Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) reportedly emerged dissatisfied from her interview with Amb. Susan Rice, potential nominee for Secretary of State. I don’t know exactly what questions she asked, but here are some I would have posed, along with the answers I probably would have gotten (tongue planted firmly in cheek).
Q: Ambassador Rice, I would like to ask you more about the video, Innocence of Muslims, or at least its 13-minute trailer. You blamed the attack in Benghazi on this video; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Charles Woods, father of one of the men killed in Benghazi, that the Administration would “make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.” Filmmaker Mark Bassely Youssef has since been sentenced to a year in prison for violating the terms of his parole. Is that what Secretary Clinton had in mind?
A: I’m sure that Mr. Youssef’s sentence reflects only the law governing violation of probation and has nothing to do with Innocence of Muslims.
Q: Last week, an Egyptian court in Cairo sentenced Youssef and six other Coptic Christians to death in absentia for their role in producing the film. Is that what Secretary Clinton had in mind?
A: Of course not! You know that the United States does not condemn people to death for making a movie!
Q: The United States has an extradition treaty with Egypt. What will the Obama Administration do if the government of Egypt seeks the extradition of these individuals?
A: I’m afraid that’s not my purview.
Q: OK, moving right along: President Barack Obama mentioned the video several times when he addressed the UN General Assembly later in September. He also stated that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” What did that statement mean? Was President Obama referring to the so-called Istanbul process on combating religious intolerance? In July 2011, in a speech at one of its meetings, Secretary Clinton said:
“In the United States … we have seen how the incendiary actions of just a very few people, a handful in a country of nearly 300 million, can create wide ripples of intolerance. We also understand that, for 235 years, freedom of expression has been a universal right at the core of our democracy. So we are focused on promoting interfaith education and collaboration, enforcing antidiscrimination laws, protecting the rights of all people to worship as they choose, and to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.”
Could you tell me more about these techniques of peer pressure and shaming?
Q: Or was President Obama referring to the draft international law, being prepared by the government of Qatar, to ban attacks on or offenses to religion? Qatar wants the United Nation help pass this law. What can you tell me about this initiative, which I assume falls under your purview? I understand the United States cooperates closely with Qatar on a range of issues; is this one of them?
Q: But isn’t it true that, by condemning the video and its creators, the Obama Administration was opening the door to restrictions on free speech like those proposed by Qatar?
A: Of course not!
Q: Well, thank you so much for stopping by to chat.