He smooched the Turkish Prime Minister and delivered a full bow to Saudi King Abdullah, but it was President Obama’s words of conciliation, not his acts of capitulation, that made the deepest impression during his inaugural overseas trip.
Obama’s charm offensive included apologies for every American sin, real and imagined, and — surprise! — Europe loved him for it.
He told the French that there had been “times when America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” He apologized for America’s history of slavery, for its repression of Native Americans, for torture and for the global economic crisis. But Europe already knows our shortcomings. Too often they are all that Europeans seem able to recall about us.
Obama told an audience of Turkish Muslims that “[Americans] do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”
That’s odd. Obama speaks often about reaching out to the “Muslim world.” The existence of a “Muslim world” suggests there might also be a “Christian world.” And despite Newsweek’s declaration on this week’s cover (title: “The Decline and Fall of Christian America”), the U.S. remains at the center of the Christian world. Eight in ten Americans consider themselves Christian, and a majority prays to God and believes in miracles. A recent Newsweek poll found that at least 62% of Americans do think of the United States as a Christian nation. Is President Obama speaking for only 38% of the nation when he talks overseas?
Obama also said that Islam “…has done so much over so many centuries to shape the world for the better, including my own country.” He continued, “The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country — I know, because I am one of them.”
It was a nice turn of phrase but factually incorrect. Islam is the world’s most popular religion and has undeniably done “so much” to “shape the world.” But Islam has done almost nothing to shape the United States, save, of course, to “shape” the terrorists who committed 9-11, which changed everything, including “so much” of American life.
America is a Judeo-Christian nation, built upon the values in the Ten Commandments. If you asked Americans, “Do you consider America to be a Judeo-Christian nation?” I believe the percentage of folks agreeing with that statement would skyrocket. If you asked, “Is America a Judeo-Christian-Muslim nation?” I suspect the share of affirmative responses would plummet. The last time I checked, the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock were Christians, not Muslims. Our Founding Fathers were inspired by the Old and New Testaments, not the Koran.
Obama also saw necessary to declare that America is “not at war with Islam.” That’s true as far as it goes. But it is also true that the common denominator in the vast majority of America’s enemies is radical Islam. Thankfully, not every Muslim is a terrorist. But virtually every terrorist who the United States has to worry about is a Muslim. And, importantly, virtually every terrorist who the United States has to worry about is a terrorist because of his belief of what his faith requires.
Perhaps President Obama’s most consequential remarks centered on nuclear weapons. He longs for “a world without nuclear weapons.” And we know he is serious. He helped champion an increase in funding for nuclear nonproliferation during his brief stint as a U.S. senator.
The timing of Obama’s remarks was curious, coming as North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile over Japan. Obama sent the implicit message that the best response to the spread of nuclear weapons to outlaw regimes is for America to get rid of ours.
Overall, President Obama went so far out of his way in Europe to project a message of conciliation that even the New York Times had to admit that Obama “veered toward a pre-Sept. 11 world order.”
Hidden in the news coverage about President Obama’s high rhetoric and his adoring crowds was the reality that the president failed to accomplish anything of substance. He failed to persuade European nations to increase fiscal stimulus spending or to send additional combat troops to Afghanistan. He failed to secure anybody’s help with Iran. The lone accomplishment was a consensus around the need for more talks — with Russia, with Iran and with the Muslim world. Negotiations have their place, but listening to Obama’s rhetoric leaves me wondering who will represent us in the talks.
No wonder the world wants Obama to keep talking. For when Obama talks about America, he apologizes for America. Much of the world sees Obama’s confessions as penance for the supposed injustices wrought over two centuries of America’s existence, and especially over eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency.
With each apology, Obama prompts more of the adulation he craves. But while each apology gets Obama closer to his goal of satisfying our critics and enemies, it also takes America further away from our commitment to defend freedom.