"Putin -- earlier than other leaders -- grasped that the U.S. was back to a utopian Jimmy Carter mode"

In that sense, he is the perfect antithesis to Obama. The sanctimonious Al-Arabiya interview, the Cairo Speech, and the missionary declarations on Libya all presupposed that Obama alone was sensitive to diverse cultures and had both the charisma and moxie to win over those who were previously alienated due to less-sophisticated American leaders.

The result is not just chaos in the Middle East — an unbound Iran, the Syrian quagmire, the Somalization of Libya, Benghazi, the closing of an unprecedented number of embassies, the Egyptian flip-flop-flips, another doomed Israeli-Palestinian initiative — but a global sense that most countries either politely tune Obama’s soaring rhetoric out, or enjoy finding ways to expose the lack of commensurate concrete consequences.

Putin knows that and positions himself as the sort of realist that mocks Obama’s pretensions. And while most abroad accept that he is a thug, they nevertheless seem to enjoy watching Putin, in spider-and-fly fashion, deflate our moral pretenses.