One week ago, our embassy in Cairo, Egypt and our consulate in Benghazi, Libya were attacked by violent Muslim mobs. In Benghazi, our ambassador was killed along with three other diplomatic staff. Since then, riots have broken out across the Middle East and other parts of the world under the pretext that some almost entirely unknown movie trailer produced in the United States blasphemed the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
The Obama administration’s response to the attacks on our embassies has been both embarrassing to our nation and emboldening to the jihadi rioters.
We now know that the statement condemning the “Innocence of Muslims” movie trailer from our embassy in Cairo came out before the attacks on the embassy began, but its central theme has been repeatedly echoed by the Obama administration in one form or another.
“What happened this week in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many other parts of the region was a direct result of a heinous and offensive video that was widely disseminated that the U.S. government had nothing to do with, which we have made clear that it’s reprehensible and disgusting,” U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “We also have been very clear in saying that there’s no excuse for violence. We have condemned it in the strongest possible terms. We have said that there’s no excuse for violence.”
“We find the video reprehensible and disgusting,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a White House briefing. “This video has nothing to do — has nothing to do — with the American government. It has nothing to do with who we are or what we believe.”
While the administration has, of course, condemned the attacks on our diplomatic outposts, it has often done so in the same breath in which it condemns the crude film that has been used as a pretext for the attacks. Intentionally or unintentionally, the administration is — if not equating the two as equally disgusting — suggesting the two acts are somewhere on the same plane.
As dumb and offensive as the trailer to the “film” is, its offensiveness is not even worth mentioning when violent hoards are attacking our embassies and threatening our officials with death. In fact, it is precisely because of such violent acts that the almost entirely unknown film is not worth noting.
This is not to say that it is always wrong for the president to criticize certain exercises of free speech. To the contrary. It is, at times, appropriate for the president to criticize Muslim bigotry or anti-Semitism or racism or anti-Christian prejudice propagated in the United States or abroad. A president should never seek to use the power of his office to shut down such speech, but there is a time and a place for public condemnation.
But here’s the important part: Such condemnation should never be coerced under threat of violence or, in this case, provided in the midst of violence.
The administration has reportedly even asked YouTube to take down the offending movie trailer. In the eyes of the rioters, this makes us look weak. Not only does the administration’s move undermine our cherished right to free speech, it is essentially a capitulation to our attackers, some of whom have American blood on their hands.
The last thing President Obama should be focusing on is some idiotic movie trailer. He ought to be spending more time defending our values in the face of the violent, savage mobs.