Thursday, August 26, 2010

Two Dumbs Don’t Make a Smart

Just because you can open your mouth doesn’t mean you should. Often, that's not smart. Just because you can erect a building where a whole lot of people don’t want it doesn’t mean you should. Usually, that's not smart.

Our President is an excellent speaker, but once in a while it appears his mouth starts working before the idea is fully developed. Such was the case that added fuel to The Great Mosque Controversy.

Barack Obama could have stayed out of the whole matter, which would have been smart. Instead, he uttered a basic truth one day—that we have religious freedom in the United States and we should defend it—and qualified the statement the next day—he was not going to make a value judgment about whether or not religious freedom should be exercised by building a mosque in downtown New York City near the 9/11 attack site.

Taken out of context as I’ve just done, the two statements seem harmless. But the context is that a significant number (20 percent or so) of Americans believe two falsehoods about Obama. They think he was not born in the U.S. (he was born in the State of Hawaii) and that he is a Muslim (he was baptized by a United Church of Christ minister more than 20 years ago, and regularly reads the Bible). Despite the truth of the matters, anything Obama says or does to reinforce either of those unfounded beliefs damages him and his political associates.

The rest of the context is that a very large number of Americans are suspicious about Muslim beliefs and intentions. After all, that was not a group of Seventh Day Adventists who launched attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Those are not roving bands of Baptists killing our young men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.

American Muslims could best counteract the distrust by assuming activist roles in the fight against terrorists and speaking out against them at every opportunity. That would demonstrate their good intentions to their fellow Americans. Building a mosque near the 9/11 site would have the opposite effect. The intent certainly is not to exacerbate Judeo-Christian ill will. The reality is it would do just that, and the mere idea already has done so.

It seems fair to say American Muslims can expect more sympathy and tolerance from a government controlled by Democrats than one dominated by Republicans. The New York Muslim group shot themselves in the foot with the mosque proposal. They handed the right wingers in the GOP in issue they will use to their advantage in November election campaigns. The mosque issue will help energize GOP activists, and give party candidates some votes from independents they might otherwise not have received.

Although he was morally and ethically correct with his first statement and sensible with the second, Obama hurt his party’s chances in the Congressional elections by elevating the discussion to center stage when he chose to make presidential comments about the issue in the manner he did.

Dumb and dumb.


JHawk23 said...

Right on! Obama has considerable political savvy, or he wouldn't have made it to where he is. And at times, he has shown quite a bit of political cleverness in managing certain issues.

BUT as you say, he often seems to shoot himself, his cause, or his party in the foot in his public statements. This is only the latest example.

It's a serious weakness, because no politican can run on results alone. Even if the economy were booming right now, a successful Prez seeking reelection, or hoping to minimize predictable off-year election losses in Congress, would need to set a mood, establish rapport. Back in year 2000, even people who had some doubts about G. Bush voted for him because he seemed like the candidate they'd rather drink a beer with.

So Obama's failing in this regard isn't without consequences.

joared said...

Considering this proposed building is supposed to be a community center, and the existing building already has a prayer area being used in it, that there is reportedly already at least one mosque not too far away, it seems as though this does not have to be that complicated to resolve.

I think there has been a lack of sensitivity and intelligent practical thought on all sides.
Too bad Obama managed to get himself caught up in the fray, despite his good intentions and perceived effort at being Presidential.

What's most tragic are those who exploit all this, distort, twist and turn facts and those who buy into it. Sure says something about the continuing conflicts in our nation. Hopefully we can freely talk about the issues without some extremists exercising unacceptable actions.

Mona said...

Sad to say, but I don't think it matters what Obama says or doesn't say or what he does or doesn't do; irregardless he will be vilified.

Dick Klade said...

Sadly, Mona, I think you are right. What intrigues me is the venom being shown by what may be 20 to 25 percent of Americans. That could indicate that about the same number are racists or xenophobes in our society.

Whoever is "first" can expect some shabby treatment. However, those of us old enough to remember know that Kennedy was vilified by many before he was elected President as the first Catholic. But, after that, it seems to me most Americans respected him as the country's leader despite their misgivings that he might be controlled by Rome.

Obama is being subjected to something different, and more bitter. Something like Jackie Robinson experienced when he bacame the first major league baseball player.

Will we ever grow up?