The sharia countries were happy with the compromise, though, because it also would have made unlawful speech that incites mere “discrimination” and “hostility” toward religion. Secretary Clinton’s feint was that this passed constitutional muster because such speech would not be made criminally unlawful. Yet the First Amendment says “make no law,” not “make no criminal law,” restricting speech. The First Amendment permits us to criticize in a way that may provoke hostility — it would be unconstitutional to suppress that regardless of whether the law purporting to do so was civil, as opposed to criminal.
But let’s put the legal hair-splitting aside. Knowing her legal position was unsound, and that traditional forms of law could not constitutionally be used to suppress critical examination of religion, Secretary Clinton further explained the administration’s commitment “to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.” The government is our servant, not our master — besides enforcing valid laws, it has no business using its coercive power to play social engineer. More to the present point, however, the administration was effectively saying it is perfectly appropriate to employ extra-legal forms of intimidation to suppress speech that “we abhor.”
That is precisely what the Egyptian mob was about to do when the U.S. embassy issued its statement. The Obama administration’s position? The president endorses extortionate “peer pressure” and “shaming,” but condemns constitutionally protected speech. That’s exactly the message the embassy’s statement conveyed.
Mind you, what is playing out in Egypt — as well as Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia — is a charade. It has nothing to do with the dopey movie. There is as much or more agitation to release the Blind Sheikh — which the Obama administration has also encouraged by its embrace of Islamists, including the Blind Sheikh’s terrorist organization. The latest round of marauding is about power.
Islamic supremacists see themselves in a civilizational war with us. When we submit on a major point, we grow weaker and they grow stronger. They win a big round in the jihad. President Obama’s anti-constitutional policy — the one he lacked the courage to stand by when, shall we say, the “chickens came home to roost” — has made speech suppression low-hanging fruit. The Islamists are going for it.
In a situation that called for a president who would actually defend the Constitution, Mitt Romney rose to the occasion. The administration’s performance was, as he asserted, “disgraceful.” Further, Romney admonished,
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We’ll defend also our constitutional rights of speech, and assembly, and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our constitution, because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
Can you imagine the current incumbent, the guy sworn to defend the Constitution, ever saying such a thing — or, better, saying it and actually meaning it? Me neither. It will be remembered as the moment the race for president finally became about the real job of a president. It will be remembered as the moment Romney won.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. His latest book, Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, will be published by Encounter Books on September 18.