In the 1970s, George Carlin listed seven words you couldn’t say on television. Jeff Jacoby writes that for President Obama, there’s only one word that dare not speak its name:
By April, former New York Times correspondent Joel Brinkley was explaining “How ‘democracy’ got to be a dirty word’’ in the new administration. Since taking office, he wrote, “neither President Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has even uttered the word democracy in a manner related to democracy promotion.’’ Of the 30 releases issued by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “not one . . . has discussed democracy promotion. Democracy, it seems, is banished from the Obama administration’s public vocabulary.’’
Authoritarian regimes naturally welcome the new approach. According to AP, Egypt’s ambassador to the United States expressed satisfaction “that ties are on the mend and that Washington has dropped conditions for better relations, including demands for ‘human rights, democracy and religious and general freedoms.’ ’’ Just as Obama has downplayed democracy efforts in the Middle East, he has also done so with regard to China, Russia, and even Sudan.
Obama may see himself as the un-Bush, cool to democracy because his predecessor was so keen for it. But to millions of subjugated human beings, he is the leader of the free world – an avatar of the democratic freedoms they hunger for. On the streets of Iran recently, many protesters held signs reading “Where Is My Vote?’’ There are limits to what the American president can do for Iran’s beleaguered democrats. But is it too much to ask that he take their question seriously?
Update: Regarding the original transnational agency, where the D-word is even dirtier, Claudia Rosette asks, “Where’s The U.N. On Iran?”