... Meanwhile, protests sparked by the Egypt uprising are raging across the Arab world - Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain. On Monday, the clamor for democracy surfaced in Iran with the first consequential street demonstrations against theocratic rule since 2009.To be fair, without claiming that Robinson is unfair, we see a profound distrust and lack of confidence in our institutions among some "liberals," too: They are the palinoiacs who are so frightened by Sarah Palin that they scream "bring her down," and "she mustn't be allowed to run." Those attitudes may be borne of an ignorance of our fundamental institutions: even if Palin were elected, she couldn't single-handedly pack people off to re-education camps, end civil rights progress or do any of the other things she may inspire fear for.
House Speaker John Boehner, at least, has come out forcefully on the side of freedom. But why the ambivalence from so many prominent conservatives?
For one thing - and I think this applies to most of the tongue-tied potential candidates - there's the fact that all of this is happening on Obama's watch. If everything turns out well, heaven forbid that the president get any credit.
The administration's public comments as the Egyptian revolution unfolded seemed to take two steps forward and one step back, but there was never any real question about Obama's sentiments. The United States was by no means in control of events, but the White House used whatever influence it had to push for a transition.
The conservative mantra has been: Obama Is Always Wrong. Therefore there must be something wrong with the way he handled Egypt - even if it appears, from what we've seen so far, that the result is a historic opening for democracy in the world's most troubled region.
The other possible explanation for the lukewarm conservative reaction is a lack of faith in our most cherished democratic values - at least where majority-Islam countries are concerned.
I'm not talking about Glenn Beck's paranoid fantasy of a vast leftist-Islamist conspiracy for world domination; that's a job for a licensed professional with a prescription pad. I'm talking about people such as former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who told CPAC that "democracy as we see it" in Egypt would be all right but grumbled that "a democratic election can produce illiberal results."
In other words, some Egyptians might vote for candidates put forth by the Muslim Brotherhood. It is unlikely that the group would win a majority in free and fair elections - or even that a government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, if it came to that, would necessarily be more dangerous or hostile than the Mubarak regime. But Bolton and some others seem to believe that only political parties of which the United States approves should be allowed to participate in Egyptian elections.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, another presidential contender, used his CPAC speech to blast Obama's handling of Egypt; for weeks, Santorum has been claiming that elections there would lead straight to "sharia law." Pam Geller, the conservative blogger who led opposition to the Lower Manhattan mosque, crashed the CPAC conference and told an interviewer from Mother Jones magazine that Mubarak's fall was "catastrophic" and would lead to sharia law throughout the Middle East.
These conservatives are arguing that the world's 1.2 billion Muslims cannot be trusted to govern themselves. That's not what I call loving freedom.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Sarah Palin has been fond of asking, "Do you love your freedoms?" and hearing the crowd cheer. But in today's column, the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson makes the point that conservatives may not love freedom enough to trust voters to make good decisions. Robinson wrote of the recent events in Egypt: