There are many across the political spectrum that will claim Barack Obama has let them down at some point over the last six and a half years. The reasons for their disappointment with the Obama presidency vary. Regardless of political persuasion, everyone should agree that among the greatest disappointments of this administration is its failure to secure the release of Saeed Abedini. This American citizen has been imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and denied medical treatment in an Iranian prison for the “crime” of sharing his religious faith. Any other administration in American history would have already secured his release. That is, any other administration but this one.
Pastor Saeed’s wife Nagmeh recently met with President Obama who is fully aware of the American prisoner’s plight. The president promises he is doing everything he can to secure Saeed’s release. But is he really? Iran now receives about $700 million a month from the United States - in the form of frozen funds released in exchange for temporary limits on the Iranian nuclear program. It is difficult to imagine why the release of Saeed Abedini is not one of the stated conditions of receiving that monetary relief.
Less than 20 years ago, when Bill Clinton was president, an American named Sandra Chase was imprisoned in Ecuador. There were rumors that prison guards in the prison in which Chase was housed were sexually abusing female prisoners. When those rumors reached the office of United States Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Florida), she contacted Amnesty International (AI). Soon afterwards, AI contacted me and asked me to share information with the Florida Congresswoman. I had recently visited an Ecuadorian prison and was glad to help.
Brown was troubled enough by the descriptions of Ecuadorian prison conditions to fly down to Ecuador to help secure Chase’s release. She succeeded. Note that she was not a sitting president. She was merely a congresswoman.
Some may say this is different. Iran is not Ecuador. But the argument cuts both ways. Dealing with Iran may be more difficult for the president – not because Iran is different but because this president is different. He has an unprecedented preoccupation with reducing the stigma associated with Islam. Thus, he does not want to draw attention to due process abuses in Islamic regimes. It does not seem to matter when American citizens suffer the abuses. Not to this president.
But this case is not about principle. This is about identity politics. If you are not convinced, just imagine the following scenario: Iranian militants have captured a homosexual basketball player during the 2016 summer Olympics. Imagine further that he is imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and denied medical treatment after being transferred to an Iranian prison. Imagine further still that his treatment was motivated by the Iranian’s disapproval of his homosexuality. Could anyone envision Obama giving money to the Iranians without first securing his release?
But Saeed Abedini is not a homosexual. He is an evangelical Christian. As such, he is not a member of one of Obama’s favored political groups. If you don’t believe that Obama’s commitment to due process is rooted in identity politics then you haven’t been paying attention to the Obama-mandated rape tribunals implemented on college campuses in the name of radical feminism. Those tribunals, which allow for double and triple jeopardy against the accused, are strongly encouraged by the Obama Department of Education. Universities that refuse to conform do so under the threat of losing federal funding.
Last week, while on spring break in Colorado, I had the pleasure of meeting Pastor Saeed’s wife, Nagmeh. On the way home, I was sitting on a plane writing the opening lines of this column. In the seat in front of me, there was a 3 year-old boy who was crying and kicking and screaming and making demands of his father who was seated next to him. Despite being much larger, the father refused to discipline the child. He simply gave him everything he asked for. Naturally, the kicking and screaming got worse, rather than better.
That weak and accommodating father reminds me of our president. But the comparison is imperfect. The father probably had principle though he lacked resolve. Our president has neither.