Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obama puts it on the line for religious freedom

Last night President Obama said some stuff that will simultaneously cause left-wingers to praise their fearless leader, while making the tea partiers go completely bonkers.

The statements, made at a White House Ramadan celebration, (they have 'em every year) were a forceful defense of freedom of religion and he specifically used the current 'ground zero' controversy as a direct challenge to our unbounded belief that these rights are guaranteed to all Americans - no matter what.

"As a citizen, and as President," he said. "I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country."

For lefties: they saw the guy they not only voted for, but put their faith in as a principled liberal, devoted to the idea of a brighter, more-diverse 'New American Century.'

For Republicans: It shows his weakness, naivete, or - even worse - some sort of collusion with the terrorists or a secret plan to enact a Taliban-style theocracy in the US - starting with Midland Beach.

Today, some are saying that Obama is 'walking back' from these comments, but the tape doesn't lie - and these remarks had to go through the maze of presidential advisers.

A few things should be noted:

- Obama waited until after the local zoning votes and whatnot before making a statement on the mosque (the White House previously said it was a 'local issue'). He would have looked like an asshole backing something that didn't even have the approval of the Lower Manhattan Community Board. But the issue was raised to his attention when it evolved into a national 'conversation' about the rights of Muslims to practice their religion.

- His argument is more philosophical that political. That is, Obama doesn't care - or at least he doesn't claim to - whether they build a mosque near ground zero or not. What he cares about is that people of all religions have access to the freedoms that we all take for granted. And denying people these rights, because of some unfounded fears, is unwarranted - un-American, even.

- This isn't over. Right-wing bloggers will make vicious attacks, local leaders will weigh in, the 'stop Islam' movement has a new straw man, the midterm elections have a new issue, the 2012 Republicans candidates will try to out-mosque each other in the debates (you were for the mosque before you were against it!).

If anything, we hope that people take a step back from the vitriol. Or, maybe even watch the damn video. It's encouraging to see our President put his balls on the line for something so contentious, and do it in an honest, rational, persuasive manner that evokes both our history and sacred American ideals.

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