Obama blunders over N.Y. mosque
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We got an indication of how deeply President Barack Obama has stepped in it Wednesday when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd compared him unfavorably to George W. Bush. Any day now Hell will freeze over (global warming alarmists be warned).
When Mr. Obama jumped unbidden into the controversy over the proposed mosque and community center two blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood, he committed, arguably, the greatest unforced error in the history of our politics.
The administration's prior position -- that this is a local issue the president should stay out of -- lacked heroism, but was prudent. When you are on the 30 percent side of a 70-30 issue, silence is golden.
But at a White House dinner to celebrate the Muslim feast of iftar, Mr. Obama gave remarks which both supporters and opponents of the ground zero mosque interpreted as a ringing endorsement of the project.
The president's speech nationalized the issue, and turned "a brushfire into a prairie fire," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
The next day, after a torrent of criticism, Mr. Obama "clarified" his remarks. He was only defending the right of its backers to build the mosque, not expressing an opinion on the wisdom of doing so.
But the right to build the mosque was not in controversy, and the walk back made those who had praised the president for his courage -- such as journalist/bloggers Greg Sargent of the Washington Post and Glenn Greenwald of Salon -- look like fools.
"Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President," Ms. Dowd wrote. "You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning."
It's a rare political genius who, having taken gratuitously a position only a few Americans support, proceeds to tick them off, too.
Mr. Obama has put Democrats in close races between a rock and a hard place. If they support the mosque, they'll annoy most swing voters. If they don't, they'll be betraying their president. And because the president raised the profile of this issue so much, they cannot keep silent.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, fighting for his political life in Nevada, thinks the mosque should be built somewhere else. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose San Francisco district is safe, wants to investigate people who oppose it.
"I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded," she told KCBS radio. "How is this being ginned up?"
Ms. Pelosi's curiosity about mostly non-existent spending in opposition to the mosque contrasts with her incuriosity about where Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf plans to get the $100 million or so it will take to build Cordoba House.
But this is the lesser hypocrisy.
"What better way to defend the First Amendment freedom of religion than to have the speaker of the House ask the federal government to investigate those exercising their First Amendment right to free speech?" asked Web logger Ed Morrissey (Hot Air).
Perhaps Nanzi wants to put a wiretap on Harry Reid's phone. Her remarks were over the top. But they were restrained compared to what some liberal journalists are saying.
Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC compared opponents of the ground zero mosque to the 9/11 terrorists. Many have described mosque opponents as ignorant bigots.
These journalists are doing Democrats no favors. Calling two-thirds of Americans names rarely is a path to political success. If Democrats follow their cheerleaders in the news media, their prospects in November will be even more grim than they now appear.
Why would Ms. Pelosi, Ms. O'Donnell, et. al. behave in so counterproductive a fashion?
"The Democratic Party is angry, on the ropes and lashing out," said former Bush aide Peter Wehner.
"Liberals, unable to come to terms with the manifold failures of President Obama, are becoming increasingly alienated from our country and its political system," Mr. Wehner wrote. "The public overwhelmingly opposes them on everything -- from building the mosque near ground zero to Obamacare, from the effort to sue Arizona over its law for curbing illegal immigration to much else. In response, their rhetoric is becoming increasingly shrill."
First Published August 22, 2010 12:00 am