“My client’s an idiot your honor, it’s not a crime” – Tom Cruise, A Few Good Men
President Obama is missing badly on his “Sister Souljah Moment” – so-named after Bill Clinton’s willingness to condemn horrendous and offensive statements by an activist (Sister Souljah) who would otherwise have been a Clinton supporter. It was a slap to the radicals of the party, and a head-nod to the center. It supposedly won Clinton major kudos ahead of the 1992 election.
Obama has found himself with a golden opportunity for such a moment – but he appears to be failing. Things are not well in the world. The U.S. embassy in Egypt and a U.S. consulate in Libya (those are sovereign U.S. soil by the way) were attacked on September 11. The spark is supposedly an anti-Islamic film that is offensive to the prophet Mohammed.
Disclaimer: I have not seen the film. I have no idea how offensive it might be. Politically speaking it does not matter. The vast, vast majority of American voters will never see this film, but they will vote (by definition). And how do they feel about the issue? Well, I suspect they might say something like “freedom of speech is what it is, we don’t riot and kill people because we find their words offensive.”
Obama has a simple path ahead of him. I don’t actually think he even needs to unleash a military response right now (though it would only help his election outlook). What he needs to say (again, from an electioneering standpoint) is “I don’t care how offended you are, we have freedom of speech here in America and there is absolutely no justification for assailing U.S. sovereign territory and killing an American diplomat.” [And, if you really want to go whole hog, add “further assaults on U.S. embassies will be met with live fire and deadly force.”]
That does it. Come out and say “there is no justification for this, whatsoever” and defend freedom of speech … and win a second term. But no, the president has not done this. Instead we get this:
Obama told Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi “he rejects efforts to denigrate Islam, but underscored that there is never any justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities,” the White House said.
Umm, no. On the one hand, he did say “never any justification for violence against innocents” … but he first came with “rejects efforts to denigrate Islam”. No, Mr. President, NO. You have to divorce the two statements. It can’t be “we understand why you’re pissed, but now, now, you shouldn’t throw a tantrum like this.” NO! If you want to win the election it has to be “President Morsi, our embassy was assaulted by rioters – you either get your security apparatus in order or I’ll send the U.S. military in to deal with the issue. Mr. Morsi, do you want U.S. Abrams tanks surrounding our embassy to provide security? ‘No’? The get it together.”
The wheels are coming off right now. It is a tailor-made crisis for a strong leader to consolidate and clean up in the election. Mr. Obama has thus far shown himself incapable. The story isn’t over yet though.