Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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Right Quick: Entitlement

I have personal knowledge of neither the psychic afflictions of Van Jones nor what thoughts are most fashionable within the current and erstwhile ranks of Team Obama, but I gather that entitlement plays a sizeable role in the governing ethos. From the notion that Obama deserved reelection to the conviction that the public should subsidize free contraception to the fetish for “the rich” paying higher rates to pretensions of responsible fiscal governance, we can add the assertion of the divine right of Susan Rice to the throne of confirmation for Foggy Bottom.

Come on, man, “rightful ascension”? You never go full on monarchist (for which “accession” might be more optimal word choice), and Rice, I think, is no Jesus. It would be like a president who campaigned against crusading unilateralism, administrative opacity, and shady belligerence disdaining every attempt at congressional oversight of his new war. That would be ridiculous. This. Is. America.

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Right in the Main

“And the suggestion that anybody in my team…would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander-in-chief.” –Barack Obama

“Be obscure clearly.” –E.B. White

I can’t be biased. I’m from CNN!

It must be nice to have the media so comfortably on your side that a debate moderator can authoritatively throw you a disingenuous lifeline and the supposedly undecided room around you erupts in inappropriate applause. But what do I know? I’m just a guy who thinks that our leaders should have a basic level of integrity when dealing with matters of life and death and that the media should serve as a check on power rather than the twelfth man on a certain candidate’s home turf.

It’s certainly true that the President used the word “terror” in his initial remarks in the Rose Garden, following the murder of Ambassador Stevens and his staff. What is odd is that neither he nor his administration was subsequently willing to label the attack as such for well over a week afterward. And even after several top officials had referred to the operation as terrorism, the president was still hedging on the term with talk show hosts—the same ones that trumped meeting with key allies—and going on about a YouTube video. The salient issue here isn’t terminology or devious political posturing, but that the Obama Administration actively misled the American people about a terrorist attack. For this reason, CNN debate moderator Candy Crowley called Romney’s criticism to that effect, “right in the main”.

The administration realized early on that YouTube protests had nothing to do with the “meticulously executed” attack. Yet despite knowing there weren’t even protests at the consulate, the White House clung to the story of the video triggering the assault. What a flustered Mitt Romney aimed to convey at Hofstra is that the President of the United States failed to protect American lives and then pretended that somebody else made that failure happen. From the U.N. remarks to the taxpayer-financed ads on a different continent, the administration put on a grand tour of deception to occlude any public reckoning with the reality of a disaster. Now that his chickens have come home to roost, Obama purports to be even “more concerned about [the] safety and security” of our diplomats than their own families, with the cool expectation that we will forgive the demonstrable want of a record to that effect.

President Obama is by no means a bad person; I genuinely believe he means all those anodyne reassurances he offers so eloquently. But when the chips were down, and that 3 a.m. call demanded leadership, this Commander-in-Chief was weighed in the balance and found wanting—in Vegas. Thus the U.S. has lost its first ambassador in the line of duty since the grim days of Jimmy Carter.

Remember that the next time this president declares, “We can’t afford to go back to failed policies.”


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Freedom & Terror

“For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, where the column with its epitaph declares it, there is enshrined in every breast a record unwritten with no tablet to preserve it, except that of the heart. These take as your model…judging happiness to be the fruit of freedom, and freedom of valor…” –Thucydides

Maybe the Arab Fall will be warmer than we thought.

The Libyan revolt against the terrorists in their midst is a glorious tale of triumph and justice. There’s something about freedom and personal responsibility that inspire renewed conviction in the blood of Americana. We believe everybody should have the opportunity to govern their own destiny. Our natural resentment for those who prosper at the expense of good people pales only before our visceral disgust at those who squander the faith and hard-earned resources of their benefactors.

For this reason, we wonder whether our billions in aid to hostile powers might be better spent elsewhere. It’s not that we disdain foreign aid, charity, or those in need. To the contrary, Americans are among the most charitable people on Earth. Rather, we are outraged by the wanton irresponsibility that manifests in criminal incompetence, and we abhor the murderous ingratitude that ensures the wages of kindness in the Near East are death. Ambassador Stevens and his aides were brave servants and excellent diplomats. They did not deserve so early and violent a rendezvous with Azrael.

And for this reason, we wince at statements by our leaders that appear, rightly or wrongly, to apologize for our values. There is certainly a need for better understanding between the West and the Arab world. But how is it that we lose cherished public servants to a mob they helped liberate and yet feel compelled to reaffirm what should be our obvious commitment to religious tolerance for everyone? How is it that, just a week ago, we were bracing for fresh rounds of anti-American animus across the Muslim world?

But in light of the storming of the Ansar al-Sharia Brigade and other militia headquarters in Benghazi, the world appears to be changing. And it is a strange, new world indeed when a Muslim crowd in North Africa unilaterally deposes Islamist networks to avenge murdered Americans. But as we cautiously celebrate these exciting developments, the militias are predictably crying foul. What they will do next is unclear. Going forward, our foreign policy should encourage greater comity with the Arab street while pressuring new governments and would-be allies in Libya and elsewhere to defend the rights of their citizens and safeguard the security of their guests.

The tepid repudiation of violence by Egypt’s new president is a start. But our next president must make clear that how our “friends” define their “allies” will determine how we define ours. They are as perfectly free to ignore our concerns as they are to forego our support. At this critical juncture, our leaders must promote human rights as essential to both American interests and the vital project of democracy. Our focus should never shift from eliminating the obdurate evils of violence and repression that reek of innocent blood.

J. Christopher Stevens and his fellow diplomats died in the service of freedom. The Libyan people have moved to honor that legacy. But we all have battles to fight and promises to keep—and miles to go before we sleep.