September 27 2012
President Obama's Half-Hearted Defense of Free Speech Wasn't Enough
When President Barack Obama—who once journeyed to Berlin to proclaim himself a “proud citizen of the world”—spoke at the United Nations this week, he called the murder of four U.S. citizens—including our ambassador—in Libya an assault on U. N.’s values. Hey, buddy, how about our values?
I’ve commented on this before, but the spectacle of a president of the United States defending our values so half-heartedly at the United Nations is not easy to forget. Lee Harris captures the president’s attitude towards our First Amendment right, as expressed before a body composed by some of the world's most pampered thugs:
This signature freedom, of which Americans were once so boastful, has clearly become a source of befuddled embarrassment to the current administration and many of its liberal supporters. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the speech President Obama delivered before the UN Assembly yesterday.
The president was bold and strong in making clear that there can be no excuse for the riots that have swept the Muslim world, but he was weak in his defense of our most fundamental freedom.
The president came across as if he regarded the right to free speech as a bothersome and irritating nuisance that Americans put up with solely because it’s one of our quaint and bizarre local traditions, instead of celebrating it as a moral lesson to mankind and a blessing bequeathed to us by our ancestors.
It did not seem to bother Obama in the least that he was apologizing to the world for the First Amendment, and that is very troubling.
The president’s failure to stand up for our values only emboldens our enemies. (Further disturbing was the administration's refusal to come clean and admit that, yes, as many of us suspected from the beginning, our ambassador was killed in a terrorist plot. But that is another topic.)
Harris also points out something else troubling: the administration's fundamental ignorance about the nature of the current crisis. The president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly repeatedly apologized for the anti-Muslim film that our enemies used as a pretext to get people into the streets. They have said again and again that our government had nothing to do with the making of the film.
What outrages the Islamic world, however, according to Harris, is not that they think the U.S. government had anything to do with making the film. They pretty much realize that. The source of their anger is rather that our government didn’t do anything to stop the film from being made and that we didn’t punish those who made it. In other words, they object to...the First Amendment.
We Americans have learned to live in a world where people express views we abhor. Christians, for example, were angry when a piece of “art” that featured a crucifix in urine was displayed at a major museum. But we shrugged it off. It is this fault line between the two worlds, the world of tolerance and the world of sharia, that the president doesn't see. He also doesn't seem to recognize that now is the time for a ringing defense of the First Amendment. Harris writes:
The triumph of toleration over fanaticism is at the heart of the great success story of the West, but it has left us at a loss in dealing with the Islamic revival that is perhaps the most significant fact of our time.
The citizen of the world needs to do a better job of defending the values of this country.