Just for the record, this is what it looked like for a man who made a film that made the Obama Administration uncomfortable:
Here’s the key bit: “Just after midnight Saturday morning, authorities descended on the Cerritos home of the man believed to be the filmmaker behind the anti-Muslim movie that has sparked protests and rioting in the Muslim world.”
When taking office, the President does not swear to create jobs. He does not swear to “grow the economy.” He does not swear to institute “fairness.” The only oath the President takes is this one:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
By sending – literally – brownshirted enforcers to engage in – literally – a midnight knock at the door of a man for the non-crime of embarrassing the President of the United States and his administration, President Obama violated that oath. You can try to pretty this up (It’s just about possible probation violations! Sure.), or make excuses or draw distinctions, but that’s what’s happened. It is a betrayal of his duties as President, and a disgrace.
He won’t resign, of course. First, the President has the appreciation of free speech that one would expect from a Chicago Machine politician, which is to say, none. Second, he’s not getting any pressure. Indeed, the very press that went crazy over Ari Fleischer’s misrepresented remarks seems far less interested in the actions of an administration that I repeat, literally sent brown-shirted enforcers to launch a midnight knock on a filmmaker’s door.
But Obama’s behavior – and that of his enablers in the press – has laid down a marker for those who are paying attention. By these actions he is, I repeat, unfit to hold office. I hope and expect that the voters will agree in November.
Related thoughts from Ann Althouse:
That’s a scarf wrapped around his face, not a “towel.” Is the L.A. Times nudging us to think of this man as a “towelhead”? And look at this headline in the Daily Mail: “The man who set the Middle East ablaze hides his face in shame…” Shame? If I were imputing a motivation to this man, I’d say he has a fully justified fear of becoming a recognizable face.
But I think our government is delusional if it thinks the people who are rioting in Africa and killing our diplomats would – if they knew the facts – see individuals like Nakoula as the proper focus of their rage. They don’t believe the necessary premise: freedom as the superior value. As long as they favor a system in which blasphemy is outlawed and severely punished, they will continue to blame the American government for standing back and allowing blasphemy to flourish and flow everywhere. What good does it do to ask them to please understand our system? They hate this system.
Meanwhile, our government would scapegoat a free citizen. It’s not even effectual scapegoating.
Note Althouse’s strikethrough. You are not “free” when police can come to your door after midnight and demand that you “come downtown and answer a few questions” over a film you’ve made. Voluntarily, of course…
It’s the deputies who should be covering their faces out of shame, but the real shame is on the man at the top of the hierarchy.
UPDATE: Reader J.M. Hanes writes: “I went berserk over the L.A.T. Nakoula photo too, but on top of the brownshirted Constitutional debacle, one incredibly consequential point has gotten lost in the shuffle: Could any visual more effectively reinforce the Arab street’s belief that the U.S. government can, in fact, punish blasphemers if it so chooses?”
Good point, and it ties in well to these comments by Eugene Volokh.
Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated. (Relatedly, “once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane.”) Say that the murders in Libya lead us to pass a law banning some kinds of speech that Muslims find offensive or blasphemous, or reinterpreting our First Amendment rules to make it possible to punish such speech under some existing law.
What then will extremist Muslims see? They killed several Americans (maybe itself a plus from their view). In exchange, they’ve gotten America to submit to their will. And on top of that, they’ve gotten back at blasphemers, and deter future blasphemy. A triple victory.
Would this (a) satisfy them that now America is trying to prevent blasphemy, so there’s no reason to kill over the next offensive incident, or (b) make them want more such victories? My money would be on (b).
And this is especially so since there’ll be plenty of other excuses for such killings in the future. It’s not like Muslim extremists have a clearly defined, unvarying, and limited range of speech they are willing to kill over (e.g., desecrating Korans and nothing but). Past history has already proved that; consider the bombings and murders triggered by the publication of the Satanic Verses.
What’s more, there are lots of people in the Muslim world who are happy to stoke hostility… That’s why it seems to me to actually be safer – not just better for First Amendment principles, but actually safer for Americans – to hold the line now, and make clear that American speech is protected even if foreigners choose to respond to it with murder. That would send the message, “murder won’t get you what you want.” Not a perfectly effective message to be sure, but a better one than “murder will get you what you want.”
Read the whole thing. Especially if you work in the White House or the Justice Department.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More from Donald Sensing. “There is no possible justification for voting for this man in November. None, period.”
And reader Joel Mackey writes: “For the people that think that man had it coming due to prior run ins with the law, they should realize that they commit 3 felonies a day, the feds have all the reason they need to knock on your door at midnight, if you cause problems for them.” Yes, given that the laws are so complex that pretty much everyone is a felon, prosecutorial discretion rules. And that discretion needs to be bounded by political norms that you don’t abuse it just to go after people who express ideas you don’t want expressed. Those norms come from the First Amendment, but if there’s no cost to violating them, they won’t last.
MORE: Reader Richard Eastland writes:
Those who think he had it coming because of probation are sticking their heads in the sand.
He wasn’t hounded because he violated probation. He was persecuted because he made a video that the federal government is upset with.
Regardless of the “how” they are justifying their actions, the “why” is completely clear.
If you use his, please use my name. I refuse to be bullied by those who would use force to silence, be they terrorists or my own government.
Good for you. And reader Paul Crabtree writes: “Although the midnight raid to punish free speech is beyond deplorable, I guess we should be relieved that the Nobel Prize winner didn’t order a drone strike on his house.” Heh. We probably don’t have to worry about those… in the first term.
MORE STILL: Reader Jack Moody writes:
Prosecuting someone because they broke the law is one thing.
Only prosecuting someone who broke the law, after they embarrassed the administration, is gangster government, extortion, and the road to totalitarianism.
And that’s pretty clearly what’s happened here. Though to be fair, they didn’t actually prosecute him. Just took him downtown to answer a few questions. Voluntarily. After midnight. With a lot of TV cameras there, somehow.
And sorry, claims that this was just a routine probation matter don’t pass the laugh test. They’re just pure hackery.
And reader Rob Beile paraphrases Dean Wormer: “Incompetent, Thuggish and Cowardly is no way to lead The Free World, Mr. President.”
MORE STILL: Reader Jack Moss writes: “Probation is not a law enforcement function, it’s under the court. If his probation officer wanted to question him about the use of a computer, that broke his probation fine. But that wouldn’t include questions about making an anti-Islamic movie. It’s irrelevant. That means that the FBI showed up outside their jurisdiction for a reason given by their superiors. The question then is who ordered them there.”