It’s very doubtful. Speeches by conservatives and Republican political leaders appear, if at all, as tokens, and are usually surrounded by material that puts them under suspicion. Rare is the appearance of a speech by Ronald Reagan. Rarer still is a respectful discussion of him. Conversely, speeches by Obama are presented as the hallowed truth and as inspirational guidance for students.
Such is the case with Obama’s 2009 Cairo Speech, now appearing in the latest edition of the Norton Reader, published by the preeminent publisher of anthologies for the English college classroom, Norton. Obama is the first sitting president I’ve seen included in a textbook, and I’ve been teaching college for 20 years.
Obama felt his words would heal the wounds inflicted by the United States before his tenure and therefore titled his speech “A New Beginning.” By falsifying history, he built up the Middle East and Islam, while he disparaged the United States, the West, and, of course, President George W. Bush. The president who called himself a “citizen of the world” claimed that there was no difference between the West and the Middle East, between Christianity and Islam.
Such a view has resulted in a deadly foreign policy, as evidenced by the 9/11 attack on our embassy in Benghazi.
Then, in his speech before the UN on September 25, Obama repeated the same platitudes. After presenting Ambassador Christopher Stevens as a kind of self-sacrificial multiculturalist who “built bridges across oceans and cultures,” Obama stated that “freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture. These are not simply American values or Western values; they are universal values.”
This, of course, is patently false.
Obama admitted as much when he then said that the U.S. government “had nothing to do with this [disgusting and crude] video” (then being used as an excuse for the lack of security). Obama stated that the video is not only “an insult to Muslims, but to America as well.” (It is emerging that the amateurish film may have been made by provocateurs.)
As I indicated in the guide book I published for students about the Cairo speech, political speeches, as described by Aristotle in The Rhetoric, by their nature must gloss over harsh political realities in order to win over audiences to their future vision. Yet, Obama crossed over a line by presenting outright falsehoods and by continuing to apologize for the U.S. He did it again last month before the U.N. General Assembly.
In contrast, Mitt Romney referred to “American exceptionalism” and commitment to Israel and the former Soviet Bloc countries, thereby affirming American and Western values. He did so even more as he invoked George Marshall and the Marshall Plan with its rebuilding of Europe after World War II.
I wonder if Romney read the columnists and historians who reacted to Obama’s assertion in Cairo that “I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by another.” Victor Davis Hanson was not the only one to wonder, “Would that include postwar Japan, Italy, and Germany?”
At the U.N., Obama admitted, “I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech.” Then quite illogically he said, “The United States has not, and will not, seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad.”
Romney admitted the superiority of American and Western values when he referred to “support[ing] friends who shared our values” under the Marshall Plan. He said, “Statesmen like Marshall rallied our nation to rise to its responsibilities as the leader of the free world … We defended our friends, and ourselves, from our common enemies.” He also quoted Ronald Reagan, who quoted Abraham Lincoln, in claiming that the U.S. is the “last best hope.”
This is a refreshing divergence from the fantasy multicultural blather that Obama delivers, as he did at the U.N. by claiming that “the fault lines of race or tribe [often] arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world,” and then ending with a reference to the “common heartbeat of humanity.”
Romney will have a lot to work with in the upcoming debates as the Obama administration’s flailing attempts to cover up its negligence in Benghazi come to light. Yet, Romney did not need to call the video “reprehensible” and “insulting [to] Islam” even as he noted, “the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists[.]” Such talk only concedes ground on what should be a rock-solid defense of the First Amendment.
Romney faces an American electorate educated to believe Obama’s fantasies about “universal values,” “diversity,” and the “common heartbeat of humanity.” Without a reform in our institutions, especially schools, our nation will be in danger of electing leaders who turn out to be “internal enemies,” as George Washington warned in his “Farewell Address”—another presidential speech not included in the Norton Reader.
Nor does the Norton Reader include any selections by Alexis de Tocqueville’s nineteenth-century classic, Democracy in America and his words about the importance of voluntary religion (echoing George Washington). Tocqueville says:
When there is no longer any principle of authority in religion any more than in politics, men are speedily frightened at the aspect of this unbounded independence. The constant agitation of all surrounding things alarms and exhausts them. As everything is at sea in the sphere of the intellect, they determine at least that the mechanism of society should be firm and fixed; and as they cannot resume their ancient belief, they assume a master.
Need we say more about the current president and his worshippers?
In fact, Tocqueville asserts that religious faith is essential to freedom: “I doubt whether man can ever support at the same time complete religious independence and entire public freedom. . . . if he be free, he must believe.”
Furthermore, Tocqueville insists that not just any religion will do, and certainly not Islam. His reasons still make sense nearly 200 years later:
Mohammed professed to derive from Heaven, and he has inserted in the Koran, not only a body of religious doctrines, but political maxims, civil and criminal laws, and theories of science. The Gospel, on the contrary, only speaks of the general relations of men to God and to each other—beyond which it inculcates and imposes no point of faith. This alone, besides a thousand other reasons, would suffice to prove that the former of these religions will never long predominate in a cultivated and democratic age, whilst the latter is destined to retain its sway at these as at all other periods.
Even if Romney is elected, the deeply entrenched and powerful academics putting together textbooks and syllabi will continue to present students with a skewed view of history and rhetorical greatness. Obama’s fanciful presentations of world peace will continue to strike familiar dulcet notes in the soft, indoctrinated brains of our young people. Hope is not a foreign policy, as Romney said, but Americans first need to understand history and first principles. While celebrating the freedom to worship, we must point out to Muslims that it is a privilege our Western culture grants them.
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