Obama Chooses Sides In Favor of the Ground Zero Mosque

Last night, as part of a Ramadan celebration, President Obama waded into the controversy over the Cordoba Initiative mosque within sight of Ground Zero. In so doing, he unambiguously chose sides with those who see this deliberate provocation as a positive good.
It is unsurprising, given what we already know about him, that President Obama would decline to support using government power to block the mosque project, and would decline to support withholding the various government favors needed to build it (although he carefully avoided mention of the State Department’s employment of the mosque’s Malaysian imam) – but he could have at a minimum used the opportunity to denounce in no uncertain terms what broad majorities of the public in and out of New York recognize: the fact that whatever the law says, the project itself is deeply and intentionally offensive. Especially when the president feels a matter is beyond his formal power, this is what the presidential bully pulpit is for. He has certainly not been shy in the past about speaking forcefully to denounce matters as provincial as a dispute between a professor and local cops in Cambridge. Instead, Obama offered only a tepid nod that failed to suggest he personally saw anything wrong with the selection of the Ground Zero location for a mosque:

Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

This could not be vaguer or less condemnatory if he was a paid flack for the Cordoba Institute. There’s not a glimmer of suggestion here that Cordoba has in any way done wrong. Indeed, he added this morning that he “was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom” of the mosque. By contrast, Obama pulled out the rhetorical stops in defense of the legal right to unhallow that ground:

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.
We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who have led our response to that attack – from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today.

Obama then turned his guns on the project’s critics, repeating the usual apologetic by non-Muslims about what is or is not Islam, designed to support the argument that there should be nothing offensive about a mosque at the spot where Islam was used by Muslims as a justification for mass murder:

And let us always remember who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for. Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam – it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders – these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion – and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.

This ignores the fact that Al Qaeda’s motivation and justification for its political project – and indeed for its special vehemence against Muslims who dissent from its view – is a religious reading of Islam, shared at least in part by some significant number of Muslims such as the 76% of Pakistanis who support the death penalty for those who leave Islam. As I said in my prior post on this, Christians like Obama (or President Bush, for that matter), are not qualified to say what is or is not Islam; only Muslims can make that determination. It is right and good for the president to argue that we need to appeal to those Muslims who take this view, but that does not magically tranform the opposing view into something unrelated to Islam, or make it OK to build a mosque at the site of the greatest mass murder in the name of Islam in the Western Hemisphere.
Politically, there are two takeaways from this. One is that Obama has kicked the props away from the talking point that this is somehow a local issue on which national leaders should not opine, and in the process opened every Democrat in the country to questions about whether they, too, affirmatively support the Ground Zero Mosque.
And looking down the road, it also suggests something I’ve suspected for a while: Obama won’t be able to turn himself, after a likely Democratic debacle this November, into Bill Clinton. Democrats have staked their hopes on the idea that Obama will be able to rebound from losses this fall the way Clinton did, by moving to the middle. But the ‘triangulating’ move here would be to forcefully denounce the mosque while defending the right to build it. Obama doesn’t have that in him. He’s digging in instead with the left-wing bloggers who believe there to be no possible motivation but bigotry behind the majority’s revulsion at this project. Nothing that happens in November will give him the ability to see the world – or, indeed, a majority of his fellow Americans – any other way.

55 thoughts on “Obama Chooses Sides In Favor of the Ground Zero Mosque”

  1. Honestly, who really cares what President Empty Suit has to say about anything. The mask is totally off and only the brain dead, who refuse to acknowledge the facts right in front of them and far lefties who totally support this guys extremist agenda are in his corner. Every other group in America is oppossed to this guy. The midterms are going to be a very beautiful thing. Then, as you noted, Obama will fail to move to the middle and things will shape up nice for November 2012. We are almost at the point where it doesn’t even matter if the economy starts to feebly recover for Obama(don’t see that happening anytime soon). perceptions about the economy and the unemployment numbers are going to stay above 8% for at least the next 2 years.

  2. At best this is yet another example of how Obama is completely out of touch with the American people, not to mention politically tone-deaf. At worst is shows that he really is a post-American president. Sadly, I’m inclined toward the latter view.
    As for the larger view, I think this may be the moment where a lot of Americans say “he really isn’t one of us.” Once they take that view, this or that policy position will not be quite so important. People will reject him for who and what he is at his core.

  3. I’m deeply skeptical of premature political obituaries, but today was the first time I really started to believe he’s going to be a one-term president, or at any rate that it’s more likely than not. He was already in a lot of trouble, but until now I had the sense that he might yet find a way, like Clinton, to get Congress to take the spear for him. I’m really not sure he has that in him, though.

  4. He, like most liberals, have nothing but complete contempt for the feelings/views of your average American. This latest action is so politically tone deaf, so…why would you do this? Tom above is on point with his observation about Americans viewing him as” he really isn’t one of us” and you are on point about the whole political obituary thing. In 2008, with a 200 million spending advantage (that is not going to happen again), everything going his way(that ain’t happening again), 6-10 million Republican voters not voting,etc he won with 52+ percent. Can he even get to 45% of the vote in 2012?

  5. How long ago was it that the Democrat members of Congress stood and applauded a foreign head of state insulting America and Americans from the floor of the Capitol? Democrats stand with the enemies of our country.

  6. This entire “mosque” issue is about 9/11 fetishists* getting to play the victim on the big stage.
    *those, like Crank, who make believe they give a rat’s ass about 9/11, but cheered along as their President obstructed and stonewalled the 911 Commission, so they could never really learn how it actually went down. Ignorance is their bliss, and NO ONE is going to make them understand what exactly happened on their “fake most important day ever”.
    besides. how it happened isn’t important to them. What’s important is they get to play the victim and self-pity themselves. The religious bigotry is just a bonus.

  7. The earth may stop spinning at any moment now, but I actually agree with our clueless leader on this one. Our country was created on the foundation of religious freedom and freedom of speach. If the towel heads want to build a church near ground zero to celebrate their victory on 9/11, nothing should be done to obstruct them in any way. However, at the same time when the pork based fast-food franchises line up on every corner around them, their cries of foul-play should fall on deaf ears. What goes around comes around.

  8. maddirsihman,
    I’ve read that piece before. It’s uncanny how, if you changed just a few words, it could have been written by an Iraqi citizen every day for the past 6+ years.
    Could you imagine how “cranky” our blogger would be if he and his family still didn’t have access to a full day of electricity or potable water?

  9. Took a lot of guts for Obama to say this. He could have deflected attention away from the issue. Fear and irrationality is what motivates opposition to this project. Plain and simple. Anyone with a brain knows this.

  10. Oh Berto I keep forgetting you and the rest of the brain dead left (a redundancy) are still peddling the Iraq was a Garden of Eden before the US invaded meme-ethnic cleansing-never happened, graves with 100s of thousands people-never happened, what use of chemical weapons against his own people. BTW-when all the above was happening-where was the courageous speakers of truth to power on the left…oh right-no where as usual.
    Please be here election night berto-its going to be a lot of fun.

  11. dch,
    I’ll be here. I won’t miss that the way you missed the GOP leaders supporting the ethnic-cleanser in Iraq and telling Saddam Hussein, “Don’t worry about your use of chemical weapons on your citizens, the Reagan Administration has your back.”
    Sure, Iraq was terrible under Saddam but it took all the dch-backed goodness of the Iraq War for 2.2 million Iraqis to flee the country. Great job, dch!
    History. It’s something they used to teach in school, back before the country allowed one of it’s major political parties (goes by the name GOP) to be hijacked by a cabal of oligarchs, theocrats, and unhinged bigoted imbeciles.

  12. its fascinating how in loony liberal land-Iraq a Soviet client state for over 20 years that flew Soviet jets, used Soviet tanks , Soviet missiles, Soviet artillery, AK-47s and had Soviet military advisors training and advising them, for all that time-has now become in the usual lefty rewrite of history a US ally. As usual -no shame. Wow 2 million people left Iraq after being liberated-assuming those numbers are true-so what? what is wrong with people getting a chance to leave a country ruled by a brutal dictatorship for decades, where ethnic cleansing was practiced, where they had been under economic sanctions for over 13 years and had 3 major conflicts in the course of 20 years. BTW- are you including in that number all the member of the former regime who raped and pillaged the country for decades
    BTW-How many millions of people emigrated from Europe and Asia after WWII-I guess liberating those countries were bad things also, right?

  13. I’ve been waiting for Crank’s inevitable (in every sense of the word) post on this topic. Like most of the wing nuts, the reactive prejudice against those different from themselves leads him to abandon the very ideals on which our country was founded. Yes, our Founding Fathers intended people of all religions to freely exercise those beliefs.
    Neither Crank, nor the families of those who lost their lives that day, hold a veto over what may or may not be built in lower Manhattan (or Alexandria, VA or Shanksville, PA for that matter).
    As for whether President Obama will be re-elected or not, there is a long way to go. In any case, he is pursuing the objectives he sought while running (much as I disagreed with President Bush, I respected the extent to which he did the same). The point of running for office is to do things if you win. Here, despite polls, the President is leading the country, teaching things that, it seems most people do not want to hear.

  14. dch, you are one angry name-calling kind of guy. In the 80s Iraq wasn’t necessarily some great ally so much as they were the country that was constantly at war with Iran. The chemical weapons Saddam used on the Kurds were, in fact, sold to him by the U.S. There’s pictures of Rumsfeld buddying up with Saddam. There is no doubt the U.S. helped fund, arm and train Saddam. I don’t know if it rises to the level of Noriega but clearly the intent was to, at the least, play some footsie with Saddam to have him keep at Iran (the whole oil thing didn’t hurt the cause either).

  15. I see Magrooder is sticking to the official talking points sheet of pretending the legal power to do something is the only issue. That’s message discipline for you.

  16. It’s worth noting that we build dozens of military bases in the Middle East that a lot of folks there find offensive. The difference is that Afghans find our military bases offensive in a “a plane just left this base and incinerated a wedding party’s worth of people” sort of way.
    But yes, by all means, building a mosque on Ground Zero means the terrorists have won, we should all get butthurt, Muslims are second-class citizens, Something Must Be Done, etc., etc.

  17. The chemical weapons Saddam used on the Kurds were, in fact, sold to him by the U.S.
    Total fict. A lie. The rest of jim’s blather is garbage, but this is an absolute lie.

  18. Sponge,
    As always your discrediting what (anyone) writes is an affirmation of its truth.
    Yes, there are no known photos of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam. The U.S. has never backed tyrants. The C.I.A. has never installed dictators or overthrown governments. That’s all make believe. Please.

  19. I see Magrooder is sticking to the official talking points sheet of pretending the legal power to do something is the only issue. That’s message discipline for you.
    All the other issues have been addressed, Crank.
    1) I already pointed out, Americans in general—and conservatives in particular—like playing the victim and reveling in their own self-pity.
    2) steve pointed out “Fear and irrationality is what motivates opposition to this project.”
    With fear of gays going away (more Americans realize they have gay relatives, and frankly they aren’t so scary), Muslims and Mexicans are the new bogeymen of the Right. Who could have guessed Republicans would be trying to energize the bigotry vote (without whom they have zero percent chance of winning elections) months before mid-term elections?

  20. Cordoba Mosque supporters, do you also support the right of KKK to build highrise clubhouse/recruitment center etc. in neighborhood of Hotel Lorraine? Would Klan overtures of peaceful dialogue be credible? Would African-American outrage be racist? Fearmongering?

  21. Joe,
    You’re (wrongly) equating all Muslims and the KKK.
    I’d have no problem with Southerners building a highrise clubhouse/ recruitment center etc. in the neighborhood of the Hotel Lorraine.

  22. If it were actually a mosque, this whole media sh*tstorm might make sense. But it’s not. It’s an imaginary threat, a manufactured controversy for the sake of cheap political haymaking.

  23. @Joe, exactly why did South Carolina place the Confederate flag over it’s State House???? I guess I could ask the Crank the same thing. But then they may say this is a free country. Hmmmmmmmmm

  24. @Berto- You’re wrongly equating Southerners with KKK. An accurate analogy would be Democrat Party headquarters.
    @javaman- non sequitor.
    The question is proposed: Do you support the right of the KKK to build superstructure in neighborhood of Hotel Lorraine? Please address and answer the question.

  25. Crank, you want a different angle? Here’s one to which you can relate:
    “Stewart then turned to John Oliver to get his take on the controversial construction. Oliver pointed out that it’s not a question of “right” or “wrong,” but of “can” and “should.” For example, “You can build a Catholic church next to a playground, but should you?”

  26. Considering the KKK has hijacked the Confederate flag. Think of all the places it is held in honor of the good old times like State House in SC to protest integration. How about all the fake Confederate monuments that dot the south where there were no Confederate soldiers but heavy KKK activity. Really the Lorraine Motel is that best example you can come up with?
    But, like I posted earlier Crank and most of you are silent on the KKK hiding behind the Constitution. But, for some reason is quick to hide the Constitution to paint a multifaceted religion as all radicals.
    I would figure after all the years in Iraq we would at least know three brands of Islam (Sunni, Shia, and our friends in Saudi Wahhabi). But then again we all are snake handing tongue speaking Christians.

  27. Magrooder, I knew I could bank on somebody here to break from the pretense of giving a damn about religious freedom and go back to hating Catholics.
    javaman – I’ve never defended the KKK, obviously. But if you think the KKK is anywhere near the contemporary problem that radical Islam is, you’re not living in this century.

  28. Radical Islam is a problem. The question remains why are you willing to paint an entire religion as radicals and hide the Constitution? But remain silent on all other radical groups.

  29. Joe has it right with his analogies
    Here’s another for the Cordoba House supporters; if it was 20 years ago, would they support the right of Apartheid South Afrikaners to build a church anywhere in the states?

  30. @javaman- The question stands unanswered. It is a yes or no question. Do you support KKK to build community center in neighborhood of Lorraine Hotel?

  31. not a problem with it. But obviously you have never been to the area around the Lorraine Hotel. So your point is silly.

  32. Magrooder, I knew I could bank on somebody here to break from the pretense of giving a damn about religious freedom and go back to hating Catholics.”
    And, “The KKK never tried to kill me.”
    Get off the cross, Crank. We need the wood and nails.

  33. really, joe?
    So painting all Southerners as KKK terrorists is that much different then painting all Muslims al-Quaeda?
    Why is that? Is it because Muslims want top subordinate American citizens and Southerners only want to subordinate American citizens?

  34. @ Berto- My opposition to an Islamic supercenter at that site does not equate to anti-Muslim sentiment. I would support a Muslim businessman who, say, wanted to re-open the coat factory, for example. But building Touchdown Allah where Islamic terrorists attacked our nation is an egregious insult to every American.

  35. “But the ‘triangulating’ move here would be to forcefully denounce the mosque while defending the right to build it. ”
    This is what I would have liked him to say – it’s the right message, triangulation or not.

  36. Crank, I recognize that KKK never tried to kill you and radical Jihadists did try to kill you, but does that mean we can paint all Muslims with a broad brush?

  37. The question was why I write about one and not the other. Writ large, Islamic radicalism is a huge problem that has killed many thousands of people over the last 30 years, while the KKK has been a very marginal organization for decades.
    I’ve already answered the original point about why a mosque in this location is offensive.

  38. “The question was why I write about one and not the other. Writ large, Islamic radicalism is a huge problem that has killed many thousands of people over the last 30 years, while the KKK has been a very marginal organization for decades.”

  39. You guys are kidding, right? You are actually questioning why an Islamic center near the 9/11 site is completely insensitive?? This is liberalism at its worst.
    Note the Crank took great pains to say in his prior article that he had major reservations about whether the government should be involved, and I would have thought that would have been a liberal’s biggest concern – it is certainly my biggest problem with the whole thing. But questioning why it is insensitive is ridiculous. And calling this post bigot-baiting is way out of line.

  40. joe,
    Who said they are building Touchdown Allah where Islamic terrorists attacked our nation? I want names.
    So you agree that legally people have a right to build their non-mosque at the non-ground zero site. Your problem is you feel it’s insensitive.
    I could hear you in the late 50s. ” Black people certainly have the right to sit anywhere they want on the bus, but it’s insensitive of them to throw it in the face of Americans by sitting up front.”
    Of course not all black people tried to kill Americans. In that way they are very much like Muslims.
    The similarity in both cases is you feel you should be able to push around a minority.
    “And calling this post bigot-baiting is way out of line.”
    Why? Because you say so? We’ve had this discussion in the past. You are being willfully blind to bigotry.
    You tried to defend the (large number of) bigots who wrongly blamed the financial crisis on the CRA. Why did they wrongly blame the crisis on the CRA when they could just as wrongly blame it on sun spots? If it wasn’t bigotry, please explain what it was.

  41. The conservative view of the Mosque brings us to the following (absurd) analogy:
    Catholic priests sexually molested thousands of young men over the last 30-40 years. Therefore, no Catholic churches may be constructed within 1,000 feet of any grade school or child care center. To do so would be offensive.

  42. Because, of course, that analogy wasn’t idiotic enough when Magrooder used it. I assume you guys are getting this stuff from the same source.

  43. No, great minds think alike. Under the Constitution, the majority cannot dictate where the minority may situate itself without a compelling reason. I understand you want to take this out of the legal realm, but I don’t see how the analogy is off the mark. Are you aware that other Mosques are located in lower Manhattan? Should Muslims be prohibited from gathering anywhere south of 14th Street?
    I know this is a winning issue for Republicans. Many if not most people hate Muslims and would probably round them up like we did the Japanese in WWII. Constitutional arguments do not sway emotional people who want to lump the bad guys with the rest of the religion. Perfect storm for the GOP, thanks to schmucks like Palin and Gingrich throwing gasoline onto the fire.

  44. Berto,
    Ok, that was pretty funny. Let me make sure I have your last post right:
    (1) I’m like a bigot from the 1950’s
    (2) I am wilfully blind to bigotry (even though I’m like one, apparently I refuse not to see it in others)
    (3) I try to defend bigots (which must be awfully difficult, since I am wilfully blind to them – maybe it’s a sixth sense?)
    So basically, according to you, I’m at the very least a bigot-sympathizer, and that explains my opinions on everything. You are sounding like someone else from the 1950’s . . . .
    By the way, I couldn’t help but notice that you automatically assume I am white, though you’ve never seen me. What does that say about you?
    Usually I ignore your posts, but thanks for laugh – you’ve outdone yourself here.

  45. You might try reading my posts, I stated the streets bounding the area in question pretty clearly.
    The 9/11 attacks were carried out as part of a political ideology of wide influence, with many thousands of victims worldwide. That ideology draws principally from a radical reading of Islamic theology that has many adherents. The attacks are thus (1) the work of a significant strain of Islam and (2) part of an ongoing worldwide threat.
    What I’m hearing from defenders of the mosque is, basically, a complete unwillingness to accept those facts.

  46. Crank to steve: Painting all members of my religion with a broad-brush due to the actions of a minority of members of that religion is idiotic. OTOH, painting all members of other peoples religion with a broad-brush due to the actions of a minority of members of that religion is the basis of my argument.
    Say what you want, Crank, but your hypocrisy is showing–BIG TIME!
    But feel free to twist yourself in a logic pretzel just to woo the bigotry vote for the GOP. (As if logic could ever stop you from job one).

  47. Crank,
    The WTC attack was for a political ideology. Religion was how it was sold to the rubes.
    Just as the Iraq War was designed to pass the US Treasury to connected defense contractors, WMDs were how it was sold to the rubes.
    Credit to you for sticking out your chest and proudly proclaiming yourself to be a rube.

  48. ” I knew I could bank on” Crank reverting to playing the “religion card.” But, by doing so, he proved my point.
    Essentially, Crank equates the reference to issues about the Church hierarchy’s immoral responses to pedophile priests to a broad, prejudiced attack on Catholicism. (By the way, I am not anti-Catholic. My daughter received a wonderful education at an independent Catholic school. I do, however, find the protection of pedophiles and the stigmatization of victims reprehensible.) That is how Muslims interpret bigoted opposition to a cultural center simply because a group of Islamic radicals engage in terrorism.
    Finally, Crank, I accept your facts. They are, however, utterly irrelevant.

  49. MVH,
    I never assumed you were white.
    You assumed that because you like playing the victim (boo-hoo, poor MVH), the rest of us have to go along with you willfully ignoring (not defending) bigotry.
    Obviously “insensitivity” is not your issue. If it was, you would have mentioned “insensitivity” when the President appointed the woman who lied to the 911 Commission as his Secretary of State.
    Perhaps you can explain to Crank’s readers how stonewalling and lying to the 911 Commission isn’t insensitive. I just hope I don’t hurt my stomach muscles laughing.

  50. MVH,
    (1) I’m like a bigot from the 1950’s

    Bingo! In the case of this fake controversy, you certainly are.
    (2) I am wilfully blind to bigotry (even though I’m like one, apparently I refuse not to see it in others)

    I never accused you of being self-aware.
    (3) I try to defend bigots (which must be awfully difficult, since I am wilfully blind to them – maybe it’s a sixth sense?)

    I’ll ask AGAIN. Why did such a substantial number of Americans wrongly blame the crisis on the CRA when they could just as wrongly blamed it on sun spots? If you have an alternative explanation for this phenomenon, I’m STILL all ears.
    Note: Before you make the argument, “woeful ignorance” is also a linchpin of bigotry.

  51. Crank,
    There is one question you haven’t really nailed down here: if a mosque is built near Ground Zero, what are the consequences?

  52. “…if a mosque is built near Ground Zero, what are the consequences?”
    The consequences are similar to the consequences of legalizing same-sex marriage.
    1) Life will go on, and those protesting today will not be affected in the slightest.
    2) Supporters can point to another battle being won in the war against bigotry.

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