Some “conservatives” are circulating a heavily edited video excerpt of a speech by President Obama. In it, he contrasts the “ideas eventually inspired a band of colonialists across an ocean, and [written] into the founding documents that still guide America today, including the simple truth that all men, and women, are created equal” with another set of ideals. The video has been edited to have him saying that those other ideals, and not the American ones, are the basis of an “international order that we have worked for generations to build.” The full text and full video are readily available. I am no fan of Mr. Obama, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize him without painting a deliberately false picture, and doing so only undermines legitimate, appropriate criticism. (Perhaps the people who put the short video together didn’t understand the speech and actually thought he was espousing the bit they posted, not opposing it. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse and the choice of what they cut argues that they knew exactly what they were doing.) Here is a bit of what he actually espoused in the speech:
“I believe that over the long haul as nations that are free, as free people, the future is ours. I believe this not because I’m naive. And I believe this not because of the strength of our arms or the size of our economies. I believe this because these ideals that we affirm are true. These ideals are universal.
Yes, we believe in democracy, with elections that are free and fair, and independent judiciaries and opposition parties, civil society and uncensored information so that individuals can make their own choices. Yes, we believe in open economies based on free markets and innovation and individual initiative and entrepreneurship and trade and investment that creates a broader prosperity.
And yes, we believe in human dignity, that every person is created equal — no matter who you are or what you look like or who you love or where you come from. That is what we believe. That’s what makes us strong. And our enduring strength is also reflected in our respect for an international system that protects the rights of both nations and people — a United Nations and a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international law and the means to enforce those laws.”
The edited version has him saying “the international order that we have worked for generations to build. [... this is where two paragraphs are cut]
ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs, that order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign.”
Sounds awful and un-American. And, that was actually the President’s point.