Barack Obama could use a little relief. The world is crumbling around him, much of it the result of his presidential misfeasance at home and abroad.
The chickens coming to roost on Pennsylvania Avenue are neither ideological nor partisan. Evil men are bold and quick to take advantage of timidity and weakness. There’s a growing consensus, and it includes Democrats — the president is in over his head. He probably scares himself.
Like all second-term presidents, Mr. Obama naturally feels liberated from partisan concerns, free to do what he likes. He can thumb his nose at public opinion because he never again has to face an angry voter. He can follow the Clinton model and get rich making speeches. He’ll be good at it.
But he needs a break today. His approval ratings have sunk into the low 40s. Vladimir Putin laughs at him. When Hillary Clinton accepts an invitation to lunch at the White House she insists on using the back door. The family dog growls at him.
He clearly needs a public-relations triumph. Fortunately for him, there’s a candidate at hand. A 27-year-old woman is languishing in a filthy prison in Sudan, together with her son, aged 20 months, and a daughter, aged 3 weeks. The mother’s only crime is that she is a Christian and won’t convert to Islam, and she is regarded as an adulterer because she married a Christian, and the marriage is not recognized in Sudanese law. Meriam Ibrahim is to be hanged as soon as she weans her newborn, and before the noose is tightened around her pretty neck she must be flogged with 100 lashes. Life in the Islamic world often sounds like something from a blood-and-thunder horror movie, and the abuse of Mrs. Ibrahim is living proof of how horrible a horror movie can be.
Other leaders in the West have given Mr. Obama the cover he needs to stand up like a man eager to defend the innocent and the helpless. The plight of Mrs. Ibrahim has shocked and offended the Europeans. British Prime Minister David Cameron says the treatment of Mrs. Ibrahim “has no place” in the world. “Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right. I urge the government of Sudan to overturn the sentence and immediately provide appropriate support and medical care for her and her children.”
Both Ed Milibrand, the leader of the Labor minority in Parliament, and Nicholas Clegg, a Liberal Democrat who is the deputy prime minister, call her treatment “abhorrent.” Strong words, with definite and specific meanings. From Mr. Obama, zilch. Nothing at all.
The sentence has been denounced throughout Europe. Bills have been introduced in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate to grant Mrs. Ibrahim and her children permanent legal status in the United States, where she can join her husband, who is an American citizen, and raise her two children, who as children of an American father are American citizens. The legislation was jointly introduced by both Democrats and Republicans, and has dozens of bipartisan co-sponsors.
This should be easy for Mr. Obama, who has a lot to say about the “war on women,” but so far he has been as silent as Mohammed’s tomb. A husband and the father of two girls should need no spur to stand up for a young mother in extreme distress. Mrs. Ibrahim asks for no birth-control devices. She isn’t yearning for an abortion. She doesn’t want to marry a woman. All she asks is her life. President Obama should step outside the box, and try to do as much for these innocents as the Europeans are trying to do for them.
Mr. Obama talks a lot about the beauty of Islam. He says the plaintive notes of the call to evening prayer is “one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset.” He supported the construction of a mosque at the site of World Trade Center. As soon as he was inaugurated, he hurried to the Middle East to apologize for, well, it was not clear for what. The president clearly has a soft spot in his heart (if not in his head) for Islam. He was raised that way. Fair enough. He’s entitled to judge what he thinks is pretty at sunset.
Now here’s his opportunity to use his special relationship with Islam to get justice and freedom for Meriam Ibrahim and her children. Whether he does it with soft talk, soft soap or a hard kick in the pants, he can get it if he tries.
The treatment of Mrs. Ibrahim is wrong, barbaric (in David Cameron’s word) and grotesque. The government in Khartoum is feeling the heat. Mr. Obama must put another log on the fire.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.