The NYC mosque and the Obama two-step

President Obama stirred up some trouble he probably regrets over his own dueling comments last weekend about the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. On Friday night, at a White House dinner in honor of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, Obama said “… Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And 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.” Which is of course true as far as it goes.

The next day, while on a photo-op visit to Panama City, Fla., Obama clarified those remarks: “I was not commenting [Friday] and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding.”

But from the beginning, the debate over the mosque has been about the wisdom of its placement, not about whether the people who own the land have the constitutional right to build a mosque there if they wish.

I will stipulate that someone, somewhere, at some point in this debate, has probably said something along the lines of “They don’t have the right to build that mosque!” But that has not been the main thrust of opponents of the mosque’s construction, who have instead focused on issues of sensitivity — of “the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there,” as the president put it.

Sarah Palin has drawn fire for her opposition to the mosque, but from the beginning her statements were not about rights or legalities. She started off with a tweet that became infamous for its creative diction: “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.” And then: “Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.”

So, why did the president on Friday speak as if constitutional rights were the real subject of the debate?

Maybe it was just his inner constitutional-law professor coming out. But it sounds to me more like another instance of Obama trying to refute an argument that isn’t being made. He employed a straw man without even pointing to the straw man; call it the understood straw man.

This is what makes Obama so infuriating to so many people — it’s not just that they disagree with him, but that he tries to de-legitimize their position by associating them with arguments they aren’t making.

488 comments Add your comment

@@

August 16th, 2010
12:11 pm

AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is what makes Obama so infuriating to so many people — it’s not just that they disagree with him, but that he tries to de-legitimize their position by associating them with arguments they aren’t making.

Everything that Obama does and says is self-ingratiating.

Most Americans have begun to see the truth that is not Obama.

Infuriating…frustrating…the man is HOPELESS!!!!!

Honest Broker

August 16th, 2010
12:12 pm

auburnfan

August 16th, 2010
12:18 pm

I was hoping he would be good for “bringing the country together”.

Boy was I wrong. He always sounds to me like he is talking down to us. Sticks that chin up in the air and starts preaching.

Does he want to represent America? Or does he want to represent the world?

Our president should say that we don’t want a mosque anywhere near Ground Zero. If you put it there you are not helping yourselves.

wallbanger

August 16th, 2010
12:19 pm

It seems incredible to me that the liberals for all their Political Correctness talk and PC being shoved down your throat, can’t see how insensitive it is to have muslims chanting and praying within steps of where those directed by the muslim faith killed so many Americans. Obama is just a tap dancer–trying to be popular, but completely clueless with respect to how most American feel and think. It makes you wonder where he was raised, and what his values were. Kind of scares the heck out of me.

StJ

August 16th, 2010
12:21 pm

“he tries to de-legitimize their position by associating them with arguments they aren’t making”

Straight from the liberal playbook…along with hanging defamatory labels on people who disagree with him for any reason.

griftdrift

August 16th, 2010
12:23 pm

Kyle have you listened to Sean Hannity? Have you listened to Rush Limbaugh? Have you watched Fox News? How about local boy Erick Erickson who compared it to human sacrifice?

This has been far more than a “sensitivity” issue. The noise machine has been tossing out half-truths and yes, saying it shouldn’t be built no matter what for weeks now. The only reason this thing continues to be a story is because of their usual tactic of throwing as much garbage in the wind and then stomping on what sticks.

And the “journalists” are doing nothing to educate people on what’s really going on. Nothing. This story is nothing without the enabling of the smear merchants who seem intent on driving the Republican party straight over a cliff.

Have fun with your comment. I’m sure it will be a good rational discussion about sensitivity and rights instead of a stew of narrow minded ignorance. Oh wait….too late.

scrappy

August 16th, 2010
12:24 pm

I must disagree Kyle. Perhaps to those with intellect (or those with advisors), the argurment has never been about the ‘rights’ of those wanting to build the mosque. But, get out into the everyday world where conservatives love to throw around the Constitution (ya know, when it suits their purpose) and this is the argument most are making.

Interesting...

August 16th, 2010
12:26 pm

I respectfully have to disagree with the author. Obama’s not putting words into the mouths of conservative Republicans. He’s merely repeating what they’re saying. Maybe that’s not what they mean, but that’s how it’s being interpreted.
As for the Ground Zero mosque, there have been protests all over the country outside of mosques. The rhetoric on conservative talk radio isn’t any better. There’s a backlash against all Muslims, mostly coming from your fellow conservatives. By the way, I don’t think it should be there. However, they have right to build it there. They have used our legal system to their advantage.

scrappy

August 16th, 2010
12:28 pm

BTW – we are capitalistic society, with property rights. If you don’t like them building it there, get enough money together and buy them out. Problem solved. That is how it is supposed to work.

Steve

August 16th, 2010
12:31 pm

Scrappy,
It sounds as if you are indicating conservatives are indicating the Constitution states they cannot build a Mosque. Am I misunderstanding what you are saying?
I have not heard that argument from anyone. Please provide links to articles indicating most conservatives made those comments.

Dirty Dawg

August 16th, 2010
12:33 pm

Hey Wingnut, er field, are you saying that you disagree that Muslims have a right to build this community center – which includes a place of worship, e.g., a Mosque – or are you just engaging in your job as a member or the right-wing scream machine/echo chamber, whose soul purpose is keep the pot boiling and the natives full of fear and hatred until your ‘people’ can call the shots once again?

And to use Palin as some sort of legitimate source…are you that stupid, or do you think we are? What a thinking, caring, editorialist should have said is that ‘it’s not Ground Zero’ and if you think this is a stab in the heart, then your heart’s not in the right place.

Sure, Obama equivocates way more than I like to see, e.g., he believes that it’s their right, but questions that they actually should do it – What’s that all about? If it’s their right then you should be standing up for them regardless. And this thing about the majority’s not in favor of something – hell man, virtually everything in the Constitution wasn’t ‘in favor’ with the majority when it was written and most stuff that’s been enacted since has had a ‘majority’ of detractors. Are you saying that they never should have been included?

You’re just another of those whose job it is to keep miss-informing those capable of being misled long enough to allow cretins to return to power. Better hope there’s no God or that he’s not a Liberal.

Interesting...

August 16th, 2010
12:35 pm

Thanx, Scrappy! That’s what I was thinking. We’re mad because they have used the rights afforded to them as American citizens. You want to change the rules in the middle of the game because you lost. We can’t decide to pick and choose who gets to fully enjoy the rights every American is afforded because we disagree with what they choose to do (within the laws that govern our wonderful nation).

problem solved

August 16th, 2010
12:36 pm

@@ Left you a response on last thread.

I certainly agree with the whole premise….I voted for Obama, but only because Hillary didn’t win! And no way could I vote for McCain, and Palin!

IMHO His pick of stuttering Robert Gibbs as his spokes person, Rahm Emmanuel as chief of staff, Tim Geithner as head of treasury, Arne Duncan; education, Salazar; Environment, and Janet Napolitano as Homeland security were abysmal choices. His best choice of course was Hillary, second best Kathleen Sebelius.

griftdrift

August 16th, 2010
12:39 pm

Piece of cake, Steve.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columns/Protecting-America_s-sacred-spaces-1008421-100252639.html

Money quote.

“Saving America’s sacred spaces from those who would exploit them for gain of any sort is not only constitutional, it has always been the side of the angels.”

problem solved

August 16th, 2010
12:41 pm

Auburnfan….

“Our president should say that we don’t want a mosque anywhere near Ground Zero. If you put it there you are not helping yourselves”.

Are you suggesting the President of the United States subvert the constitution?

OpinionsMatter

August 16th, 2010
12:42 pm

Palin’s comments show why she is unfit to be considered for any higher office, least of all the Presidency. The President of the United States takes a solemn oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Our country’s leaders cannot make decisions based upon whether an action “stabs at the heart”; decisions have to be made based on whether or not they uphold citizens’ rights based on the Constitution.

Palin should spend less time on Facebook and more time in the library.

Interesting...

August 16th, 2010
12:43 pm

@ Steve: That wasn’t the argument he was making. Scrappy just stated that Republicans often like to bring the Constitution into their arguments for or against something. He just replied by stating that Obama used the Constitution as a counter-argument.

Interesting...

August 16th, 2010
12:44 pm

Amen, problem solved!

Southern Comfort

August 16th, 2010
12:45 pm

But from the beginning, the debate over the mosque has been about the wisdom of its placement, not about whether the people who own the land have the constitutional right to build a mosque there if they wish.

That’s no different than the federal government putting chemical weapon dumps near areas populated by minorities (see Annistion for example). Was it wise to allow metro counties to vote whether or not to join MARTA, or could we have had a better transit system for commuting from the suburbs? Was it wise for DeKalb county to place a landfill near homes in the southern part of the county when there was probably a better area to put it?

Decisions made always appear unreasonable to those who disagree with them. That’s why we have a court system to ensure decisions, even those that are unpopular, are legal when made. I just love how many have convicted most, if not, all American Muslims as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers without any evidence or a proper court trial. Oh well, the new America is guilty until proven innocent nowadays.

Question Authority

August 16th, 2010
12:47 pm

I wonder how the Japanese feel about the continued presence of a US military base near Hiroshima, the site of one of our country’s greatest war crimes. Bet they don’t appreciate it a bit.

We either support religious freedom (which of course we don’t – just ask the Mormons and the Branch Davidians as examples) and private property rights (yeah, that ship sailed at least a hundred years ago), or we just pay lip service to them (well, I guess I answered my own question).

Islam didn’t attack us on 9-11. The government claims that alQueda did.

The government is planning on building federal facilities right at ground zero and they have killed millions of innocents. Where is the outrage for that?

CJ

August 16th, 2010
12:47 pm

This argument has nothing to do with ground zero.

First, it’s worth mentioning that the proposal is for a community center (with ecumenical intentions). In addition, this community center is to be located a couple of blocks from ground zero in an already existing Burlington Coat Factory building. In other words, there is no new mosque under construction, and the community center won’t be located on ground zero, as the wedge drivers would have us believe.

But Kyle’s argument is primarily nonsense because, consistent with the Southern Strategy of yesteryear, conservative leaders all over the country are seeking to stop the addition of new mosques in their non-Ground Zero communities to exploit divisions for political gain. Some conservative leaders are even calling for the end of any and all new mosques anywhere in the U.S. As always, it’s misdirection. If we pay attention to the funny looking people over there, then we won’t notice the cronyism or the gutting of Social Security and Medicare over there.

This issue has nothing to do with giving aid and comfort to 9/11 families and everything to do with giving aid and comfort to bigots for political gain.

Didn’t these same clowns claim that they attacked us on 9/11 because they hate our freedoms? So our response is the loss of religious freedoms or “first amendment free zones”? Asinine. Osama bin Laden recruits fighters by telling Muslims that the infidels hate them, and cynical political leaders (and editorial writers) are playing right into his hands.

Aquagirl

August 16th, 2010
12:48 pm

The right to build *was* challenged on what could be termed “creative” legal grounds. It wasn’t just a few people either, apparently the ACLJ is appealing the decision.

FWIW, I agree with Sarah Palin; building this mosque is nasty, divisive, and just plain @$$hole behavior. But a considerable number of people tried to twist the law into a pretzel to stop it. To say otherwise isn’t true.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/26/nyregion/26muslim.html

jconservative

August 16th, 2010
12:50 pm

The Big Lie is that the Muslim center is at “Ground Zero”.

For those few of us who believe in the truth, that is a big deal.

The question now becomes “How close is too close?” If 2 1/2 blocks is too close, would 3 1/2 blocks be OK? No? How about 6 blocks?

You can see how juvenile this gets.

Now I understand the need for the political types to make hay while the opportunity is there. Just as I understand Obama’s jumping on the Republicans this weekend for wanting to “privatize Social Security”.
Making hay while the sun shines.

OpinionsMatter

August 16th, 2010
12:52 pm

Great posting, CJ!

Mike B

August 16th, 2010
12:53 pm

Wonder what criteria was for the plan to build this Mosque where they intend on building it…… Wonder if 9/11 had never had happened, if these people would be so keen on building this Mosque in this location…… Wonder how many Muslims live within lower Manhattan that would make use of such a facility. Sure folks from Brooklyn, Queens and NJ could be potential worshipers, but are not houses of worship traditionally located in close proximity to their population base???

Sure would like to understand all of this…..

Marcos

August 16th, 2010
12:53 pm

I love how conservatives are all up in arms about this Community Center being built 2+ blocks away from Ground Zero.

Aren’t these the same conservatives who blasted the first responders (the same ones they labeled heroes) for wanting some help with their medical bills? Aren’t these the same conservatives who have said not one word about the two strip clubs being built at Ground Zero? Aren’t these the same conservatives who bash liberals as being unpatriotic and then trash the First Amendment?

James Madison, the fourth president of the U.S. once wrote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Seems to me that these same conservatives only want our nation’s freedoms to apply to them. Talk about unpatriotic.

Horrible Horrace

August 16th, 2010
12:54 pm

Keep diggin that hole, Obama. Obama Sucks.

Horrible Horrace

August 16th, 2010
12:54 pm

You are unpatriotic, Marcus.

Interesting...

August 16th, 2010
12:55 pm

@ Horrible Horace: How so? What did he say that was unpatriotic?

Get Real

August 16th, 2010
12:56 pm

Hope and Change! Yeah, I HOPE people will wake up and realize just what a terrible job Obozo is doing acting like a president and CHANGE the way they vote in the future! BTW, just how many days of vacation does a president get. Off to the Gulf Coast and now off to Martha’s Vinyard! Vacation! Vacation! Vacation! Maybe we could all afford a vacation if we weren’t having to pay for his frivilous spending!

problem solved

August 16th, 2010
1:00 pm

Question Authority … Years ago I was in the Idaho Army Guard…and this other guy, and me are flying in a UH-1 from Boise to Helena Montana.

When we arrived we were assigned a billette in a BOQ, Stripping off our flight suits I notice this guy is wearing something similar to a nightgown…which caused me pause. He quickly explained it’s a Mormon thing.

Jefferson

August 16th, 2010
1:01 pm

It is working…

Aquagirl

August 16th, 2010
1:03 pm

What ever happened to good ‘ol fashioned civil disobedience? I say issue the building permits, and see police response time when protesters block construction equipment. I’ll bet you could measure it with a calendar.

Interesting...

August 16th, 2010
1:04 pm

@ Get Real: And how many times did Bush go to the ranch in Crawford, TX? He spent a lot of time on vacation too. Or did you forget? So there must be a different set of rules when your guy’s President, huh?

CrazyInGA

August 16th, 2010
1:04 pm

What do we expect from people who believe that this country was built on Christian principles; although the Constitution addresses religion specifically? Many are willing to overlook these words “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”; while touting how religious tolerant we are as a country. All the while saying how intolerant Muslim countries are toward our way of life. Meanwhile, we are becoming the exact type of society that we criticize.

As a Christian, I believe we should stop demonizing other religions and start acting like Christians.
We can start by treating others like we would like to be treated. It’s a small jesture.

Ayn Rant

August 16th, 2010
1:05 pm

…another installment of “ain’t Obama awful!”

Kyle, you acknowledge that Obama is right on both counts, so why do you criticize him? Count #1: Americans have a right to build places of worship, regardless of their religion. Count #2: The wisdom of locating a place of worship in a particular location is subject to question. Obama didn’t confused the two points, why do you?

The sensitivity of opening an Islamic center on a property near Ground Zero is best judged by those who suffered losses in the 9/11 attack. Christians, Jews, and Muslims were among the victims. What business is it of a politician in Alaska, or a resident of Georgia.

If an Islamic place of worship should not be built on the proposed site in the financial district of lower Manhattan, what should be built then? A bank? A nightclub? A political party headquarters? A food court?

I wonder how many Americans who have a negative view of the matter think that the Islamic center has been proposed ON the site where the twin towers stood? Probably quite a few. The duty of politicians, media propagandists, and newspaper columnists is to revile, not inform. Right?

griftdrift

August 16th, 2010
1:06 pm

How you generate a “controversy”.

http://www.salon.com/news/ground_zero_mosque/index.html?story=/politics/war_room/2010/08/16/ground_zero_mosque_origins

Salon seems to be one of the few groups that remember all five “Ws” of reporting – including the “why”

Mr. Dithers

August 16th, 2010
1:06 pm

So, Get Real, I trust you were equally offended when W set the Presidential vacating record during his two terms in office. Though, actually, he did less harm while he was vacating.

Drifter

August 16th, 2010
1:07 pm

What a load of baloney. You can’t stop people from building a mosque because it’s insensitive. People would find a reason to whine about this if it were 20 blocks further away.

scrappy

August 16th, 2010
1:08 pm

Interesting… Thanks for the back up – I can’t post a lot, working hard.

Steve – I have conservative friends, people talk in bars, on the radio, in real life = not everything has a link. I did say out in the real world, perhaps you should try it.

Jefferson

August 16th, 2010
1:10 pm

With the drugs the seller is the bad guy, who sold the land to the “not my religion bums”.

JFDH

August 16th, 2010
1:10 pm

sure hope a plane doesn’t hit it when it is full of praying muslims

AmVet

August 16th, 2010
1:11 pm

So it’s all about sensitivities, is it Kyle?

Yeah, riiight Sorry, that dog don’t hunt.

The enormous popular Ms. Coulter certainly didn’t seem to have any of these said sensitivities when she wrote of the 9/11 widows, “I have never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much.

This argument is as transparent as are most right-wing positions. It is cloaked in flowery verbiage but goes to the very heart of an ideology predicated on white, Christian values first, last and always.

Consider this, had any mainstream Christian organization built a mega-church on that very same property and had ANYBODY disagreed with the decision, the rightists would go absolutely crazy! I cannot even imagine the amount of sheer venom poured out if such “sensitivities” were proffered.

No ganders in today’s fake conservatism, just gooses…

Mr. Dithers

August 16th, 2010
1:11 pm

Mike wrote:
Wonder what criteria was for the plan to build this Mosque where they intend on building it…… Wonder if 9/11 had never had happened, if these people would be so keen on building this Mosque in this location…… Wonder how many Muslims live within lower Manhattan that would make use of such a facility. Sure folks from Brooklyn, Queens and NJ could be potential worshipers, but are not houses of worship traditionally located in close proximity to their population base???

Sure would like to understand all of this…..

First of all, Mike, it isn’t a mosque, it is a community center. Second, if 9/11 hadn’t happened, no one would even be arguing the question. Third, it isn’t a mosque, it’s a community center, and the distinction is meaningful.

Jason T

August 16th, 2010
1:12 pm

I agree the peaceful, serene, caring, and compassionate religion of Islam has every right to build a Mosque near Ground Zero, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of The Constitution.
I say it sould be surrounded by peep shows, BBQ joints, beer/liquor stores, Victoria’s Secret stores….and they should all be managed by gays and lesbians.

problem solved

August 16th, 2010
1:12 pm

Mr Dithers “Though, actually, he did less harm while he was vacating”.

Actually he did more harm..He left Cheney in charge!

Rockerbabe

August 16th, 2010
1:13 pm

Everyone wants their rights until their rights run against someone else’s sensitivities. Then all hell breaks loose. It isn’t rights that we are talking about, it is some one’s feelings and feelings do not trump rights. Of course, given all the intolerance we now have thanks to the Republicans contract on American [that Gingrich is so famous for], we know argue about the most trivial of things. It seems when sensitivities are involved, violence seems to follow. I guess when the 9/11 folks get comfortable with the view that Islamist are here to stay, then the Islamist can have their rights!

So much for being American. President Obama is in a no-win situation and he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. It is just best I think to state the principle one stands on and leave it be at that since too many Americans are just unreasonable in their belief that the President is entitled to his own response to any given situation.

jconservative

August 16th, 2010
1:13 pm

Here is the Suprere Court’s order in the Orly Taitz case. Legally this pretty much ends the “birther” movement. This makes 5 cases the Court has refused to hear. Politically, of course, the movement will continue.

(ORDER LIST: 561 U.S.)
MONDAY, AUGUST 16, 2010
ORDERS IN PENDING CASES

10A56
TAITZ, ORLY V. MACDONALD, THOMAS D., ET AL.
The application for stay addressed to Justice Alito and
referred to the Court is denied.

joe

August 16th, 2010
1:14 pm

If BO was any sort of an upstanding example, he would have simply said all at once that legally, they (the property owners) have a right to put up a mosque, but it would be better served in an area that wasn’t so sensitive and important to freedom loving Americans because of the terrorist attacks by muslim extremists on 9-11. But alas, he’s not, so I’m not surprised at all by his latest two-step. Can’t wait til Nov…

Don't forget

August 16th, 2010
1:19 pm

So, anybody offended by the 3 strip clubs within the same 2 block radius?