Last Friday, at the start of Ramadan, President Obama presided over the White House’s annual iftar dinner and made some rather bland remarks about religious freedom. The context, of course, was the controversy over the proposed mosque in Lower Manhattan, which is not, as Obama insisted, about freedom of religion but about religious tolerance. And then, having once again gotten high praise for so very little, he went to bed a panicked man and reached, trembling, some hours later, for a political morning-after pill to take back some of what he had said. Whew, for a moment there he was pregnant with principle.
No more. “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” Obama said in revising and extending and eviscerating his remarks of the previous night. He had merely been commenting on freedom of religion. Turns out he’s for it.
The president muddled his message. Does he not grasp that questioning the “wisdom” of the mosque’s placement is predicated on thinking that 9/11 was a Muslim crime? Does he not understand that the issue here is religious prejudice, not zoning? The answer, of course, is that he does. But unlike Henry Clay, he would rather be president than right.
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