Ground Zero Mosque Madness
While Americans in the blogosphere fiddle, the economy burns. That's the fact in all the Internet furor over opening a new Muslim mosque a couple of blocks from Ground Zero in lower
The controversy, fanned by Republicans and other conservatives like the ever-opportunistic
The president's remarks to a Muslim group, defending the true-blue American right for folks to practice their religion anywhere they want in this blessed country any time they choose, were most welcome. But he didn't stop there.
In a hedge worthy of
His bungling of the political and public-relations aspects of the controversy comes at a time prominent public-opinion polls increasingly register false beliefs about Obama -- that he is not a native-born American and is a Muslim, despite official records from his birth state of
In any event, what all this has to do with Obama is insane, except to illustrate that he is not always as politically sure-footed as his adorers like to think. As president he has enough critical matters on his plate without stepping into a diversionary quarrel he could have avoided by simply restating the principle of religious freedom for all.
The whole maddening argument about the new mosque near Ground Zero is a hangover of the intense anger, hate and fear that marked the political climate in this country in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. They fueled intense support of the justified U.S. retaliation in
Despite observations by
This is not the first time Obama's much-ballyhooed discipline and coolness under fire has deserted him. In earlier low-caliber incident, the 2009 arrest of
He carelessly charged that a white police officer had acted "stupidly" toward African-American Gates in what had appeared to be an attempt at illegal entry. The upshot was a conciliatory "beer summit" in the Rose Garden to soothe bad feelings all around, a comical PR stunt that did little to enhance Obama's presidential stature.
In this administration that pays great attention to the public-relations aspect of everything touching on the president, he seems at times to insist on getting involved in trivial matters even as he is inundated with the cosmic.
It's understandable that politicians seeking reelection right now, such as Senate Majority Leader
Super-patriot Gingrich, meanwhile, is said to be planning to join a protest against the mosque near Ground Zero on the ninth anniversary of the attack. His doubts about Muslims' exercise of their right at a place of their choosing provides further evidence of his own unfitness for the office he so transparently covets.
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Ground Zero Mosque Madness
(c) 2010 Jules Witcover