

I learn through Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column (behind the Journal’s jealously guarded subscription paywall) that Vladimir Putin’s brilliant New York Times op-ed column stomping on President Obama was written by a public relations firm. (I think Noonan was relying on this post by Times public editor Margaret Sullivan.)

In the op-ed Putin goes out of his way to mock Obama in terms calculated perfectly to offend him. For good measure he chides mainstream Americans for believing that America is exceptional in some positive respect. (He actually chides Obama, but Obama has already stated his disagreement with American exceptionalism. Obama’s rendition of it in the Syria speech was pathetic.)

I took a whack at explaining what Putin was up to here, and Noonan makes some of the same points I did. James Piereson adds that Putin exposes the secrets of American liberalism. Roger Kimball seconds Piereson.

Noonan is mystified by the public relations component of Putin’s column. She expresses wonderment at the report that the op-ed was written by a public relations firm: “Really? This is the kind of work you get from a big ticket, big-time communications outfit? Can’t America even do PR anymore?”

Noonan’s column is excellent, but I think she misses the boat here. Indeed, she expresses some second thoughts about the column here.

The public relations firm has brilliantly fulfilled the mission on which Putin sent it. Having eaten Obama’s lunch, Putin wanted to send a message to us in Obama’s favorite newspaper. He wanted to let us know that Putin’s diplomatic maneuvering on behalf of the Assad regime is not simply an exercise in cynical power politics. There is that, but there is more.

Putin has eaten Obama’s lunch. Now he wants to rub it in. He wants to let us know that he feels free to express his utter contempt for Obama. He’s taking his shirt off and baring his chest in a manner that is calculated to make an impression outside Russia.

I get the message. Margaret Wente gets the message. Everything Obama and Kerry have said and done since the publication of Putin’s column confirms Putin’s opinion of Obama. Does Obama get the message, or John Kerry?

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