President Obama does worry about a mob mentality. It's just unfortunate that he so often thinks he sees it in his own countrymen.
The administration's response to the attacks on our embassies and the murder of our diplomats last week was familiar. The president condemned the murders and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. But he was also careful to add that the "Libyans acted responsibly by carrying Ambassador Stevens' body to the hospital."
There is now a video of a mob finding Stevens's body, and it's ambiguous. Some shout "Allahu Akbar" and pump their fists in the air when they discover the nearly lifeless body of the ambassador. The New York Times explains that they were praising God because they discovered that Stevens was still breathing. Maybe. The clip leaves room for other interpretations. The point is that Mr. Obama, before all the facts were known -- "shooting first and aiming later" if you will -- was at pains to highlight friendly behavior by the Libyans. Why? Did he fear that Americans might become too angry?
In 2008, President Obama described small town Pennsylvanians as a frustrated lot. Jobs had been disappearing, he explained. "And it's not surprising then they get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." (Now, when there are even fewer jobs, they presumably understand that "no president" could have helped them.)
He seemed to have those bitter, gun-toting Bible-thumpers in mind when, after a terrorist attempted to blow up a plane on Christmas Day in 2009 (the date must have been a coincidence), the president was quick to dismiss the attack as the work of an "isolated extremist." The American people, he added in monitory fashion, "will never give in to fear or division, we will be guided by our hopes, our unity, and our deeply held values." In other words, cancel those plans to murder Arab Americans in revenge. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, it was later learned, was a member of al-Qaeda -- not so isolated.
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