Obama flubs opportunity to show Africa an example of true freedom

President Obama touted a free press on his trip to Africa. But he had a funny way of showing it.


Instead, what he appeared to do was give authoritarian leaders and their proteges a lesson in cowing the media.

“Americans, behave yourselves,” Obama told reporters during an appearance with South African President Jacob Zuma.

It seems American reporters ask too many questions for Mr. Obama’s taste.

From where we sit, they don’t ask enough, especially of the penetrating or challenging type.

But Mr. Obama’s strange embarrassment at the U.S. media’s supposed intrusiveness is, while a minor incident, a very revealing one.

The president had the opportunity to actually embrace the robust exchange of ideas and information that our system of press freedom allows. Instead, he apologizes for it to other world leaders and upbraids Americans and tells them to “behave.”

What he sees as a bother is, instead, a beauty: It’s an example of the robustness of a free society and a free press. Rather than apologize or try to discourage vigorous challenges from the people he serves and the media that represent them, he should celebrate them. He could have shown leaders of the African continent’s fledgling democracies what true freedom really looks and sounds like.

This page is the first to tout civility. But that’s not what this president is talking about. He’s talking about reporters being more yielding and tame, more acquiescent and compliant.

Being rebellious – and maybe lovably incorrigible at times – is as American as the Fourth of July.

Behave? To paraphrase Harrison Ford in the movie Clear and Present Danger: We’re sorry, Mr. President. We don’t dance.



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