On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, a panel that included host Chuck Todd, New York Times pundit David Brooks, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, and BBC World News America anchor Katy Kay weighed in on President Obama’s despicable moral equivalence regarding his comments about ISIS and the Christian Crusaders of the Middle Ages.
You will recall that, in response to ISIS’ ghastly immolation of their Jordanian pilot captive, Obama lectured Americans in his speech for the National Prayer Breakfast, speaking at length about national humility and urging us to “get off our high horse.” After all, he pointed out, atrocities were once committed in the name of Christ as well, during the Crusades and the Inquisition. So ISIS’ Islamic barbarity “is not unique to one group or one religion,” he claimed. Dumbfounded Americans expressed outrage and disbelief.
But not David Brooks. “I’m totally pro-Obama on this,” he said. “I think he said the right thing.” Brooks said Obama was preaching “a gospel of humility,” which “people in Washington, pundits, and religious believers” all need to hear. “I happen to be all three of those things. And so we’re told to, we’re told to walk humbly in the path of the Lord. The Lord’s ways are mysterious and so you’re saying we’re prone to zealotry… we’re fallen. And so to underline that, that’s useful in Washington today, that’s useful always.”
Certainly our officials in Washington could do with a hefty dose of humility, but America as a whole? We’re prone to zealotry? In our postmodern, God-is-dead era, 7th century Islamic fundamentalists of today like ISIS have practically redefined the word. In the name of their god and prophet, they slaughter innocents, enslave women and children, and butcher apostates. They will use the Koran to justify any horror, and brutally punish any transgression of sharia, on the road to establish their worldwide caliphate. For Brooks and Obama to caution Americans about zealotry in such a context is so morally blinkered as to be staggering.
To her credit, Andrea Mitchell vehemently disagreed with Brooks: “The week after a pilot is burned alive, in a video shown, you don’t lean over backwards to be philosophical about the sins of the fathers.”
“That’s exactly when you do it,” Brooks argued.
No, it’s not. Mitchell was correct that the proper response to ISIS’ unthinkable cruelty was not to chastise ourselves for centuries-old sins, but to condemn the medieval ISIS for their current ones; not to bow in humility, but to assert our moral superiority. Guilty introspection is not the answer to violent evil.
Mitchell’s position was too black-and-white for Katy Kay, who blathered briefly about the “nuanced debate” we should be having about this topic. Progressives love the word “nuance” in the context of morality because they don’t believe in the polar opposites of good and evil. But that is exactly what ISIS believes in, and they are acting accordingly, with no moral or spiritual qualms about the righteousness of their aims and methods.
“Should the president not have done it?” Todd asked the panel. Only Mitchell felt Obama’s comments were inappropriate, but she also cautioned against inflaming the enemy’s hair-trigger rage: “You don’t use the word ‘Crusades,’ number one, in any context right now. It just, it’s too fraught.”
The word is only “fraught” with meaning because it triggers Islamist vitriol. Since everything and nothing triggers Islamist vitriol, that’s their problem, not ours. “Crusade” is our counterpoint to the word “jihad,” so we should reference it proudly and often.
No, we are at the most moral danger to ourselves when we are caught up in a paralysis of self-flagellating cultural guilt against an evil foe that has zero capacity for introspection or doubt. The evil we face absolutely demands a righteous fervor from us, an unflinching civilizational confidence which cultural Marxists have done their best to beat out of us but which is essential to our greatness. This is exactly the wrong time for the leader of the free world, the President of the greatest country on earth, to stand up at the National Prayer Breakfast and preach a gospel of humility.
After gushing that the Prayer Breakfast speech was “beautiful” and that Obama has given “a whole series of great speeches,” the sycophantic Brooks reiterated that Obama’s call for humility was perfectly timed and appropriate: “We’re at the most moral danger to ourselves when we’re caught up in a righteous fervor against an evil foe, which is what we have.”
I am reminded of a book I reviewed for The New Criterion a year ago entitledHumility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue, by David J. Bobb. The director of the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Studies in D.C., Bobb believes that humility has been and is our country’s greatest virtue. He argues that as a nation today, we are afflicted with an arrogance that hinders a revival of our greatness, and that humility must guide us forward.
But while we certainly have an administration that is afflicted with arrogance, it is not a national sickness. Economic turmoil, foreign policy debacles, military downsizing, and vanishing international respect for America have humbled—or more properly, humiliated—us plenty in recent years; what we need now is not to recover our humility but to reclaim a healthy pride in our exceptionalism.
As big a fan as I am of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, what the world needs now is not love, sweet love, but a clear-eyed moral perspective and the righteous strength to act upon it. Black-hearted evil is upon the earth; our nation must summon the moral decisiveness to stand against that evil and eradicate it.
“No God condones terror,” Obama stated in his speech. Wrong. Our enemy believes that their god not only condones it but commands it. And if we don’t quash our spiritual doubt and cultural guilt, and don our own righteous armor, their god will win.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Magazine, 2/16/15)