There was nothing inappropriate about Mitt Romney’s statement on the Libyan attacks this morning. If anything, his remarks were strikingly limited in scope. (The inane, narrative-obsessed, and apparently coordinated questions from the press didn’t help generate a substantive discussion.)
The events of the past 24 hours spotlight at least three major policy decisions by the Obama administration that are deserving of scrutiny in this election season:
1) So the Obama administration disavowed the statement released by the U.S. embassy in Cairo declaring that the embassy “condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” That’s fine, but the boilerplate responses of the administration continue to suggest that the federal government believes that statements or expressions that offend certain religions are not acceptable, and that our policy is that they should somehow be not permitted or not aired in the public square.
From Obama’s initial statement: “The United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”
From Obama’s Rose Garden statement: “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”
No we don’t! No one in the U.S. government rejects Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous, or the Broadway musical mocking the Mormon faith, or Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” character. Denigrating the religious beliefs of others, whether popular or unpopular, is protected speech under the First Amendment, and there is a long history of this in American life.
You only see U.S. lawmakers denouncing mockery or criticism of a religion when the religion in question is Islam, and the primary cause of that is that Muslims in certain countries tend to lash out against perceived blasphemy by attacking Westerners, foreigners, and U.S. troops and diplomatic personnel. Large swaths of the Muslim world insist that the American interpretation of the First Amendment must adapt to conform with their faith’s blasphemy definitions and punishments.
The right to speak freely is non-negotiable, but the vague comments of the administration appear to be suggesting that we think some unspecified limitations on speech critical of Islam is compatible with our laws, Constitution, and traditions.
2) Why were the security measures for our embassy in Cairo and our consulate in Benghazi so insufficient? Did this administration underestimate the risk to our personnel in these cities and in other cities around the Middle East? Did the administration’s belief that the “Arab Spring” is good for our interests lead them to complacency about anti-American sentiment and the potential for violence in these cities?
3) Perhaps most importantly, when the Egyptian government, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, has refused to denounce the attacks, why are we even considering forgiving $1 billion of their debt? The administration’s proposal for forgiving $1 billion in debt must be dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, and it is a prime example of the administration being naïve, far too generous, and far too trusting in its dealings with the Egyptian government.