Daniel Doherty
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What Barack Obama Could Learn From Our 32nd President ...

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From Townhall Magazine's December feature, "Pearl Harbor Remembered" by Dan Doherty:

September 11, 2012—11 years to the day after 19 fanatical jihadists carried out a terrorist attack against the United States which killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children—the nation was in mourning. Americans everywhere gathered privately and publicly, as they do every year, to remember the innocent lives lost on 9/11. At the nearly-completed memorial in New York City, loved ones read aloud each victim’s name in a sobering tribute to our fallen—yet unforgotten—fellow Americans.

And yet a day that was supposed to be a time for somber reflection and remembrance ended in violence and bloodshed. At approximately 4:00 p.m. Washington, D.C., time, militant Islamists stormed and set fire to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. These extremists, according to the inside-the-beltway website Politico.com, attacked the building with heavy machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. All told, the uprising lasted for four hours—and when the dust settled and the smoke finally dissipated, the unthinkable was confirmed: four American were dead, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. ...

September 2012 was not the first time the executive branch has needed to address such a cowardly act of betrayal. December 7, 2012 marks the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; “a day”—as FDR would later imperishably phrase it— “which will live in infamy.” Thus, it’s fitting to remember the thousands of American sailors and civilians who lost their lives that fateful Sunday morning. And yet it is also important to remember and pay tribute to one of the greatest wartime presidents in American history. ...

When Franklin Roosevelt delivered his “Day of Infamy” speech, the outcome of yet another protracted global conflict was far from certain. But his words had a profound impact on the nation. His speech sought not only to allay the public’s fears (by assuring them the federal government was taking every precaution necessary to preserve their safety and security), but to convince the isolationists in Congress that war was inevitable. In short, his unflinching determination to hold Japan accountable for its action—and defend America’s interests at home and abroad— projected an image of strength to the world. This in turn united the country— and all those whom would later serve in its defense.

In grim contrast, what we have witnessed from the executive branch in response to Libya is a far cry from that quintessentially American can-do tradition.

For example, when it was first reported last September that anti- American demonstrators were burning U.S. flags and storming U.S. embassies across the Arab World (and killing American diplomats, although that was not yet known) the public expected— demanded—a sharp rebuke from the commander-in-chief. And that did ultimately happen, but not until weeks later. Instead, the initial response came from State Department officials in Cairo, who issued an unauthorized, deeply conciliatory press release to the Muslim world essentially apologizing for American values:

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims—as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions,” the official embassy press release stated. “Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

Although the statement above was reportedly issued without approval from the U.S. State Department and was later disavowed by the White House, the message it sent to the Arab World was non-retractable: the United States government was more committed to condemning incendiary speech—and misleading the public—than to defending its own core constitutional principles such as freedom of expression. At a time when radical Islamists threaten both the safety and security of the state of Israel and the international community at large, we need leaders who will stand up, tell the public the truth, and unapologetically defend American interests—as FDR did 71 years ago this month. History teaches us that appeasing those who would seek to destroy us merely demonstrates weakness, emboldens our enemies, and makes the world less safe and secure. Franklin Delano Roosevelt understood this. Unfortunately, President Obama failed to take a lesson from his Democratic predecessor and America’s image abroad—as well as his own—has suffered as a result.

Read more of Doherty's analysis by picking up a copy of the December issue of Townhall Magazine.

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Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography