The video below show Obama’s “clarification” on his ground zero mosque statement made earlier. Although he is lamented for this “clarification” by the left, i think its perfect in the sense that its both juridically correct and it influenced the discourse positively.
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My intention was to simply let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country, we treat everybody equally in accordance with the law. Regardless of race. Regardless of religion. I was not commenting on and 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. That’s what our country’s about and I think it’s very important that as difficult as some of these issues are, we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about. – Obama.
Left wing pundits are lamenting the lack of a clear (and positive) comment on the wisdom of building a mosque near ground zero of 9/11. Glen Greenwald wrote:
“But by insisting now that he was merely commenting on the technical “rights” of the project developers — as a way of responding to Republican criticism that he was advocating for the project itself — he has diminished his remarks from a courageous and inspiring act into a non sequitur, somewhat of an irrelevancy”
Greenwald is my favorite legal blogger, but his comment above is clearly an unfair criticizing that reflects the undue expectation of the so called “professional left“.
Juridically, Obama should never comment on the “wisdom” of building a religious building of any kind anywhere. That is the boundary set by the principle of the first amendment. He is in no position to comment whether building that mosque is wise decision or not in either religious, business or sociologically sense. Obama is the president of the United States, he is not a religious leader, business expert nor sociologist. His job is the protect the constitution, which he affirmed clearly in his statement.
By emphasizing on the “rights” to build the mosque, when the discourse is driven by opponent of mosque towards “wisdom” because they knows all too well their opposition has absolutely no legal or rational grounding at all, Obama’s interjection is very positive.
This is precisely why Sarah Palin is trying to bring the debate back onto the issue of “wisdom” by asking Obama:
“Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?”
Obama is too smart to jump into that trap.
Lastly, I believe that Obama’s involvement is very characteristic of what he demonstrated throughout the 2008 election, idealistic yet politically pragmatic.
Idealistic, in the sense he voluntarily (there was under no political pressure so get involve) use his presidential platform to frame the discourse in favorite of the mosque, when nearly 70% of the all Americans oppose it. It is also politically pragmatic, because he did it without opening him self to retaliation (of any significance) from the right-wing.