- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The president is aware not only that “it’s the economy, Stupid,” but he understands that Stupid can’t think about two bad things at once. Worrying about where groceries come from is only human, and it helps close the sale abroad when Stupid is foolishly spending all his outrage on the AIG bonuses.

The wonderful folks who brought us the AIG fiasco are hard at work now on resolving the works of avarice and mendacity in the Middle East, particularly the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapon, which is almost ready to be coming soon to a neighborhood near Jerusalem, or at least Tel Aviv. The president’s functionaries in Foggy Bottom have told him that there are no other options but supplication and diplomacy, so forget Mr. Tough Guy.

Mr. Obama is eager to get a speech on his teleprompter for a trip to Tehran, to deliver once and for all peace in our time. But the more he grovels, the more Mahmoud Ahmadinejad settles back to scratch the fleas in his beard and enjoy the wiggling and squirming of an American president.

The president’s offer in his inaugural address to take any hand that isn’t a clenched fist has so far impressed only fearful “allies,” still tormented not by enemies of bone and blood, but by apparitions that look like George W. Bush. The Iranian fist is still clenched, and Mr. Ahmadinejad is still boasting that his daddy can lick any daddy in the West.

If that is not persuasive enough, his energy minister says his government will “finish and operate” the nuclear plant the Russians are building for the Iranians by the end of the year. He further said, just in case the intended insult was not clearly understood, that Mr. Obama’s pretty words must be followed by “something positive.” Mr. Ahmadinejad has helpfully suggested that one positive thing the Americans and maybe even the Israelis could do is convert to Islam.

Mr. Obama would make a pretty convert, all right, but he apparently said at an early age in Indonesia that he didn’t want any of that Islamic stuff. He would respect it, but he wouldn’t swallow it, and besides, hiding Michelle under a tent would deprive us all of a royal treat.

But the president flies off to Turkey next month to “Respect Islam” by paying tribute to the Islamist government in Istanbul and to participate in the “Alliance of Civilizations,” a Blabbonian gabfest sponsored by the United Nations to project the Islamist agenda. It’s not at all clear what, exactly, Islam and the West have anything to “ally” about, but Mr. Obama’s calling card, after all, advertises “Have Teleprompter, Will Travel.” You have to play Peoria before you get to the Palace.

The “Alliance of Civilizations” has been described as a thinly disguised front for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is made up of 57 nations with Muslim majorities. The conference seeks to counter “Islamophobia” and “defamation of Islam,” which sounds fair enough in Western ears. But the radicals of the Islamic Conference define “defamation of Islam” as “criticism of Islam.” Baptists could still mock Methodist baptism, but criticism of Mohammed’s child brides would be a no-no.

Mr. Obama’s participation in the Blabbonian exercise in Turkey gives him the perfect early opportunity to lay down Western markers, to tell the Islamic nations that he wants to be their buddy, but if they want constructive ties with - and the respect of - the United States, where free speech and freedom of religion are cherished above all, they must housebreak their radicals. He’s the right man to say these tough things to the Islamic world. He told us so himself.

The president’s itch to take his act to Tehran is well-known, and his Turkish adventure could be the perfect warm-up. But the prospects are not encouraging. He seems to think he can sell aluminum siding to the mullahs with the ease he sold it to the 53 percent who bought it at home. In his Iranian New Year message, he avoided all the words that offend Islamist ears - “freedom” and “democracy” and “liberty” - to assure Mr. Ahmadinejad and the mullahs that if he can’t win their respect, well, he has enough respect for everybody.

This might be the way to sell aluminum siding, but it’s not likely to impress a culture and a society where cutting off sinners’ heads is sometimes merely evangelism.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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