The dust may have somewhat settled after initial reactions to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya where 4 Americans were killed. The dust has yet to settle on the most important political issue, other than questions about security standards.
Courtesy of The New York Times, statements by both Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should have been met with aggressive rebuttals across the land. Why?
Both Clinton and Obama did condemn the Americans’ deaths. Both also condemned religious intolerance. Neither whispered a word about the rest of the First Amendment, although both Clinton and Obama know the amendment is under attack from countries ruled by Muslim majorities.
There is an ongoing effort to erect an international law to protect against “defamation of religion.”
On the one hand, you may believe the Constitution protects freedom of speech from assaults by other nations. On the other, you must remind yourself this administration has ignored the Constitution and federal law more than once—a de facto overturn of IRCA (amnesty) of 1986, welfare-to-work requirements and rules about defense contractors’ warnings if layoffs might occur, among others.
A timeline of the September 11-12 events can be constructed. I deliberately chose The New York Times as a source because there is no universe where that publication would be considered GOP-friendly. I acknowledge statements from Clinton and Obama did appropriately condemn the violence [boldface added]:
- The first statement came from the U.S. Embassy in Egypt before word of the attacks in Libya came. That statement apologized for offending Muslims. The embassy followed the apology up with a statement standing by the original statement.
- Clinton issued a statement. She condemned the attacks. She said: “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.” No mention of freedom of speech was included in her statement.
- The Obama administration reportedly disavowed the Cairo Embassy statement. Politico ran that claim, attributing it to “an administration official.”
- The first official statement from the president—the remarks critical of GOP nominee Mitt Romney were actually from the Obama campaign rather than the administration—came early on the morning of Sept. 12: “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”
- Shortly after the president’s first statement, Romney addressed the issue for the second time. The governor had already condemned the attacks by responding to the Cairo statement critically, and he was the first and only political leader to actually grasp the significance of the central issue. In his second statement, Romney said, “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.”
Romney made his statement in Jacksonville (Fla.) and most will remember “reporters” colluding to set up specific questions in specific ways before Romney appeared. The “reporters’” remarks were caught on an open mic. Many pundits said that is typical behavior at a press conference. I disagree.
If America’s leaders are not capable of messaging the world that in this country, you can say what you want about religion, those leaders do not deserve our vote. If America’s leaders are so spineless, they apologize to another country for something our government played no part in, they do not deserve our vote.
America is unique in the world when it comes to limitations on speech, even freer than Canada or Great Britain.
Bottom line: We may not personally like what some people say, but if you are an American, you can make fun or criticize any faith, including prophets.
One leader spoke to that freedom. One leader reminded the world the obscure filmmaker may well have been a lousy filmmaker but at the same time, did nothing illegal under U.S. law.
If that message is not carried abroad, the First Amendment will be diluted to a point where your speech could land you in prison. Don’t believe that? Read world history from the 1920s and 1930s—start with Germany.
This should be a driving issue in the 2012 campaign dialog. That it isn’t suggests centralized media in the U.S. are nothing more than lapdogs for Democrats who will willingly place the wellbeing of this country in an inferior position to governments who are among the most oppressive in the world.
It’s been 26 days since the attacks on U.S. interests in North Africa and the Middle East. We’re still awaiting the truth from the Obama administration about what happened.
As for Clinton and Obama, they might as well have placed a gag on the mouths of every American because that’s what their statements implied when the world waited for statements of strength and instead heard apologies.
If a Republican had made the statements Democrats made that day, I’d have shredded my registration card on the spot.
Take away freedom of speech and you have nothing.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Oct. 7, 2012)