Yoko Ono appears at a news conference to launch the...

Yoko Ono appears at a news conference to launch the coalition of artists opposing hydraulic fracturing on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012 in New York. Credit: AP Photo

A liberal, the poet Robert Frost once said, is a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.

That seems to be what Mitt Romney was going for this week when he criticized the Obama State Department for trying to placate protesters in Cairo.

Where it might have demanded from the wide side of a bullhorn, "Feet off U.S. embassy soil!," our Egyptian embassy released a statement reading: "The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."

I understand Romney's sentiment, but then again, I've never been charged by a thousand or so angry Islamists.

Romney's timing was lousy. We later learned that a well-armed crowd, in a separate incident, had attacked the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, including beloved U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Most Americans became aware of those murders and Romney's quote at the same time. That unfairly made the former Massachusetts governor look petty at a somber moment, although, when it was later speculated that the attacks may have been a coordinated al-Qaida operation, Romney looked a bit better. Groveling doesn't stop terrorist attacks; force does.

Those protests and attacks are now spreading.

"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (1964) is considered by many critics to be the worst movie ever made. But Santa was easily usurped by "Innocence of Muslims," the film -- if you can call it that -- which ostensibly is sending much of the Muslim world into purple apoplexy.

It is impossible to describe how bad "Innocence of Muslims" is to those who have not seen it. I would suggest you see it yourself on YouTube to get a full sense of its awfulness, but I don't want to be complicit in its spread. Suffice it to say that it was made by a bunch of bozos, and unquestionably anti-Muslim ones.

But if that's all it takes to whip the Arab Street into a frenzy -- that and the encouragement of radical Islamists -- it's going to be a very long century. I could design something on my home computer far more offensive than that video and post it on the Internet within 10 or 15 minutes. Anyone could.

Meanwhile, in my community and in communities all over New York, signs reading "Don't Frack with Us, Cuomo!" abound, warning Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a tone Romney would approve of, not to allow horizontal hydrofracking in New York. The signs remind us again of Robert Frost's definitional skills.

Up to a mile and a half beneath our feet, far below our water aquifers, there may be enough energy to make the United States finally independent of Middle Eastern oil -- of Middle Eastern politics, save our commitments to Israel -- and to create thousands of jobs. But the knee-jerk reaction among many liberals in New York is "don't touch it."

Many of those same people are concurrently advocating the closure of the Indian Point nuclear reactor that provides about 25 percent of all the electricity to Westchester and New York City, at relatively low cost, with virtually no harmful emissions. Indian Point is one of the most regulated facilities on the planet, but the very idea of it is as much an anathema to some as hydrofracking, which would be similarly regulated.

If we're going to close facilities like Indian Point, and ban gift-horses like hydrofracking, we may as well shut down the Internet, too. Because any half-wit with a laptop or mobile phone can now ignite the tinderbox that is the Middle East.

Bill O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant struggling to hold onto his own name. He is no relation to Bill O'Reilly the Fox News commentator.

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