One of the remarkable things about getting older is the opportunity to see history repeat itself. Those of us who are old enough to remember enduring the abysmal economy of the late 1970s frequently tend to forget that there were other factors in Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory over Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election.
While Carter’s inept economic policies were most certainly the major factor that year, his equally maladroit foreign policy played a role in the demise of his presidency as well, especially the events that were unfolding in the Middle East at the time.
For 444 days, from November 4, 1979 until January 20, 1981, Carter increasingly appeared paralyzed as 52 Americans were held hostage by Islamist radicals who had overrun our embassy in Tehran, Iran. After a failed military rescue attempt resulted in the deaths of eight American servicemen, in addition to being regarded as an incompetent chief executive, Carter was increasingly viewed as a virtually impotent commander in chief; and a whopping majority of the electorate would hold him accountable for his considerable failures that following November.
The Iranians shrewdly waited to see who won the U.S. election. Of course, Reagan crushed Carter at the polls. The moment the new president was sworn in, the hostages were released. Few but the most diehard cynics would today deny the obvious reason.
Thirty-two years later, history is repeating itself on a not so dissimilar world stage, with Barack Obama in the role of the hapless President Peanut, and Mitt Romney as the Gipper.
A mob of extremists invaded the grounds of our embassy in Cairo, Egypt this week and replaced the American flag with an Islamic banner. The Obama administration claimed this was in response to an unflattering Internet video about the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Their initial hand-wringing, knee-jerk reaction was to issue a statement condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”
That’s right. Instead of attacking the attackers — in either word or deed — our government condemned those who had made the video.
Within hours, obviously emboldened by Jimmy Obama’s wimpy rejoinder, Islamist savages attacked the American Embassy in Libya and murdered four diplomats, including our ambassador.
Obama’s reaction? With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by his side for strength and credibility, he spoke cool platitudes from the White House Rose Garden about “working with the Libyan government to bring those responsible to justice.”
Later reports stated that these attacks may well have been orchestrated and coordinated by al-Qaida, but Jimmy Obama stuck to his story about the “offensive video.”
Playing the Gipper role beautifully, Romney responded by stating that he was outraged by the attacks and by the deaths of the Americans. “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.”
This brought waves of questions from the ever-inquiring minds of the national media, invested as they are in getting Jimmy Obama re-elected. How could Romney dare to comment on this issue at a time like this? Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Isn’t politics supposed to stop at the water’s edge? Etc., etc., yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. (Honestly, doesn’t that sum up their analysis sometimes?)
But playing the title role that will surely make him the next President of the United States, Ronald Romney stuck to his guns:
“America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies,” he said. “We also will defend our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.”
What would the Gipper say about that? I think he would say, “Now that sounds like a president!”
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