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September 25, 2012 2:27 pm

President Obama, It’s Not About the Film

avatar by Heather Robinson

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President Obama at the UN today. Photo: Screenshot.

Just watched President Obama deliver his speech at the U.N. A few thoughts.

First, the President did a decent job condemning extremism and pointing out that most people around the world are peaceful and moderate. He also stood up for the principle of free speech (better late than never, I guess). This explanation was somewhat undermined, however, by his over-emphasis on condemning the film in question. By now everyone in this country knows that the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya and murder of Chris Stevens and three other Americans was a calculated terrorist attack, planned for September 11, and that the film was just a smokescreen. But Obama’s rehashing of how offensive and disgusting this film is, was bothersome for two reasons.

For one, it undermines his very important point that as Americans, we uphold the right to free speech, period. Perhaps one mention that he personally found the film disgusting and it does not reflect most Americans’ views would have been fine; to belabor the point smacks of pandering to the very extremists whose agenda he purports to reject. Besides, given that the Benghazi attack was clearly a calculated act of terror, some absurd film is hardly the point, even to the extremists, whose goals in trying to crush all of our freedoms go way beyond censoring one film.

The President delivered a beautiful speech today about the need to side with moderates and encourage peace. And of course, seeking peaceful solutions is what diplomats like Christopher Stevens, to whom Obama paid tribute, dedicate their lives to. He is right to praise these efforts. But if the life, work, and eventual savage murder of Stevens should remind us of the ambassador’s legacy of idealism and tolerance, and the importance of upholding these virtues, it also tells us something else about the world as it is, that the President did not address or even acknowledge. That truth is: genuinely extremist forces only understand one thing. If no one stops them, they will destroy everything in their path. Someone has to stand up to protect the innocent, and the high ideals President Obama championed today.

Obama, as President, failed to sufficiently protect U.S. embassies and personnel on September 11, a day when of all days our embassies should have been fortified. Obama’s glib remark that, “If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an Embassy” was revealing. Frankly, there should have been more fortification around that embassy and every U.S. embassy, especially on such a date, with credible threats having been made in the days prior. Obama’s lack of proper acknowledgment of the seriousness of this attack–an act of war–and of his own failure to protect the embassy and U.S. personnel was underscored here; not only has he not acknowledged these truths, he keeps hiding behind discussion of this absurd “film,” which, again, undermines his belated free speech argument and also distracts from the real issue of U.S. security.

Speaking of which, he said nothing specific about what he will do to prevent Iran’s radical Islamist regime from going nuclear.

Actions speak louder than words. While Obama praises democracy, he cuts funding for pro-democracy groups. While he praises freedom, he declines to meet with Netanyahu, leader of the only country in the Mideast in which people are free. He says Iran will not get a nuclear weapon, but declines to lay out red lines beyond which the U.S. will act to prevent them from doing so (thereby shielding himself from accountability should they cross the threshold).

His words and actions do not match. Yet half the country refuses to hold him accountable for anything, including the Jimmy Carter-style economy. And it is this very lack of accountability which is the problem.

All human beings make mistakes; previous Presidents have, certainly. But they were held more accountable than this one is. Where is the outrage, or even acknowledgment, that U.S. embassies were inadequately protected on September 11, for instance? Lost in the coverage of Obama chatting it up on “The View.” Is it possible that had Obama attended more intelligence briefings and fewer celebrity-studded fundraisers, Christopher Stevens might be alive today?

The Presidency is a serious job for a serious leader, one whom the public should rightly not just respect but also hold accountable.

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