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August 18, 2010

Column #1,512

Obama: Lacks Wisdom & Courage

By Mike McManus

                WASHINGTON – President Obama is neither a wise nor a courageous leader.

                He knew that polls were 2 to 1 against the building of a 15-story mosque near Ground Zero where 2,700 Americans were killed by Muslim terrorists.

 But what did Barack Hussein Obama do?

                He hosted an ifta dinner, celebrating the beginning of Ramadan with Muslims.  Nothing wrong with that, a tradition that goes back to Thomas Jefferson in 1805.

                What mattered is what he said: “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everybody else in this country.”  (He’s right.)

                However, he added, “That involves 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.”

                Needless to say, the Muslims who heard him were thrilled, as were no doubt a billion Muslims round the world.  However, the President’s statement infuriated his opponents – and even many of his supporters.

                “The decision to build a mosque so close to Ground Zero is deeply troubling – as is the President’s decision to endorse it,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). “This is not an issue of law, whether religious freedom or local zoning.  This is an issue of respect for a tragic moment in our history.”

                Relatives of 343 firefighters who died saving others – were horrified. Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was killed at the World Trade Center, said the president had failed to understand the issue. "As an Obama supporter, I really feel that he's lost sight of the germane issue, which is not about freedom of religion," she said. "It's about a gross lack of sensitivity to the 9/11 families and to the people who were lost."

                By contrast, Pope John Paul II told 14 Carmelite nuns they had to move a convent away from the Auschwitz death camp, which is holy ground. 

                Obama undoubtedly anticipated some negative response, but he may have been surprised that Democrats were equally alarmed. The Washington Post reported, “How can this possibly be helpful when feelings are still sore on this issue?” asked a senior Democratic consultant to multiple Congressional races. “It’s best to say nothing.”

                Within hours of his Ramadan speech, 1,000 miles away in Panama City, Obama told reporters that while he believes that “In this country, we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion,” but added he was not endorsing construction of the Islamic Center:

                “I was not commenting, and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” he said. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates to our founding.”

                Clearly, Obama flipflopped, angering Muslims who heard him say initially that Muslims “have the same rights to practice their religion” as others, including “the right to build a place of worship in Lower Manhattan.”

                Nor did his “clarification” sit well with Democratic candidates such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a tough re-election race in Nevada, who asked his spokesman, Jim Manley, to say “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion.  Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”

                Newt Gingrich asserted, “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.  The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.”

                Sen. John Cornyn, Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Obama’s comments show that “he seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of America…I do think it is unwise to build a mosque at the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of a terrorist attack.” He predicted, “The American people will render their verdict.”

                What should Obama have said?  Had he been courageous, he could have affirmed the Muslims’ right to practice their faith in New York, but added, “If the imam and the Muslim leadership in that community is so intent on building bridges, then they should voluntarily move the mosque away from Ground Zero.”

                Unfortunately, those were the words of Rep. Peter King (R-NY), not those of the President.

                Obama lacked the wisdom to balance the right to worship with justice for America’s loss, and the courage to be candid with Muslims.

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