I hate having to be the skunk at our great national picnic of self-righteous indignation over the Russian grab of Crimea, but somebody has to point out how we sound to others.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) posted this tweet Thursday night: “The proposed referendum on the future of #Crimea would violate the Ukranian [sic] constitution. The U.S. will not recognize its results.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Yuri Kadobnov/Associated Press) Russian President Vladimir Putin (Yuri Kadobnov/Associated Press)

That sounds fine, in isolation. But running a sitting president out of town and replacing his government with a bunch of well-meaning stand-ins is also a violation of Ukraine’s constitution. Yet the one thing President Obama and his hawkish domestic critics agree on is that the new provisional regime is the legitimate government of Ukraine.

Since the deposed president is Viktor Yanukovych, a kleptocrat with strong ties to Russia, and the usurpers are pro-Western activists who believe fervently in democracy — except this once — our commitment to the holy writ of the Ukrainian constitution is less than absolute.

I don’t have a problem with that. Given the alternatives, we’ve chosen the right side to back. But let’s be honest. Let’s come out and say that we don’t want a referendum in Crimea because a majority might vote to return to Russia and Vladimir Putin would get away with grand larceny. Let’s not pretend we have an unwavering commitment to a constitution whose recent trampling we so lustily cheered.

Eugene Robinson writes a twice-a-week column on politics and culture, contributes to the PostPartisan blog, and hosts a weekly online chat with readers. In a three-decade career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper’s Style section.