If the President doesn't stand for Freedom

If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, who will?

In a time of crisis, with lives in the balance, in the conflict between two powerful ideologies -- one that prizes freedom, one that would strangle its people in a totalitarian grip -- an American president spoke directly to those whose lives and liberties were most threatened and told them that the United States stood with them, that we are all Berliners.

If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, who will?

In another time of crisis in the conflict between two powerful ideologies -- one that cherishes freedom, one that would enslave its subjects -- an American president spoke directly to those most threatened and told them that the United States stood by them, demanding, "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, who will?

Two decades later, another conflict between ideologies -- one that values freedom and one that would subjugate its people with the force of clubs and guns -- and the president tells those who are putting their freedoms, their families' well-being, their very lives at stake ...

What? Not that we stand with them. Not that the fists and clubs and boots that rain down on them wound us all. Not, as the founders said far more eloquently than I, that freedom is God's -- or Allah's, if he would prefer to say it that way -- gift to us all. Not that we are as ready to stand with Iranians as we were with Berliners. But that, "I think it's important for us to make sure the Iranian people know we are watching."  

Even at that, Mister Obama's response to the protests, and subsequent violence, in Iran has warmed in recent days ... from cool to tepid. 

But where is the eloquence for which he has been so fulsomely praised? As he noted during last year's campaign, words have meaning, and, whatever one thinks of his policies, Obama reads words from the teleprompter well enough to make the most polished TV anchor jealous.

So where now are the soaring rhetoric, the lofty ideals, the calls to action with which Obama campaigned only months ago? Did his speech writers take a summer sabbatical? Or were his words then no more than a facade, carefully constructed by his handlers to appeal to a target demo, as calculated as it was cynical?

If it had been he, instead of JFK, would he have told West Germans, 'Text me about how things work out'? Or if it had been he, instead of Reagan, would he have demanded 'Mister Gorbachev, give us a mural on this wall'? Maybe of him?

If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, who will?

At his Tuesday news conference, Obama called the widely-circulated video of Nedha Agha-Soltan's shooting death, "Heartbreaking." If you're one of the few people who haven't seen it yet, the brutal death of this lovely young woman -- a teenager whose short life was snuffed out violently, needlessly, senselessly by a regime which should have protected her -- is that and more.

One of Obama's books is entitled, The Audacity of Hope. We are seeing the true audacity of hope play out in the streets of Tehran, just as we are watching the lifeblood of freedom flow from the people of Iran.

People like Neda.

The men and women of this country who have fought and bled and died--and are fighting and bleeding and dying right now in places like Iraq and Afghanistan--know that freedom doesn't come cheap. Few know more about that price than Senator John McCain. To paraphrase him on Neda's death: She died with her eyes open; let us not keep our eyes closed.

If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, the rest of us must.

William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author
If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, who will?

In a time of crisis, with lives in the balance, in the conflict between two powerful ideologies -- one that prizes freedom, one that would strangle its people in a totalitarian grip -- an American president spoke directly to those whose lives and liberties were most threatened and told them that the United States stood with them, that we are all Berliners.

If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, who will?

In another time of crisis in the conflict between two powerful ideologies -- one that cherishes freedom, one that would enslave its subjects -- an American president spoke directly to those most threatened and told them that the United States stood by them, demanding, "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, who will?

Two decades later, another conflict between ideologies -- one that values freedom and one that would subjugate its people with the force of clubs and guns -- and the president tells those who are putting their freedoms, their families' well-being, their very lives at stake ...

What? Not that we stand with them. Not that the fists and clubs and boots that rain down on them wound us all. Not, as the founders said far more eloquently than I, that freedom is God's -- or Allah's, if he would prefer to say it that way -- gift to us all. Not that we are as ready to stand with Iranians as we were with Berliners. But that, "I think it's important for us to make sure the Iranian people know we are watching."  

Even at that, Mister Obama's response to the protests, and subsequent violence, in Iran has warmed in recent days ... from cool to tepid. 

But where is the eloquence for which he has been so fulsomely praised? As he noted during last year's campaign, words have meaning, and, whatever one thinks of his policies, Obama reads words from the teleprompter well enough to make the most polished TV anchor jealous.

So where now are the soaring rhetoric, the lofty ideals, the calls to action with which Obama campaigned only months ago? Did his speech writers take a summer sabbatical? Or were his words then no more than a facade, carefully constructed by his handlers to appeal to a target demo, as calculated as it was cynical?

If it had been he, instead of JFK, would he have told West Germans, 'Text me about how things work out'? Or if it had been he, instead of Reagan, would he have demanded 'Mister Gorbachev, give us a mural on this wall'? Maybe of him?

If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, who will?

At his Tuesday news conference, Obama called the widely-circulated video of Nedha Agha-Soltan's shooting death, "Heartbreaking." If you're one of the few people who haven't seen it yet, the brutal death of this lovely young woman -- a teenager whose short life was snuffed out violently, needlessly, senselessly by a regime which should have protected her -- is that and more.

One of Obama's books is entitled, The Audacity of Hope. We are seeing the true audacity of hope play out in the streets of Tehran, just as we are watching the lifeblood of freedom flow from the people of Iran.

People like Neda.

The men and women of this country who have fought and bled and died--and are fighting and bleeding and dying right now in places like Iraq and Afghanistan--know that freedom doesn't come cheap. Few know more about that price than Senator John McCain. To paraphrase him on Neda's death: She died with her eyes open; let us not keep our eyes closed.

If the President of the United States does not stand for freedom, the rest of us must.

William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author