WASHINGTON -- According to the mighty Wurlitzer in the White House press office, this week's penitent presidential venture to the Middle East has been "historic" and a "new beginning" for our relationship with Islam. Unfortunately for Mr. Obama -- and his campaign promise to make a major speech in a Muslim capital -- Osama bin Laden didn't play along. That's the trouble with homicidal megalomaniacs; they very often don't abide by the rules of "acceptable behavior."
As the Grand Apology Tour swept into Saudi Arabia, the al-Qaida terror chieftain released yet another diatribe on audiotape, condemning "U.S. aggression" in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Though Mr. Obama's carefully scripted "grand gesture" before a thoroughly screened audience in Cairo was simultaneously translated into a half-dozen tongues and broadcast around the world, it wasn't enough to push the bin Laden commentary off Islamic Web sites. That's because bin Laden gets it and Mr. Obama doesn't.
Osama bin Laden doesn't make any apologies for who he is or for the violence he advocates. He is a vicious religious extremist and is proud of the sanguinary carnage he has wrought against thousands of innocent Muslims, infidels in general, and Americans and Jews in particular. He knows his audience is but a tiny fraction of the world's 1.4 billion Muslims, and he is well aware that if only 0.1 percent of them become "jihadists," he will have succeeded. Bin Laden doesn't want to be liked. He wants to be feared.
Mr. Obama, on the other hand, is desperate for affirmation -- thus his repeated references to his "Muslim father" and "the Holy Quran" in an effort to "bond" with his Islamic audience. To demonstrate empathy with "our Arab allies" -- and show improvement from his predecessors -- he did not visit Israel and pointedly condemned Israeli settlements, which, he said, "undermine efforts to achieve peace." To further establish how "different" he is, Mr. Obama has become very deft at distorting the truth to serve his own ends.
He has been practicing the lines he used on this Muslim Outreach Expedition for months. In April, while in Turkey, Mr. Obama baldly stated, "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation." He stressed, however: "We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world -- including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans." "Shaped" and "enriched" are not words that spring instantly to mind when visiting ground zero in New York or the west wall of the Pentagon.
The 1,209 mosques in the United States claim slightly more than 2 million members. There are 48 Muslim-majority nations on earth. Even tiny Oman (population: 3.3 million) has more Muslims than the USA, as do more than two dozen Muslim-minority countries. We do have more than Iceland (Muslim population: fewer than 500).
Note to White House staff: These are called facts. He needs to stick to them. Osama bin Laden and the ayatollahs in Tehran (Iran's Muslim population: 63 million) know better, and they see his grasping for approval as what it is -- weakness. Mr. Obama's plaintive promise of "mutual respect" and his Utopian hope that a "peace agreement" between Israel and the Palestinians would keep the Iranians from using nuclear weapons and Islamists from wanting to kill Americans is beyond naive; it is dangerous.
Some of the Sunni Muslims Mr. Obama met with and spoke to in Riyadh and Cairo undoubtedly want to believe that this "enlightened" American president will protect them from extermination by a Shiite Muslim-Persian bomb. Others may even hope that he can help prevent their heads from being removed by bin Laden's minions. More likely, the pragmatic among them will get quietly to work assembling their own nuclear arsenals.
Endlessly apologizing to everyone for everything the United States has done "wrong" or "failed to do" denies the reality of our past and present enemies, and it denigrates the American people. Just prior to the president's departure for meetings with Saudi King Abdullah and the group hug with Muslim leaders in Cairo, an abortion doctor was murdered, and two U.S. soldiers were gunned down in front of an Arkansas recruiting office by a Muslim convert.
Before getting on Air Force One, Mr. Obama took time out to tell a French television reporter, "I think that the United States and the West generally, we have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam," and then he ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to start protecting abortion clinics. Too bad he didn't do the same for military recruiting stations.