The Obama administration has so far failed to defend free speech in the face of protests in Egypt and Libya over an American-made film denigrating the Prophet Muhammad.
The protests in Cairo Tuesday resulted in about a dozen people scaling the U.S. embassy wall and taking down the American flag. In Libya, protesters today killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Gov. Mitt Romney last night issued a statement slamming the administration for sympathizing with the protestors instead of attacking the violence. But I don’t hear him defending free speech either.
Romney wrote in response a statement by the U.S. embassy in Cairo Tuesday that was designed to placate the protestors, invoking the martyrs of 9/11 as part of the appeasement.
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
Romney soon pounced, saying:
It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
An administration official told Politico that the Cairo embassy statement was not cleared by Washington and did not reflect the administration’s views. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton then cooked up a statement that strongly condemned the violence, but she too didn’t stand up for speech.
Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. 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. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.
Someone in the White House – and in the Romney campaign too – needs to note that in this country, we have free speech, even if we don’t like what’s said. We can’t be quaking with fear every time people who don’t accept our values erupt in fury.
Someone needs to get with the program. The American program, not the Egyptian.
UPDATE: Someone did get with the program. House Speaker John Boehner released the following statement this morning:
“We mourn for the families of our countrymen in Benghazi, and condemn this horrific attack. Eleven years after September 11, this is a jolting reminder that freedom remains under siege by forces around the globe who relish violence over free expression, and terror over democracy — and that America and free people everywhere must remain vigilant in defense of our liberties.”
H/T to one of our readers, Just2old, for bringing it to my attention.