Saturday, August 14, 2010

Let the Presidential Walkback on the Ground Zero Mosque Begin!

President Obama on the Ground Zero mosque last night:

[L]et me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. 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. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.
President Obama on the Ground Zero mosque today:
I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.
Because making that point during a headline-grabbing clarion call to religious freedom while taking on an extremely controversial and emotional issue during a White House Ramadan dinner would have been, you know, rude.

Sorry, Mr. President, but what you don't say in a speech is just as important as what you do. Every public speaker on your level (not to mention several levels beneath your level) is well aware of that fact. Your comments last night were carefully crafted over multiple drafts to make a clear statement while still leaving the speaker with an escape hatch if that statement went over badly. That may be politics as usual on the campaign trail, but it's especially shameless when it's the President of the United States addressing this particular issue. You knew exactly what you were doing last night, Mr. President, and few people won't be able to see exactly what you are trying to do today.

It's too late now to change your vote back to Present.

RELATED: "Mosque Controversy Swirls Around Obama."

UPDATE: Similar thoughts from Neo-Neocon:
[B]y talking about their right to do so without talking about the wisdom of their actually building a mosque at the 9/11 site, Obama was committing a (purposeful) sin of omission. And if he somehow thinks he shouldn’t comment because the whole thing is a local New York issue (which it is not), then he should have shut his mouth on the whole topic and explained why.

Sometimes I think Obama is like Arafat, in that he—more than most politicians and more than most presidents—tailors his remarks to the occasion and changes them in very basic ways depending on his audience. He also seems to expect not to be caught in the act. At least Arafat did this long before the internet was born, and he did it in two different languages. Obama has no such excuses.
And from Ron Radosh:
In seeking his outreach to the Muslim world, the President now seems to be emulating the Arab leaders whose respect he courts—these same leaders who regularly say one thing to their own constituency and something else when talking to the West. But in this case, the President was addressing Americans on both nights-and hence made obviously contradictory statements, only one of which can be true.
Then again, at least this time President Obama wasn't making obviously contradictory statements in the same speech.

UDPATE II: Unintended humor from Greg Sargent:
Ultimately, though, Obama's speech transcends the politics of the moment, and will go down as a defining and perhaps even a breakthrough performance. Obama recognized that this dispute is a seminal one that goes to the core of our running argument about pluralism and minority rights and to the core of who we are. He understood that the gravity of the moment required an equally large and momentous response. And he delivered.

UPDATE, 8:21 p.m.: Did Obama really walk back his support for the project?
UPDATE III: A "paradoxical conclusion" from Sam Harris:
American Muslims should be absolutely free to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero; but the ones who should do it probably wouldn’t want to.
And a walkback on the walkback from White House spokesman Bill Burton:
Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way from the comments he made last night.
So why did President Obama even make those comments in the first place?
Well, my intention was simply to let people know what I thought.
Which clears everything up, as LeftCoastRebel notes:
Hence, "I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there."
Maybe President Obama thinks that particular part of this issue is above his pay grade. You know, like the wisdom of the Israelis building more apartments in Jerusalem.