- - Thursday, October 4, 2012

With the presidential election only a few weeks away, it’s appropriate to discuss where our country is today, and what it can be in the years ahead.

A few weeks ago, Vice President Joe Biden, in his convention acceptance speech, exclaimed, “America is not in decline.” It strikes me when the vice president feels he has to stand up and say that, it’s a bit like acknowledging that America is in decline and that the world senses it, but he doesn’t want to admit it. Let me be clear — I do not believe America is destined to stay on its current trajectory toward becoming a second-rate nation. It can be reversed. Indeed, it must be reversed.

No other nations, no foreign ideology, no militant movement can, alone, obstruct our path to achieve an even greater America. Only our own leaders can stand in the way of the American people’s rendezvous with their future, and it is the American people who will make those decisions.

Reversing this downward trend requires an honest accounting of where we are and how we got here. Reversing the trends of the last four years requires changing the leadership at the top. We have a president and an administration who routinely dismiss the work ethic that has made our country an exceptional nation and seek to replace respect for personal responsibility with envy and division, making America a place where earned success is resented rather than respected.

Of most concern, we have a president and an administration who fundamentally misunderstand the world situation today.

Almost four years ago, President Obama traveled to Egypt. In a way only this president could phrase it, he said, “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.” He promised a radical departure from the policies of the previous eight years. He vowed to rein in our ally Israel and to make the Palestinian effort for statehood central to his administration’s foreign policy.

The president went on to say that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “fear and anger led us to act contrary to our ideals.” He went to another country and contended that our fear and our anger led America to act against our ideals. In other words, after terrorists killed thousands of our citizens, we were the problem. Is there any other way anyone with an understanding of the English language could interpret his statement?

This, in fact, has been a theme running through this presidency — to blame America and Americans. We saw it when he apologized for acts the United States had been involved in over the past 100 years. And we see it day after day as the president excuses failure after failure of his presidency by castigating his predecessor.

I served with President Obama’s predecessor. I watched him up close. Because of his leadership, our nation did not simply pound sand after the terrorist attack on our soil. He went after the enemy, destroyed their leadership and put their operatives on the run. His administration rid two nations of two of the world’s most brutal dictatorships. And millions in the Middle East, for the first time in their lives, have at least a chance to be free.

Most Americans do not apologize for our country. Certainly, the hardworking Americans who make up the backbone of our nation do not. On the contrary, they feel deep pride in who we are, what we have achieved and what we stand for.

Like them, President Bush did not apologize for the United States. He knows that America is not what’s wrong with the world. America, even with our imperfections, remains what is most right with the world.

Across Middle Eastern and Islamic capitals, we are seeing our American embassies and consulates overrun and burned, walls breached and windows smashed. Diplomats and security personnel have been killed. American flags flying high and proud above our diplomatic outposts have been torn down, desecrated and set aflame, and some replaced by the banner of al Qaeda. This is the response to the president’s so-called “new era of civility and understanding.” What we are seeing is what the president has described as “some bumps in the road.”

Instead of taking a firm stance against those who attack our embassies and our diplomats, this administration reserves its harshest words of condemnation for a provocateur video maker. One U.S. embassy issued an abject apology and a condemnation of those who “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” Instead of defending the constitutional right of free speech, our senior officials excused rage and rioting.

Recall the various excuses that supposedly have led radical Islamists to kill in the name of God: Early on it was a book by Salman Rushdie. Then it was American troops in Saudi Arabia. Then it was Danish cartoons of Muhammad. Then it was Guantanamo Bay. Then U.S. support for Israel. Then it was supposedly global warming, as Ayman al-Zawahri and Osama bin Laden once wrote. And now it is a Web video practically no one has seen.

This is not what motivates them to murder innocents. These are weak, convenient justifications that are all too willingly accepted. Yet our nation’s current leaders seem more interested in making excuses for our enemies than in defending the ideals on which America was founded.

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