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.Nor is he alone. Professor Althouse:
Gaze on that picture and see our government in a sad, shameful display, staged — presumably — to cajole the enemies of free speech into blaming a private individual instead of our country — our country, the caretaker of the freedom that allowed him to speak.If the President were behind such an effort -- to send a photograph around the world that makes it look like we arrested the blasphemer -- then he really should resign. That is indeed a betrayal of his most basic duty.
I'm not sure there's any evidence that the President was involved. This may have been the work of local bosses who felt they were doing him a favor. They do not take oaths to uphold the Constitution, and so may avoid the blame that would befall him.
That said, what ought the President to do? On the one hand, there may be some reasonable suspicion that this fellow violated the terms of his probation. On that same hand, this is in no way a wonderful guy who symbolizes everything good about America. To judge by what we've seen of this film, and his prior conviction for fraud, he's kind of a jerk with whom we have no special reason to wish to be associated.
On the other, however, we are where we are. His movie has become the touchstone for the issue of whether America will give up a core freedom, and begin to restrict our liberty to speak in favor of avoiding blasphemy toward Islam.
Actually, it goes further than that. Since we certainly won't raise a general anti-blasphemy standard -- blasphemy against the Christian religion, for example, will continue to be a staple of the culture -- we are looking at something like a violation of the Establishment clause. Islam would be raised to the position of the only religion the United States will not allow to be blasphemed by her citizens. Islam would then be, in a real sense, the official religion of the United States: the one that we were obliged to respect.
That's a tough spot for the President. He needs to come down hard on the side of this filmmaker, in spite of the bad qualities of the man and in spite of the pain of riots around the globe. He has to do this even though the filmmaker isn't really personally deserving, and the 'work of art' being defended is barely worthy of the name at all.
Not that he will; but you can see why doing the right thing, here, would be very unappealing.