The president could start to repair that problem Tuesday evening by speaking out for real hope and change in parts of the world where there is little of either. A strong, honest stand for human rights, democratic institutions and rule of law in China, Russia, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua and particularly the Middle East would encourage people yearning for liberty and help defuse despots and jihadists who threaten us with everything from terrorism to nuclear weapons. Such a stance also would unite him in common purpose with most of his domestic political adversaries without alienating his left-wing allies.
Last year, Obama devoted just one phrase of his 15-page State of the Union address to the issue, with this bogus claim: "We support the human rights of the women marching through the streets of Iran." He did no such thing -- all but ignoring weeks of mass demonstrations protesting a stolen presidential election, until the world saw Neda Agha-Soltan murdered by regime goons allied with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Last week, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri came to Washington begging for U.S. support to avert a takeover in Beirut by the Hezbollah thugs who killed his father. That same day, Hariri's government collapsed, and he went home with nothing more than Obama's rhetorical "commitment to strengthening Lebanon's sovereignty and independence."
Last Tuesday, while Coptic Christians were mourning 23 of their number killed in the firebombing of their church in Alexandria, Obama called Egyptian President-for-Life Hosni Mubarak to assure him that this "sad event" and the ongoing Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia would not jeopardize their "mutual quest for Middle East peace." The next day, Arab leaders denounced "foreign interference in Arab affairs, especially over the region's Christian minorities."
On Wednesday, while standing beside Communist China's leader in the East Room of the White House, Obama excused Beijing's repression and denial of basic freedoms by saying, "China has a different political system than we do. China is at a different stage of development than we are. We come from very different ... histories." He then claimed, "I have been very candid with President Hu about these issues."
Making human rights the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy would require a serious midcourse correction for this administration -- and more than words alone to be credible. Obama would have to stop bowing to despots and apologizing for America. But even that should be possible for the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize. Hope and change, indeed.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.