Obama gets tough on anti-American violence at UN
Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney came under fire earlier this month for telling President Barack Obama to get tougher on the mobs of Islamist protesters who were responsible for the death of a U.S. ambassador in Libya, but Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday morning seemed to indicate that he had taken the criticism to heart.
Obama opened his address with a salute to the life of murdered ambassador Chris Stevens, his life of service, and his love for the people of North Africa.
“Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers,” Obama said. “Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.”
It was one of several unequivocal denunciations of anti-American violence in his brief address.
When day broke following the death of Stevens and three other Americans, Obama seemed to express some sympathy for those offended by an American-made anti-Muslim film that ostensibly launched the attacks, a sentiment Romney called “disgraceful.”
While Obama reiterated that the amateur film was “crude and disgusting” and deserved to be rejected by the civil-minded, he added that the U.S. would never suppress free speech by banning such a production.
“In 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete,” he said. “The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.”
He got a laugh from the assembly by asserting that “I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day–and I will always defend their right to do so.”
Absent from the speech as well was a deference to Islam above other faiths.
“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied,” Obama said.
Obama also called again for an end to the Assad regime in Syria, though without a plan of action or a timeline to unseat him.
“We must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence,” he said.
But, disappointingly for conservatives, he continued to espouse diplomacy as a resolution to the threat of a nuclear Iran, and unlike Romney, did not call for an end to all nuclear enrichment activities in the nation.
“We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace,” he said.
Obama’s lack of a bolder challenge to Iran was especially glaring because of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s ugly and vitriolic attacks on Israel during his General Assembly speech yesterday.
In his address, Ahmedinejad denounced the nation of Israel, saying its presence in the Middle East would be “eliminated.”
While Obama’s U.N. address was largely innocuous to his campaign, he has already come under fire for opting not to schedule any meetings with world leaders during their sojourn in New York City, and notably making no time for Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama did, however, find room in his schedule for a Tuesday appearance on daytime talk show The View.