Barack Obama says he’s not a Muslim, but a Christian. That’s his business, between the president and God. The president clearly has a soft spot in his heart for Islam. He once described the call to evening prayer, which he first heard as a child in a Muslim school in Indonesia, as “one of the prettiest of sounds on Earth at the sunset.”
He’s entitled to a soft spot in his heart for whatever and whomever he pleases, and it’s none of anybody’s else’s business. But a soft spot in his head, that’s another matter. No president is entitled to a soft spot in his head (even though there are precedents).
Nevertheless, Mr. Obama’s appointments to the two highest national-defense positions, Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense and John O. Brennan to be director of the CIA, raise questions about the location of this soft spot. Only a pathologist could say for sure.
The kindest description of the appointments is that Mr. Obama, his heart forever seeking hope and change, can’t resist indulging incompetence and corruption of conscience. The realistic explanation is that the president defers to the soft spot in his head. Mr. Hagel shares the president’s weakness for the music of Islam, and Mr. Brennan is willing to say he does if that is the price of getting a job.
Mr. Hagel, who redefines the Washington definition of bumbler and stumbler, seemed to have been awakened from a deep sleep just before his confirmation hearing began and never quite remembered what he had been saying about the world and America’s place in it. Like the president himself in the first of the three presidential debates, Mr. Hagel appeared to be suffering an Ambien hangover.
Mr. Brennan, on the other hand, was lively and wide-awake, the better to maneuver the U-turns through his conscience, renouncing many of the things he had been so confidently saying about the threats to the West from the perversions of Islam. It was if he had waterboarded his conscience.
Mr. Brennan once energetically defended the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that extracted crucial information from evildoers, information that prevented further harm to Americans. “There [has] been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has in fact used against the real hard-core terrorists,” he told CBS News in 2007. “It has saved lives. And let’s not forget, these are hardened terrorists who had been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the deaths of 3,000 innocents.”
This so infuriated Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that they commissioned a partisan “study,” no Republicans allowed, not to determine whether the enhanced interrogation techniques actually worked, but to conclude that they didn’t. (Alice ran across this kind of “study” from the queen in Wonderland: “Sentence first, verdict afterwards.”) The “study” concluded, 350 pages of argle-bargle later, that the enhanced interrogation did not work.
Mr. Brennan was thoroughly housebroken when the Senate committee asked him just the other day what he thought about all that now. “I must tell you,” he said, contrition puddling around his ankles, “that reading this report from the committee raises serious questions about the information that I was given at the time and the impression I had at that time. Now I have to determine what, based on that information as well as what the CIA says, what the truth is.” Rarely has anyone so clearly expressed the Washington code, that conviction and conscience are important, subject only to the prevailing wind.
Mr. Brennan is eager to embrace the company line, tough on al Qaeda during the Bush years, soft on al Qaeda now that he serves a president with a soft spot in his head. It’s not that the president and his men want to go easy on terrorists — his drones have killed terrorists, even when accompanied by women and children, by the dozens. He just can’t call terrorists for who they are. The terrorist who tried to blow up an airliner over Detroit was “an isolated extremist.” When a terrorist tried to blow up Times Square, his homeland security secretary called it a “one-off.” Those evildoers, in their telling of it, had nothing to do with radical Islam. The White House still hasn’t got its stories straight on what happened at Benghazi.
When the president hears “the sweetest music this side of heaven” (apologies to Guy Lombardo), his heart goes all googly at the sight of the crescent moon. He wants acolytes who can share the googly.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.