Life is cruel. Harry Reid finally made a statement with which many of us agree, albeit through a hired mouthpiece, suggesting that the Ground Zero Mosque should be located somewhere other than Ground Zero. In return, the senator has been harangued with accusations that he is distancing himself from the president out of fear for his reelection campaign. Senator Reid deserves better, even if his remarks are difficult to find, absent even from his congressional website. Comparisons to a small animal with a pink tail deciding whether to stay with the ship are premature.
Politicians eager to please have twisted the dialogue over the Ground Zero Mosque to one of religious freedom, just as they perverted the illegal immigration dialogue with “nation of immigrants” rhetoric. The president and Mayor Bloomberg both lapsed into sanctimony occasioned by the appearance of microphones. Mr. Obama’s high-minded statements were not incorrect. They were irrelevant and misplaced. No one suggested that Muslims did not have the right to practice their religion:
As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) 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.1
Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton tried to explain the president’s position, but dug the hole deeper by suggesting that the president did not understand the duties bestowed on the Executive Branch:
The President thinks that it’s his obligation to speak out when he thinks issues of the Constitution are — when issues of the Constitution arise. And so, in this case, he decided to state clearly how he feels about making sure that people are treated equally, that there is a fairness and that our bedrock principles are upheld.2
Confusion over the responsibilities of the president notwithstanding, none of these remarks have anything to do with the Ground Zero Mosque Project. Our country offers many freedoms that responsibility, discretion, and good judgment dictate we not take advantage of. Nevertheless, New York’s Mayor decided to take the same wrong turn as the president, faring no better when he pursued a similar line of reasoning:
The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right – and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?3
Harry Reid’s statement was not eloquent, but it was still light years beyond the nonsense spouted by the president and Mayor Bloomberg. Instead of using their pulpits to discourage the construction of the mosque at Ground Zero, or to suggest an alternative location, as did New York Governor Patterson, they chose to wax self-righteous by shifting the dialogue to an irrelevant discussion of religious freedom that had the sole virtue of being difficult to disagree with.
John Boehner got it right, expressing what most of us are thinking. In contrast to Harry Reid, he published his comments for all to read:
The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding. This is not an issue of law, whether religious freedom or local zoning. This is a basic issue of respect for a tragic moment in our history. 4
With their president’s approval rating below 50%, and the weight of this controversy brought to bear on recession-shaky reelection campaigns, Democrats will be dashing for the exits when their mosque-friendly leader comes knocking to offer his support. Listen hard – you may be able to hear them squeal when they hit the water.
1. “Remarks by the President at Iftar Dinner.” The White House. August 13, 2010. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/13/remarks-president-iftar-dinner, retrieved August 17, 2010.
2. “Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton Aboard Air Force One en route Wisconsin.” The White House. August 16, 2010. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/16/press-gaggle-deputy-press-secretary-bill-burton-aboard-air-force-one-en-, retrieved August 17, 2010.
3. “Mayor Bloomberg on Vote to Allow Building of Mosque in City.” IIP Digital. August 9, 2010. http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2010/08/20100809155711su0.3215143.html#axzz4Ju0dpIB3, retrieved August 17, 2010.
4. “Boehner Statement on Construction of Mosque Near Ground Zero.” Speaker.gov. August 14, 2010. http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/boehner-statement-construction-mosque-near-ground-zero, retrieved August 18, 2010.