High horses and bull puckey: Professor Obama’s history lesson a dud
posted at 2:01 pm on February 6, 2015 by Ed Morrissey
If Barack Obama missed the incongruity of lecturing today’s Christians about their attachment to the Crusades and slavery while dismissing connections between Islam and ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other present threats from Islamist terror groups, he may have been the only one who did. Noah skewered it as “Voxplaining Islamist fundamentalism,” but it’s worse than that — and plenty of people noticed. The Washington Post reports on the blowback, with critics arguing that the President of the United States has more important tasks than finger-wagging about events from 600 or more years ago … like developing a national strategy to fight the threats in this century:
Obama’s remarks spoke to his unsparing, sometimes controversial, view of the United States — where triumphalism is often overshadowed by a harsh assessment of where Americans must try harder to live up to their own self-image. Only by admitting these shortcomings, he has argued, can we fix problems and move beyond them.
“There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency, that can pervert and distort our faith,” he said at the breakfast.
But many critics believe that the president needs to focus more on enemies of the United States.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called Obama’s comments about Christianity “an unfortunate attempt at a wrongheaded moral comparison.”
What we need more is a “moral framework from the administration and a clear strategy for defeating ISIS,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
Also at the Post, Aaron Blake notices that Obama refuses to link Islam to present terrorism in the same way he linked Christianity to the Crusades and slavery, and that even Democrats are beginning to tire of it:
In the context of Obama’s long-standing remarks on Islam and terrorism, though, invoking the Crusades and the Inquisition are wholly unsurprising. What is more surprising is that he hasn’t done this sooner.
Obama, for the duration of his presidency, has forcefully tried to separate Islam from what terrorists who claim that faith do, in the name of it. The most striking example was in September, amid the growing threat of the Islamic State, when Obama declared not only that the terrorists were perverting their religion — as he has often said — but that they were actually “not Islamic” at all.
“No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of [the Islamic State’s] victims have been Muslim,” Obama said.
In recent weeks, Obama’s critics — and even some Democrats, such as Iraq war veteran Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) — have cried foul that Obama will not refer to “radical Islam” or to terrorists as “Islamic radicals.”
Blake also points out that Obama’s losing the argument:
Americans used to sympathize more with Obama. But the rise of the Islamic State appears to be pushing things in the opposite direction. A Pew poll in September showed, for the first time, that 50 percent of Americans viewed Islam as more likely to encourage violence than other religions. Another 39 percent said it was not more likely to encourage violence.
It probably doesn’t help that the Crusades argument is nonsense anyway, Jonah Goldberg writes:
Obama’s right. Terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity. I have yet to meet a Christian who denies this.
But, as odd as it may sound for a guy named Goldberg to point it out, the Inquisition and the Crusades aren’t the indictments Obama thinks they are. For starters, the Crusades — despite their terrible organized cruelties — were a defensive war.
“The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war,” writes Bernard Lewis, the greatest living English-language historian of Islam. …
It is perverse that Obama feels compelled to lecture the West about not getting too judgmental on our “high horse” over radical Islam’s medieval barbarism in 2015 because of Christianity’s medieval barbarism in 1215.
It’s also insipidly hypocritical. President Obama can’t bring himself to call the Islamic State “Islamic,” but he’s happy to offer a sermon about Christianity’s alleged crimes at the beginning of the last millennium.
We are all descended from cavemen who broke the skulls of their enemies with rocks for fun or profit. But that hardly mitigates the crimes of a man who does the same thing today.
To further that point, author Brad Thor sent a link to this concise explanation of the context of the Crusades. If the President wanted to argue comparative religious development, says Jeff Dunetz, that might have been useful:
The President wasted what could have been a valuable lesson. If he had gone on to say, “Yes Christianity had done horrible things but it learned and evolved, and now Islam must do the same thing,” it would have been a brilliant and relevant lesson. Instead he seemed to excuse the violence by radical Muslims today because of the violence of Christians six to ten centuries ago. …
If the President had started with the Christian massacres and ended with saying, they moderated and now teach peace, and now Islam should do the same he would have made a magnificent point. Instead he made a political point that is being ridiculed on both sides of the aisle.
This came up during my show yesterday afternoon (skip ahead to ~25 minutes or so), and my take was similar to Russell Moore’s. The entire lecture was a non-sequitur, an academic dissertation in the middle of a war that President Obama wants to pretend isn’t happening. Even if Obama’s superficial and faddish take on the Crusades was accurate, how are the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, or Jim Crow (the latter two which ended largely because of Christian activism) relevant to the discussion of what’s happening now with ISIS?
I’ll make a deal with Obama. If he finds the people responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, or American slavery still alive and malicious, we’ll bomb them too. In the meantime, how about we start telling the truth about the Islamist terrorists who are right now literally enslaving young girls as sex objects, slaughtering anyone who doesn’t think like them, acquiring territory in the Middle East, and threatening attacks on the US and Europe? History professors can blather on ad nauseam about events 1,000 years ago, but Presidents are supposed to focus on the here and now. Skip the ignorant and hypocritical lectures, and do your job.
Michael Ramirez was unimpressed with the “high horse” history lecture, too:
Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history. Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here. And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.