No sooner was Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi elected president of Egypt than he announced his determination to work for the freedom of an enemy of the United States: blind sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life term for his role in planning the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Not since Jimmy Carter helped usher in the Iranian Revolution has an American president done so much to aid those who are determined to destroy the United States.

In fact, the parallels are numerous. Carter betrayed the shah of Iran, a longtime U.S. ally who had a dismal human rights record but was generally loyal, and paved the way for the ascent to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian mullahcracy that quickly showed its gratitude to Carter by taking U.S. Embassy personnel hostage, and has maintained a war footing against the United States ever since.

Obama, for his part, betrayed Hosni Mubarak, another longtime U.S. ally with a record of repressive rule, paving the way for the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power. And now President Morsi has shown his gratitude to Obama by announcing his determination to free from prison a man who plotted to murder hundreds of thousands of Americans.

It is said that history repeats itself, but it doesn’t do so by means of some automatic, inexorable, deterministic process. History repeats itself because people refuse to study and learn its lessons, and to face the unpleasant facts it presents. Thus, they make the same mistakes their predecessors did. The Obama administration didn’t have to be Carter’s second term, but both Carter and Obama are the products of a political culture that consistently discounts the importance of religious motivations. Informed sources have noted that at the time of the Iranian Revolution, only one book by the Ayatollah Khomeini could be found in the State Department, and no one had read it: no one thought the rantings of an obscure fanatic exiled to far-off France were important. That was the manifestation of a willful blindness to rival that of James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, who famously labeled the Muslim Brotherhood “largely secular.” In fact, it is the same willful blindness, and it has characterized the Washington establishment’s views on Islam and jihad from Carter’s day until now.