Although this year's CPAC convention has been strangely void of any formal discussion about the events unfolding in Egypt or jobs for unemployed Americans, Tim Pawlenty did manage to remind us all of what these last three weeks would have looked like if George Bush had been in office. In his speech today, Pawlenty slammed President Obama for allowing Egyptians to determine Egypt's future in their way and their time.
"Bullies respect strength, they don't respect weakness," Pawlenty said in a speech to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. "So when the United States of America projects its national security interests here and around the world, we need to do it with strength. We need to make sure that there is no equivocation, no uncertainty, no daylight between us and our allies around the world."
Pawlenty called it a simple principle that the White House "doesn't seem to understand."
"We undermine Israel, the U.K., Poland, Czech Republic, Colombia, amongst other of our friends," Pawlenty said. "Meanwhile, we appease Iran, Russia, and adversaries in the Middle East, including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
"Mr. President, with bullies, might makes right. Strength makes them submit. We need to get tough on our enemies, not on our friends. And, Mr. President, stop apologizing for our country," Pawlenty said in one of his speech's biggest applause lines.
"The bullies, terrorists and tyrants of the world have lots to apologize for. America does not."
It's worth contrasting that with President Obama's speech made shortly after TPaw's spew:
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And above all, we saw a new generation emerge -- a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears; a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply: Most people have discovered in the last few days -- that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever.
This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence -- not terrorism, not mindless killing -- but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.
And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can't help but hear the echoes of history -- echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice.
As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom." Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note.
For TPaw, respecting Israel et al means showing force, shaking our guns at whoever they call enemy instead of respecting the right of people to determine their government. How is it disrepecting democracies to support democracy?
When I read what he said, I was whisked back to the days of George W. Bush. In 2002, he gave a speech where he called for Palestinians to enact true political reform, including free and fair elections. He promised that if they did so, the United States would support them.
In 2006, the Palestinians elected Hamas in elections supervised by the UN and deemed to be free and fair. In a press conference following the elections, Mr. Bush paid lip service to the democratic process and then refused to acknowledge the Palestinians' duly elected representatives.
Juan Cole, writing for Salon:
In a mystifying self-contradiction, Bush trumpeted that "the Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy." If elections were really the same as democracy, and if Bush was so happy about the process, then we might expect him to pledge to work with the results, which by his lights would be intrinsically good. But then he suddenly swerved away from this line of thought, reverting to boilerplate and saying, "On the other hand, I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if your party has got an armed wing."
So Bush is saying that even though elections are democracy and democracy is good and powerful, it has produced unacceptable results in this case, and so the resulting Hamas government will lack the legitimacy necessary to allow the United States to deal with it or go forward in any peace process. Bush's double standard is clear in his diction, since he was perfectly happy to deal with Israel's Likud Party, which is dedicated to the destruction of the budding Palestinian state, and which used the Israeli military and security services for its party platform in destroying the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority throughout the early years of this century. As Orwell reminded us in "Animal Farm," some are more equal than others.
Which is precisely what TPaw said in his speech. Some are more equal than others. Poland, the UK, Columbia, Israel. Those democracies are just fine. But in Egypt's case, we should have been strong, firm, unequivocal in our undying support for the dictator. Because THAT would somehow have protected our national interests.
Democracy is democracy, regardless of whether this country likes the outcome. As President Obama said, the way forward for Egypt won't be easy, and I expect it also won't be pretty, because democracy means letting everyone have a voice, even when you don't like what they say. This is what conservatives and TPaw really don't understand at all. In their minds, we should undermine and starve any democracy that isn't aligned with our express (white, Anglo-Saxon, conservative Christian) ideals, because we don't like it.
This clip with The Nation's Katrina VandenHeuvel puts an exclamation point on it:
TPaw's speech is nothing more than a living example of that. From the day Barack Obama was elected, they have worked to de-legitimize his presidency. Birthers. Glenn Beck. Fox News. They work with one goal, to undermine a democratically-elected president that they don't happen to agree with.
Who are the real dictators here?