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What We Didn’t Hear in the State of the Union

Huh. I know it was a state of the union address, not a state of other unions address or a state of our union in relation to other unions address. Still, there were some striking omissions.

Not a peep about that pesky Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Surprising though that is — I could have sworn it was a fairly high priority for the administration — there was something rather refreshing about the choice not to subject the parties concerned to all the familiar empty bromides. (Besides, al-Jazeera is busy orchestrating the process anyway. Why commit yourself when you can leave matters in the capable hands of the Emir of Qatar?)

Not a peep about Egypt, either. Thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets yesterday, facing down riot police bearing tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons, to protest years of human rights abuses, poverty, unemployment, and the thirty-year grip of an unpopular prime minister. Now, that’s an awkward one. Mubarak’s an ally, and who knows who might arise in his place if he’s tossed out? Obama’s speech contained a shout-out to the revolutionaries in Tunisia, so presumably he figured he was covered on the hooray-for-freedom-around-the-world side. Best to keep mum on Egypt. Hey, it’s fresh; it’s complicated. Cut the guy some slack.

But I ask you. How do you not mention Lebanon after what happened this week? A US-friendly prime minister — a guy you just hosted in the Oval Office two weeks ago, Mr. President; remember him? — was overthrown by an Iran- and Syria-backed terrorist organization that assassinated his pro-Western father and has handpicked his successor. Hello? Lebanese citizens took to the streets yesterday to protest the theft of their country by the enemies of freedom — people who, lest we forget, have been committing terrorist acts against Americans for decades, including the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 American servicemen in 1983 — and you have nothing to say to the protesters in support? I know — this one is complicated too. You’re trying to get Syria to like you right now. You’re trying to find a way to get Iran to knuckle under without doing anything icky or scary. I get it. But if you’re worried about their opinion of you rather than the other way around, you’ve already lost. And so has Lebanon.

Ah, well. At least they’re not alone. The Lebanese protesters can console themselves with the thought that when Iranian citizens went out in the streets to try to stand up for freedom against tyranny, Obama had nothing to say to them, either.