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May 6, 2015

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j. patrick coolican:

Obama doesn’t have to apologize for lies told about his speeches


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign stop at Cashman Center Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

With President Barack Obama in town this week, I thought it useful to explore a commonly held belief about his foreign policy, namely that Obama has apologized for America and doesn’t believe in “American exceptionalism.”

There’s plenty to criticize in his foreign policy, such as, what will happen to Afghanistan when we leave? Or, what’s happening in Iraq now that we’re mostly gone?

But this apology stuff? It’s bumper sticker jingoism, a Sharron Angle email forward from your deranged uncle, a Facebook post from some guy you went to ska shows with in high school but somehow became a rabid right winger.

The apology argument is timely, as Obama’s Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, attacked him late Tuesday on the issue, in the wake of a rocket attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya and three of his embassy staff.

In case you missed it: Though the origins remain mysterious, someone made an amateurish film, or a trailer of a film, that’s essentially a bad, unfunny satire of the life of Muhammad. Perhaps anticipating an uproar and under duress as protesters gathered, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement early Tuesday that said, in part: “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.” Later, a rocket attack killed the American diplomats in Libya.

Romney released a statement condemning Obama, saying, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” On Wednesday, Romney called the embassy statement “akin to an apology.”

This was pretty much false. The embassy statement came before, not after, the attacks, and anyway, the secretary of state speaks for America abroad, and here’s what Hillary Clinton said late Tuesday in response to the attacks: “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. ... Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

The rather ham-handed Romney attack wasn’t surprising, not just because Romney has struggled to convey authority or a deft touch on foreign policy matters — “American Borat,” they’re calling him abroad — but because there’s a deep-rooted belief among conservatives that Obama is always apologizing for America.

Obama Speaks at Cashman Center: Sept. 12, 2012

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign stop at Cashman Center Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Launch slideshow »

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler laid it out last year.

Romney, the Heritage Foundation, Donald Rumsfeld, etc., all have attacked Obama for being un-American by apologizing for America.

The critique sounds to me like the kind of thing you’d hear after a couple kegs of beer in a fraternity house — “Bro! No apologies for Sigma Nu, bro!”

Or, in our case, yes, we invaded your country under the pretense that it was stockpiling dangerous weapons, and, yes, it turned out you didn’t have those weapons, and, yes, our invasion sparked a brutal civil war, but ... no apologies!

In any case, here’s a few examples from Kessler of Obama “apologizing”:

“In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.”

That’s not an apology, but it is certainly true. Just ask Rumsfeld, who derided France and Germany as “old Europe” for not joining the Iraq war. He really put it to them that time.

But anyway, here’s the rest of what Obama said: “But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what’s bad.”

Sounds to me like Obama is defending the United States from the “blame America first” crowd in Europe.

Here’s another apology: “The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history. Facing the Washington Monument that I spoke of is a memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the man who freed those who were enslaved even after Washington led our Revolution.”

As Kessler points out, Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, said something similar in 2003, though much more detailed.

Earlier this year, Obama did apologize in a letter to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai for what he said was the “inadvertent” burning of Korans by NATO troops. (I nearly missed that one, but if I had, I wouldn’t have apologized.)

Bush also apologized — actually apologized — for mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners and a shooting of the Koran.

More pointedly, the Bush administration correctly noted that America’s decades-long policy of coddling oil-rich Middle Eastern dictators had contributed to the political and economic environment that spawned terrorism, which sounds pretty apologetic to me.

(I apologize if this is running long.)

Finally, when it comes to America’s special role in the world, American exceptionalism, Obama said this early in his term: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Aha! Romney, in his book “No Apologies,” which could be the title of thousands of bad pro sports memoirs, wrote that this reply was proof that Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism.

But, as with so many Romney attacks on Obama, there’s always another Obama sentence that Romney leaves out.

So here’s the rest of what Obama said: “I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. ... If you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.”

Note how he didn’t mention that he’s proud of how much we love Jesus. Did you notice that? Does he think we don’t love Jesus?

Potential sequel to Romney’s “No Apologies”: “Yes, America Loves Jesus, Despite What Some Kenyan Muslim Socialist Usurpers Think.”

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  1. Enjoyed the article, Mr. Coolican.

    But what gets me is the Tea/Republicans are not following their playbook. They are actually following Fox News talking points when this "apology" thing came out.

    Which basically confirms that Fox News and people like Rush Limbaugh actually speak for them. And they have absolutely no idea what to do if it weren't for them speaking for them and leading them by the nose all the time.

    The Tea/Republican Party is bereft of ideas anymore. I really do believe they watch the ultra-ultra-conservative news media on television for ideas.

    Now even Romney is participating in this stupid "apology" excuse. No, not accusation. It's an excuse to try to get him in the spotlight and trying to gain some higher moral ground. Romney thinks otherwise, but this has failed. Abysmally. The American people, if they haven't made a decision before what happened in Libya, have made it now. They'd have to be crazy to vote for Romney. The guy is a loose cannon and reacts even before facts come out, just throws out this "apology" dumbness. Clueless Romney.

    Another thing that gets me is how can an entire political party (Tea/Republican Party) jump up and down, clamor, scream and rail against another party (Democratic Party) that they are "apologizing" for stuff (which isn't true at all), when in fact the Tea/Republicans make stupid, inflammatory, blatantly false statements all the time...AND NEVER APOLOGIZE WHEN THEY GET CAUGHT DOING IT?

    I guess what's good for the goose is NOT good for the gander in Tea/Republican Party politics.

    However, I do encourage the entire Tea/Republican Party to continue this line of attack on President Obama and his entire administration.

    Mainly because they have been proven wrong time and time again. Debunked at every turn.

    And the more they continue that line of attack, the more stupid they look.

  2. Say it outright: President Barack Obama has not done an apology tour as suggested and said by Mitt Romney and the extreme right of the Republican Party. This apology thing is a total lie, as is everything coming from the Republican Party---Lies, lies, lies.

    The weak minded, letting the talking heads, cable news, and extreme talk radio, shape and defined your thoughts and way of life. You all need to pray and ask God for your brain back, and the Holy Spirit in your life!!!

    What is very sad, as Americans, we are not openly supporting the President during this time of attack against the embassy in Libya. Both parties, all parties, should be supporting the President in supporting American embassy all over the world. People, you are safe for many reasons, President Obama is a big part of our safety. Where is the hell is your support for the President, for America! Show some gatitude! You all currently enjoying American freedom and independence...You didn't fight for this! This freedom was fought long ago by "real" American Patriots, being maintained by our current man and woman at the front lines. They don't hate America!

    Plan and simple, if your not supporting our President,...any President, during a time of attack against American, YOUR NOT AN AMERICA! Your something else!!!.

    Is this country so full of bias, prejudice, believing lies, only thinking of self, forget your neighbor, and just having outright hate, that we as a nation, as Americans, would not support the hand that feeds our freedom and independence? What the hell have we've become???

    Bigotry and Hatred. If this is you, your group, your family of Un-Americans. Do us all a big favor and leave the country!!!! And don't come back!!!!

  3. Comment removed by moderator. Name Calling

  4. Jerry,
    Grow up.

  5. Great article. And look, right below a comment that proves your point!

  6. @Herectic,

    You apparently didn't read what is written, or you just have selective reading.

    Your wrong! The entire country was supportive of former President Bush when American was attacked!

    What? You don't consider our embassy being attack and Americans being killed as being part of America??? Please, take your partisan hat off man! Take the blinder off! Get informed! There is no reason to be ignorant when so much information is available---facts, real information! Be an American, just this one time, will you???

    Bigotry and Hatred have no place in American, especially during the time of war and when America is being attacked. Bush was fully supported by Democrats when America was attacked. Where is your patriotism? Where?

  7. I see the radical right is preaching from Bizarro World again, and as usual get the timeline and facts wrong. I have yet to see any evidence of this "apology tour" they imagine occured. If left up to these warhawks and/or chickenhawks we would have military bases in every mid eastern country. Hmm .. who would man those bases, these complaining and whining warhawks and chickenhawks? Doubt it!

  8. Comment removed by moderator. Refers to removed comment.

  9. Obama cannot say the words "war on terror" or "islamic terrorist" but has no problem saying the words "war on women".

    Which by the way has only one confirmed kill, and that was courtesy of Ted Kennedy.

  10. Sir: A rocket attack that killed the 4? I didn't see that. The news I read was a late night attack by breach, and it went as far in an article or two, to say they were "raped and sodomized".

    Now, I may be from Public School, but it was 9-11, there were traffic messages saying such activity was in the works..I would have thought it only proper to have "higher security".

    This president doesn't have to apologize, he armed those against the embassy it appears. I guess we need a couple of buildings leveled every year to keep our minds fresh on what is happening in the world.

  11. "The rather ham-handed Romney attack wasn't surprising, not just because Romney has struggled to convey authority or a deft touch on foreign policy matters -- "American Borat," they're calling him abroad -- "

    Coolican -- good one! That voters are actually seriously considering Romney goes to show how much like a herd our body politick has become. Still, he's better than his former competitors' rabid pandering to the far religious right. Excepting Paul, of course.

    "The weak minded, letting the talking heads, cable news, and extreme talk radio, shape and defined your thoughts and way of life. You all need to pray and ask God for your brain back, and the Holy Spirit in your life!!! ..... Plan and simple, if your not supporting our President,...any President, during a time of attack against American, YOUR NOT AN AMERICA! Your something else!!!"

    "Your wrong! The entire country was supportive of former President Bush when American was attacked!"

    Longtimevegan -- at first glance your first quote looked tongue-in-cheek, then a closer read showed you to actually be serious. Rather than retort with the counter-rant it deserves, got an apt historical quote just for you -- "The Fuhrer is always right." (Joachim von Ribbentrop, the 1939 Konigsberg address)

    "By proudamerican - "Last Throes--You brought up Romney' family background, at least Romney's mother didn't pose nude for porn Mags as your hero's mother did."

    VernosB -- I'm with you on this one, and I'll take it to the next level with questioning what's wrong with a woman "pos[ing] nude for porn Mags"? That's the kind of thing the First Amendment protects, yet those among us with an old lady mentality screams outrage just because a nipple suddenly appears on national TV. So much for "land of the free and home of the brave."

    "Is this 1984, or what?" -- the Honorable Alex Kozinski, now chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in the Unabomber case (2001)

  12. @Heretic,

    What is written is not in anger. What is written is true, and delivered as it should be delivered, as an America supporting a President in a time of attack on the nation.

    Heretic, from what you have written, you seem to not share basic American values? Our embassy was attacked, you appear by your comments, you do not support the President in defending America or Americans in service to the county. On 9/11 when American was attack, Americans supported George Bush. No matter who the President, your always support teh President when America and Americans are attacked.

    Heretic do not support President Obama during this time, the time of attack on our embassy, an attacked that killed 4 Americans! When a citizen does not support the government, the President in time of war, when the county is under attack, what do you call this person? What is this type of person, when your county, or your state or your city is under attack and you failed to give support in the protection of an attack? It's called a traitor!

    Heretic, please tell the world what you would call yourself, here in America!

  13. "Heretic, from what you have written, you seem to not share basic American values?"

    Longtimevegan -- evidently with you and your ilk "basic American values" doesn't include the Bill of Rights. This shows whatever your "values" are it doesn't include either respect for, or basic knowledge of, what it means to be a citizen. Don't expect me and maybe a few others to march lockstep with you shouting your party slogans.

    "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH" -- the three slogans of the Party from Orwell's "1984"

  14. @Heretic, @Killerbee, One of the same. You that this would go unnoticed?

    Look, both of you. First, I am an independent voter. Second. The posts are about being supportive of the President, no matter who the President, during times America and Americans are being attacked.

    Again, what would you call yourselves when either of you will not support a sitting President during an attack on the Nation? Ummm?

  15. the message sent by the embassy was a damn apology whether you will admit it or not. the WH is walking the statement back, after about 10 hours of letting it stand. the President is now not even calling Egypt an ally anymore. and furthermore, if this is a "crisis and as Americans we should all follow the blind leader as true Americans" then he needs to have his butt in DC being the President not out campaigning to keep his job.

  16. "Again, what would you call yourselves when either of you will not support a sitting President during an attack on the Nation? Ummm?"

    Longtime -- citizen, freeman, not-a-nazi, take your pick. Since your posts are part of the price we all pay for free speech, you're free to mooooo on.

    "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check . . . when it comes to the rights of th[is] Nation's citizens" -- Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U. S. 507, 536 (2004)

  17. Wait a minute, so the same administration that's basing a chunk of their re-election effort on bashing Romney's religion and calling it "a cult" is also trying to claim that "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

    So it's an "abuse" of free speech to say anything offensive to Muslims, but an "inalienable right" when insulting Mormons?

  18. "So it's an "abuse" of free speech to say anything offensive to Muslims, but an "inalienable right" when insulting Mormons?"

    wendor -- nope

    "The fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it. Indeed, if it is the speaker's opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it constitutional protection. For it is a central tenet of the First Amendment that the government must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas." -- Hustler Magazine and Larry C. Flynt v. Jerry Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 55-6 (1988)

  19. For once you wrote a good article, no apologies needed for being long.

  20. Oh yeah, and if you want to pick nits and point out that the press release was form the US Embassy in Egypt, and not the White House, here's Obama's actual statement: "While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants."

    Let's see how long the White House and the DNC manage to refrain from "denigrating the religious beliefs of others"....specifically other presidential candidates.

    Obama condemned Maher's "cult" remark....but kept his million dollar donation. So I guess those principles only go as deep as the top of the pocketbook.

  21. KillerB, I know that supreme court ruling well.

    That's why it surprises me so much that in direct contradiction to it, the current administration as chosen to publicly describe Constitutionally protected free speech as "abus[ing] the universal right of free speech" and stating that "the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others". (despite one of Obama's top donors publicly doing so)

    Seems that Obama's administration has decided that they will not "remain neutral". Characterizing speech they personally find offensive as an "abuse" of "the universal right of free speech" is inappropriate. Doing so in an official capacity is almost criminal. Doing so in an official capacity while accepting huge donations from the people whose actions you are condemning is.....revealing.

  22. "I think Mormons are good Americans, just don't want a devout one in the White House."

    Jeff -- good point, and I'm a liberated LDS. Taking your reasoning to the next level, I don't want a devout anyone in the White House!

    "KillerB, I know that supreme court ruling well."

    wendor -- cool, there's more than one of us! I remember Flynt's words after winning, to the effect of "If the First Amendment protects a scumbag like me, imagine what it does for the rest of you."

    Yet peaceful demonstrators outside both the recent RNC and DNC conventions were suppressed. Worse, voters are lining up to support both parties in spite of it.

    "If the exercise of constitutional rights will thwart the effectiveness of a system of law enforcement, then there is something very wrong with that system." -- Escobedo v. State of Illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 490 (1964)

  23. Doesn't matter. Obama's weak kneed response to the attacks on our embassies have guaranteed his defeat. It's shameful that an American president has so little outrage over the deaths of Americans. The only good thing is that real Americans now know what his real beliefs are and will turn him out in November. Maybe our country can still be saved.

  24. Here are some excellent devout atheists that did the world a lot of good --

    Albert Einstein

    Arthur C. Clarke

    Frederick Nietzsche

    Sigmund Freud

    Hugh Hefner

    Ernest Hemingway

    John Lennon

    Seth MacFarlane

    Eric Blair, aka George Orwell

    Frank Zappa

    Charlie Chaplin

    Angelina Jolie

    Stanley Kubrick

    Richard Dawkins

    Thomas Edison

    Ayn Rand

    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

    Mark Twain

    Edgar Allan Poe

    Marie Curie

    Helen Keller

    Larry Flynt

    Susan B. Anthony

    And last but not at all least, our very own Penn Jillette!

  25. "Frank Zappa and Hugh Hefner? Come on."

    chuck333 -- Zappa was famously anti-religion. You can find a lot of that @ under Frank Zappa. I'll admit Hefner is iffy.

    "Beware of the fish people, they are the true enemy." -- Frank Zappa, speech to a pro-choice rally in Los Angeles around 1989-90

  26. renorobert - " In repudiating this statement, Romney clearly and officially puts himself on the side of those who encourage religious bigotry and intolerance."

    Sorry, but that a logical fallacy you've got there.

    Opposing the suppression of free speech does not mean that you agree with the speaker....just that you defend their right to say it.

    For example, I don't agree with what you say....but I'd react just as negatively if the US Government labeled your posts here as "abus[ing] the universal right of free speech".

    You and the filmmaker both have the right in this country to freely express your matter how ignorant they may be. Defending your rights does not mean that anyone agrees with you.

  27. But liberals have told us not only do we have to tolerate artistic attacks on Christianity, but we should also subsidize them through the NEA.

  28. I have greater respect for atheists than for lying, greedy, crazy so-called-christians who so obviously do not believe in the Almighty, nor practice their religion.

    Dirty-rotten-scoundrel Mitt Romney making stuff up. Then when he's called out, makes more stuff up. Disgraceful is too mild a word for Romney.

  29. Thanks for the good article, Cooligan. I appreciate the factual content, as well as the manner in which you presented it.

    After reading the comments, however, I couldn't help but notice many similarities between the extremist right in the Middle East and N. Africa, and the extremist right in America.

  30. J. Patrick Cooligan,thank you for a wonderful article and support of our President in saying what is true, and what is reasonable.

    As one can read from the posts, many people believe in false information. Instead of doing a little research to get the facts---true information, we clearly see many people are making decisions fueled by bias, prejudice and hate. The truth to many people would be a cure for the shortcomings, but like most people in denial, they prefer to cling to long standing false beliefs taught by misguided parents, relatives and friends, coming from communities that fostered and reinforced falsehoods during childhood to adult.

    Sadly, many Americans will take bias, prejudice and hatred in the voting booth in November. Many people have not earned citizenship in American. Just being born in America does not mean you earned citizenship in America! Your not entitled until you earned what has been given. Being a responsible citizen in America is not difficult. Follow the law, pay your taxes, participate and support reasonable state and government initiatives, which includes being in the armed forces, if you disagree with something, you have a debate on the issue for a resolution. More importantly vote in local, state and national elections. However, before one can be a citizen, to do all that is required of a citizen in America, one has to be reasonable, have the facts on the issues, and then act responsibly.

    Bias, prejudice, and hatred have no place in America. If you are a person aware of these shortcomings in yourself or with others, there is help available. For the ones who know and fuel these attitudes, the message for you, your in a small shrinking group. It's a matter of time---short time, when your voices will not be heard or recognized. Citizenship carries responsibilities, having bias, prejudices or hate is not one of them.

  31. What used to be wrong is right - What used to be right is wrong - "Do what ever you feel you want to do if it is right for you. There are no one or no power defining ultimate truth. Do what ever is right is right in your own eyes. The end justifies the means." This is what our country and its citizens have become. Short term gain - long term demise. Don't worry about the future because there is none, all we have is today.
    How's that workin out for ya Barry?

  32. By the way, Tom Edison, Helen Keller, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Albert Einstein were NOT atheists. That fact is well documented. The rest of the individuals on that list are a feeble lot, at best.