Barack Obama just can’t help himself. Bowing to rogues and rascals, stooping low enough to bang his head on the sidewalk, comes naturally to him. He learned to talk by apologizing to everyone in the nursery. He was the prince of all he surveyed, and learned early that slick talk could take him almost anywhere.
The dreams of most little boys are made of throwing a no-hitter, of scoring the winning touchdown or stuffing a basketball down a hole with no time on the clock. Not little Barack. He dreamed of cocking his ear for the inevitable wave of applause after a nifty little speech.
The president clearly doesn’t understand why his countrymen are outraged when he goes off on one of his frequent apology riffs when no apology is needed or deserved. He never learned that Americans bow to no one. He absorbed as a child the notion that America is a rotten society with a debt to the tribes of the Third World that it can never repay.
His apology to the ingrates of Afghanistan for the accidental burning of copies of the Koran, which Muslim prisoners had defaced with written invitations to fellow prisoners to kill Americans, was the most heartfelt speech so far this election year. “I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. …” he told Hamid Karzai, the president of what passes for a government in Kabul. “I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies.”
If read closely, the apology, studded with the personal pronouns that dominate everything this president says, was not, for which we can be grateful, an apology from the American people. He knew he was not speaking for the rest of us.
The president could have offered a simple explanation, not an apology, of why and how the Korans, mutilated by Muslim prisoners, were burned. The defaced Korans were inadvertently included in the refuse of the jail, and when the American soldiers dispatched to supervise the burning of the refuse saw the Korans, they tried to retrieve them. This is a lot more than Muslim trash-burners, including our “allies” in Saudi Arabia, will do to show respect for the Bible. Such an explanation is what Americans would expect from a president with no divided emotional attachments.
The president boasted this week that his apology has “calmed things down,” observing that the rioting, the national sport in Islamic countries, has more or less subsided. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said, and then made another little speech. “My criteria in any decision I make, getting recommendations from folks who are actually on the ground, is what is going to best protect our folks and make sure they can accomplish their mission.” He added the usual blah-blah, familiar not only from this president, that “we are making progress” and “the overwhelming majority of Afghan troops have welcomed and benefited from the training and ‘partnering’ that we’re doing.”
Some partners. Some welcome. Two ranking American military officers who were murdered at their desks inside a “secure” government ministry building in Kabul would beg to differ. Hamid Karzai’s abject apology for the murders apparently got lost in the mail.
Like his predecessor, who fatuously called Islam “a religion of peace,” the president applies good manners to mask reality. He rightly urges Americans to show respect for the Islamic right to religious belief, and condemns book-burning, even if accidental. But he could have used this as a teaching moment.
He could have reminded President Karzai and like-minded Muslims that respect is a two-way street, that if Muslims expect Americans to respect the content of their belief - as opposed to their right to believe it - they must show similar respect for the rights of others. No more beheading of “infidels,” no more banning of Bibles, no more encouraging imams like Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq to describe “infidels” as equivalent to “urine, feces, semen, dead bodies, blood, dogs, pigs, alcoholic liquors.” (He overlooked stinkbugs, cats, bedbugs and chiggers.) The president of the United States owes these people an apology?
President Obama obviously understands that he offends many prospective voters with his craven apologies to those who deserve no apology. He nevertheless imagines that such apologies will persuade the Muslim mob, as well as Afghan “partners,” to be polite to the American soldiers in their midst. The credulity of this commander in chief knows no bounds. Fortunately for the rest of us, such gullibility does not extend to the sadder but wiser sergeants, corporals and privates in the ranks.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.