Democrats and their sharky Obamedia defense lawyers are in a snit. For three dreamy convention days in Charlotte, they told themselves that, for the first time in decades, it was their guy who had the upper hand when it came to national security. Now that bubble has burst, the way contrived narratives do when they crash into concrete challenges. At that point, an airy president of the world won’t do; we need to have a president of the United States, a job that has never suited, and has never been of much interest to, Barack Obama.
Defense against foreign enemies is the primary job of the president of the United States. The rationale for the office’s creation is national defense — not green venture capitalism, not rationing medical care, not improving the self-image of the “Muslim world,” not leaving no child behind, not blowing out the Treasury’s credit line. Yet, though we are entering the late innings, foreign policy and national defense have not been factors in the 2012 campaign.
That is worth bearing in mind when we hear the laugh-out-loud narrative of Obama as foreign-affairs chess master. The president badly wants to win reelection. If there were anything to his alleged prowess, we’d not have heard the end of it. What we’ve heard, instead, is a bumper-sticker: “Obama killed Osama.” The Left hoped to paste it over the president’s generally dreary record. Even with the Obamedia in coordinated overdrive, the plan can work only if Mitt Romney lets it work — and, thankfully, it looks like he won’t.
Give the president his due: In 2008, he said he would go hard against terrorist havens, no matter how upset this made John McCain’s cherished “allies” in Pakistan, and he has. But even the welcome slamming of jihadist redoubts is undermined by the mess Obama has made of terrorist detention — so our forces kill in situations where they could capture, drying up the intelligence reservoir that has been vital to thwarting new cells and plots.
Moreover, any president would have given the order to take bin Laden out, and just about any post-9/11 president would bomb jihadist hideouts. What’s extraordinary about Obama’s performance in this regard is that he’s one you might have wondered about — he gets graded on a curve. But, thankful as we may be, this is thin camouflage for the rest of Obama’s agenda, which is post-American, anti-constitutional, enabling of the ideology that spawns terrorism, faithless toward our real allies, and feckless in the face of menacing Iran.
The game never goes according to plan. The batted ball always manages to find the suspect fielder, no matter how hard the coach, or the campaign, tries to hide him. On the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities, the world and its affairs found the Obama administration — intruding on the president’s effort to win reelection by a brand of domestic class warfare that gives new meaning to the word “small.”
When it came, Obama’s moment was entirely predictable. It was, after all, self-inflicted: the inevitable fallout of policy crafted by the faculty-lounge pinhead, whose ideas are so saccharine smug there’s never a thought of anything so jejune as their consequences. Obama being Obama, when the consequences came, he crawled under his desk — before escaping to a Vegas fundraiser.
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” So declared the Obama State Department in a statement issued on the website of its Egyptian embassy. At the time, it was clear that another episode of Muslim mayhem was imminent.
The statement is a disgrace, just as Mitt Romney said it was. It elevated over the U.S. Constitution (you know, the thing Obama took an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend”) the claimed right of sharia supremacists (you know, “Religion of Peace” adherents) to riot over nonsense. Further, it dignified the ludicrous pretext that an obscure, moronic 14-minute video was the actual reason for the oncoming jihad.
Here is the important part, however, the part not to be missed, no matter how determined the president’s media shysters are to cover it up: The disgraceful embassy statement was a completely accurate articulation of longstanding Obama policy.
As Obama struggled to put daylight between himself and his record, the press was duly pathetic. The president, Politico was quick to cavil, had nothing to do with “the statement by Embassy Cairo.” An administration official declaimed that it “was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government.” You are to believe the Obama White House exists in a galaxy separate from the Obama State Department, which itself inhabits a frontier distant and detached from the U.S. embassy in Cairo — except, one supposes, for the $38,000 in taxpayer funds the embassy spent on Obama autobiographies, apparently thought to be craved by Egyptians, at least when they’re not ever-so-moderately chanting “Obama, Obama, there are still a billion Osamas.”
In point of fact, the embassy’s statement perfectly reflects the views of the United States government under Obama’s stewardship. It is anathema to most Americans, but it has been Obama’s position from the start.
In 2009, the Obama State Department ceremoniously joined with Muslim governments to propose a United Nations resolution that, as legal commentator Stuart Taylor observed, was “all-too-friendly to censoring speech that some religions and races find offensive.” Titled “Freedom of Opinion and Expression” — a name only an Alinskyite or a Muslim Brotherhood tactician could love — the resolution was the latest salvo in a years-long campaign by the 57-government Organization of the Islamic Conference (now renamed the “Organization of Islamic Cooperation”). The OIC’s explicit goal is to coerce the West into adopting sharia, particularly its “defamation” standards.
Sharia severely penalizes any insult to Islam or its prophet, no matter how slight. Death is a common punishment. And although navel-gazing apologists blubber about how “moderate Islamist” governments will surely ameliorate enforcement of this monstrous law, the world well knows that the “Muslim street” usually takes matters into its own hands — with encouragement from their influential sheikhs and imams.
In its obsession with propitiating Islamic supremacists, the Obama administration has endorsed this license to mutilate. In the United States, the First Amendment prohibits sharia restrictions on speech about religion. As any Catholic or Jew can tell you, everyone’s belief system is subject to critical discussion. One would think that would apply doubly to Islam. After all, many Muslims accurately cite scripture as a justification for violence; and classical Islam recognizes no separation between spiritual and secular life — its ambition, through sharia, is to control matters (economic, political, military, social, hygienic, etc.) that go far beyond what is understood and insulated as “religious belief” in the West. If it is now “blasphemy” to assert that it is obscene to impose capital punishment on homosexuals and apostates, to take just two of the many examples of sharia oppression, then we might as well hang an “Out of Business” sign on our Constitution.
The Obama administration, however, did not leave it at the 2009 resolution. It has continued to work with the OIC on subordinating the First Amendment to sharia’s defamation standards — even hosting last year’s annual conference, a “High Level Meeting on Combatting Religious Intolerance.” That paragon of speech sensitivity, Secretary of State Hillary “We Came, We Saw, He Died” Clinton, hailed as a breakthrough a purported compromise that would have criminalized only speech that incited violence based on religious hostility. But it was a smokescreen: Speech that intentionally solicits violence, regardless of the speaker’s motivation, is already criminal and has always been exempted from First Amendment protection. There is no need for more law about that.
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.