The out­rage at evil be­gins to re­cede

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY WES­LEY PRUDEN

Apres­i­dent in trou­ble can al­ways try to change the sub­ject, and of­ten suc­ceeds. It’s one of the most cov­eted perks of of­fice, and Barack Obama knows it well. A week ago, in the wake of the rad­i­cal Is­lamic at­tacks on Paris, ev­ery­one every­where was con­sumed by out­rage and de­ter­mi­na­tion to de­stroy the sav­ages, bar­bar­ians and dirty rats of ISIS. Pun­dits and politi­cians ex­hausted the th­e­saurus for a word aw­ful enough to ap­ply to ter­ror­ists. Ev­ery­one agreed the Is­lamic ter­ror­ists were pigs (though the no­ble and tasty pig had done noth­ing to de­serve the as­so­ci­a­tion). No word was too bad to ap­ply to the evil-do­ers.

We were all French­men. If it’s an ill wind that blows no­body good, Christ­mas ar­rived early for the florists and man­u­fac­tur­ers of Teddy bears. The flo­ral trib­utes de­scended on French em­bassies through­out the world. The blue, white and red of the flag of France dec­o­rated the land­scape, and in the lights pro­jected against houses, sky­scrapers and bridges across Amer­ica.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s usual in­sou­ciance in the face of threat from rad­i­cal Is­lam stood out sharply against the univer­sal out­rage. He had boasted only an hour or so be­fore the violence in Paris that he had “con­tained” the Is­lamic State, as ISIS calls its pre­tended caliphate, and in the hours af­ter­ward he dou­bled down on the ab­surd claim.

But then the anger and the de­ter­mi­na­tion to do some­thing be­gan to re­cede, and it was clear that Mr. Obama in­tended to leave re­sponse and ret­ri­bu­tion, if any, to oth­ers. He would con­tinue to lead from the com­fort of be­hind. The pres­i­dent of France led the way against evil, and Mr. Obama was soon con­tent to turn his ire and out­rage against the real terror of right-think­ing folk, the Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton. Big­otry, not ter­ror­ism, was all that ir­ri­tated the pres­i­dent. The sub­ject of what to do about the gath­er­ing storm bores him.

Soon the aroma of the holier-than-thou be­gan to waft across the land­scape. The flow­ers on the fence at the French em­bassy be­gan to wilt, and the furry lit­tle faces of the Teddy bears grew limp from the tears shed by lit­tle but­ton eyes. The voices of sen­ti­ment, ea­ger to break the si­lence of the com­pas­sion­ate and good, soon emerged from the bab­ble of the rab­ble.

“Con­fronted with those who want to change our way of life,” asked Shep Smith, a Fox News com­men­ta­tor, “will we aban­don our free­doms and the rights granted to us by the Cre­ator, or will we wel­come hud­dled masses, yearn­ing to breathe free? Will we take ex­treme mea­sures to fun­da­men­tally al­ter who and what we are?”

Well, cer­tainly not if rad­i­cal Is­lam gets here first, and leaves us moul­der­ing in the grave. Shep called in the vi­o­lins and hit all the but­tons, steal­ing from the Gip­per as well as from Emma Lazarus. “Our shin­ing city on a hill is vul­ner­a­ble. We’ve al­ways known that. If we change it to ac­com­mo­date the sav­ages, have they won?” Moral equiv­a­lence in un­ex­pected places.

The goo-goo be­gan to spread across the land. A pun­dit in Arkansas, of all places, agreed that ter­ror­ism is bad, and not just the work of the Is­lamic ter­ror­ists of the Mid­dle East. Amer­i­cans do ter­ror­ism, too, and colum­nist Brenda Looper of the Arkansas Demo­crat Gazette cites the Un­abomber, Ti­mothy McVeigh and Eric Ru­dolph. She con­cedes that “the ter­ror­ists of ISIS are among the worst.”

The pres­i­dent, grate­ful for al­lies wher­ever he finds them, lashes out at the Repub­li­cans for want­ing to take pre­cau­tions in ad­mit­ting the refugees from Syria, whence cometh the cur­rent peril. Such de­mands are not only big­otry, but maybe even semi-trea­son, given that the pres­i­dent says they help the enemy by giv­ing ISIS a “re­cruit­ment tool.”

Out­rage al­ways dis­si­pates, and a good thing, but it can some­times ac­com­plish a good end be­fore it mel­lows. Pres­i­dent Obama is try­ing to make sure the out­rage fades be­fore it forces him to take due dili­gence. The vet­ting of Syr­ian mi­grants, let­ting some of them leach across the border, is good enough.

He dis­misses the no­tion that mi­grants must be screened to ex­clude ISIS ringers. “The idea that some­how they pose a more sig­nif­i­cant threat than the tourists who pour into the United States ev­ery sin­gle day just doesn’t jive with re­al­ity. My ex­pec­ta­tion is af­ter the ini­tial spasm of rhetoric, the peo­ple will set­tle down, take a look at the facts and we’ll be able to pro­ceed.”

Only Mr. Clin­ton could get by with us­ing the word “jive” to de­scribe what’s go­ing on. “Jive,” as in “shuck and jive,” is an ex­pres­sion the slaves of yes­ter­year used to de­scribe clown­ing around to mis­lead ol’ Massa. Like nearly ev­ery­thing else, it’s racist now, but it’s a use­ful word, and of­ten ac­cu­rate. The pres­i­dent said it, I didn’t. Wes­ley Pruden is ed­i­tor in chief emer­i­tus of The Times.

Al­fred E. Neu­man

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