Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clintonalso both made statements today, and both did an inadequate job of defending American values. Mrs. Clinton: “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior [in Benghazi], along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear–there is no justification for this, none. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.”
Obama: “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.”
To understand what’s wrong with this, consider a statement from the Bush administration in response to rioting over Danish cartoons of Muhammad, quoted in a 2006 Times article:
The Muslim world erupted in anger on Friday over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in Europe while the Bush administration offered the protesters support, saying of the cartoons, “We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive.” . . .
The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, reading the government’s statement on the controversy, said, “Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images,” which are routinely published in the Arab press, “as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief.”
Still, the United States defended the right of the Danish and French newspapers to publish the cartoons. “We vigorously defend the right of individuals to express points of view,” Mr. McCormack added.
We found this quote through Weigel, who thinks he has effectively answered conservative criticism of the current administration with a tu quoque. But in contrast with the Bush State Department, neither the president nor Mrs. Clinton vigorously, or even limply, defended the right of free speech. They went only so far as to say that the offensive video did not justify violent acts against American diplomats.
While Obama is correct to describe America as “a nation that respects all faiths,” freedom of speech and religion entail an individual right “to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” (Remember “Piss Christ”? Sometimes the government even subsidizes people who denigrate–well, engolden–the religious beliefs of others.)