Our Mosque Madness

President Obama’s Clintonesque casuistry is making a bad situation worse.

Comments: 125

  1. ..."Our enemies struck at our heart, but did they also warp our identity?"

    Most of us already know the terrible answer to this, Maureen--YES! However, Al Qaeda did not really warp our identity, they just added to the sick thinking already there--glued in place by Greed (Hello Free Market), Lust (Ken Starr and his tome on BigDog), and Irresponsibility (Get your ARM mortgage--no money down). What 9/11 added to the mix was FEAR! And that has been a potent ingredient.

    The Right Wing, media and Congress, have run the train off the tracks in their shameless fearmongering! And the American people are so gullible and scared that they buy into the latest fearcrazed myth. Oh, I should add, we are also incurious, so that most of us never check sources or look into these myths (i.e., birthers, deathers, terrorist babies) closely enough to learn the truth. But maybe that is the point. Nobody seems much interested in the truth of any of the "fearful" situations before us. Therefore, a mosque becomes a potential training ground for terrorists. And worse than that, it is disrespectful--something Americans are really keen on! Not sure to whom it is disrespectful, since quite a few Muslims were killed in the towers on 9/11.

    Guess we will just have to acknowledge that 21st century America is a delusional culture and we are more interested in making up potential tragedies than we are in dealing with the actual ones.

  2. Maureen, if you hear from W., let us know so we can imagine hearing the word “boy” being added to the end of what he says.

  3. "I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there," he said.

    How about this, Mr. Obama:

    "I will not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination for a second term as President of the United States of America.".

  4. What on earth was President Obama thinking? Did his advisors actually tell him to go “Pro Ground Zero mosque” with 90 days until the midterms when Democrats are about to get sliced up like a Hibachi Steak at Benihana?

    Did someone on his team point to Iran and said, “Don’t worry Mr. President, we can win with 32% of the vote, Ahmadinejad did it, so let’s go pro Ground Zero mosque today?”

    Read this article which satirizes the whole mess.

    VERY FUNNY stuff.


  5. Ms. Dowd….There you go again. How is it that I understood the President was speaking of our Constitution and not his personal opinion when he spoke the first time and that he was merely clarifying exactly what he said the next day. I didn’t see any Clinton type speaking there. Sometimes, I really do believe this President cannot do anything to please you. I thought his words were very clear and his statements were very consistent. Are you, like Fox TV, also unable to decipher plain English? If we say that a Mosque should not be built than we are also saying our Constitution only means what it says when it is convenient to our thinking. Are we a country of laws or are we a country of “preferences and personal opinions“? We must have a standard that is inflexible or we have no standard! If our words, on paper, mean nothing than what “exactly” is it that America stands for? Is it or isn’t it” Are we a nation that allows freedom of religion and freedom of speech our does all of that depends on what vernacular we are speaking of? What about next week, shall Eric Cantor say “He looks guilty and he was found not guilty by a jury of his peers and I know we shouldn’t execute an innocent person, but COME ON”? Where do these “exceptions” end?

  6. I don't understand how this isn't a straightforward First Amendment issue. The very first line says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibit the free exercise thereof."

    This line comes even before freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly!

    If people don't like the First Amendment, they can propose an amendment to repeal it. In the meantime, how about we stop debating useless points and move on.

  7. Maureen states that George W. Bush understood that you can't have an effective war on the terrorists if it is a war on Islam. I don't agree. But if she is correct, then what drove Bush to invade Iraq? It certainly wasn't for the trumped up connection between Al Alqaeda and Saddam Hussein. Bush is known to have believed he was guided by the hand of God. Since Islamic Iraq did not worship Bush's Judao-Christian god, then perhaps he really didn't understand the distinction. I suspect that it was a bit too fine for his comprehension.

    Having said that, I find Maureen to be right on target about Obama's flopping and shrinking on the issues. And she's dead on when she writes about Michael Bloomberg morally trumping the spinning President.

    And her final line is a doozy. Bravo Zulu Miss Dowd!


  8. Ms. Dowd….There you go again. How is it that I understood the President was speaking of our Constitution and not his personal opinion when he spoke the first time and that he was merely clarifying exactly what he said the next day. I didn’t see any Clinton type speaking there. Sometimes, I really do believe this President cannot do anything to please you. I thought his words were very clear and his statements were very consistent. Are you, like Fox TV, also unable to decipher plain English? If we say that a Mosque should not be built than we are also saying our Constitution only means what it says when it is convenient to our thinking. Are we a country of laws or are we a country of “preferences and personal opinions“? We must have a standard that is inflexible or we have no standard! If our words, on paper, mean nothing than what “exactly” is it that America stands for? Is it or isn’t it” Are we a nation that allows freedom of religion and freedom of speech our does all of that depends on what vernacular we are speaking of? What about next week, shall Eric Cantor say “He looks guilty and he was found not guilty by a jury of his peers and I know we shouldn’t execute an innocent person, but COME ON”? Where do these “exceptions” end?

  9. It is an article of faith that Republicans like Gingrich and sky-is-falling demagogues like Palin will shriek to the heavens (the Christian heavens--are there any other kind?) and whine about insensitivity and the horrors of freedom of religion. For them there is only freedom for one religion. No, scratch that, because there are plenty of corners of Christianity that they and their ilk could never abide. Far right, fundamentalist, intolerant Christianity.

    That's their brand.

    And by their lights, that's the only religion that should be allowed in this country. They might not say it outright, but that's what they believe.

    The other day Ross Douthat helpfully informed us that other religions might be "accommodated" to use his term, as long as they knuckled under and behaved themselves. So we know what to expect from the right. For them there are only two modes that play in Peoria, as Nixon used to say. Fear and victimhood. They play the fear card whenever possible and claim the sacred status of victim which allows them to be as intolerant, ignorant, vindictive, and hateful as possible. Because not to be a victim and not to be afraid means having to stand up for something.

    President Obama has no excuse on this count. What is he thinking? Does he still hope that anyone on the right will bless him for sitting on the fence? They hate him. They always will. They hate everyone who isn't part of their cabal. Does he hope that the vein-popping screamers on Fox will back off if he pretends that nothing is happening and if it were, well, he knows nothing about it?

    Please, please, please, Mr. President. Stand up for something! Don't be cowed by these bullies. Say what you really and truly believe, for once.

    Otherwise, what is it all about? Wouldn't you rather have one glorious term, if that's the way it turns out, after which you can hold you head up and say "I stood up for what I believed"? Or do you want those two precious terms and end up like the previous occupant skulking out of town, your honor in tatters?

    Stand up. Now. It's not too late to show everyone the kind of America you believe in.

  10. I don't think President Obama is caving to the right. Instead, he is "inartfully" (a term Robert Gibbs used to walk back his own remarks) aiming to please all of the people all of the time. Mr. Obama should have more closely read those Lincoln biographies he likes so well. Lincoln knew that couldn't be done.*

    The most tech-savvy President in history -- a guy who is attached to a Blackberry & uses a teleprompter when speaking to sixth-graders -- doesn't seem to know all those cameras carry pictures & the mikes carry sound, and through the magic of television, pretty soon people who aren't even in the room will find out what he said. President Obama, like too many politicians, appears to hold to the peek-a-boo theory of communications: if I can't see you, you can't hear me. He is great at playing to the room, but not so good at considering the consequences.

    So he goes to Cairo to seek "a new beginning" with the Muslim world. He holds an iftar & announces his support for mosque near Ground Zero.

    Then he goes to the Redneck Riviera and says, "Only kidding."

    Later, when he learns somebody somehow noticed the broad inconsistencies of his statements, he sends his deputy press secretary out to "clarify" his conflicting remarks.

    Before he spoke about the Downtown Manhattan mosque, his critics were chastising the President for not taking a position on it. But silence is preferable to waffling. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, the end result of Mr. Obama's qualifying & parsing is that he's right back where he started: he really hasn't taken any position on the mosque & culture center. He has just confused (or "blindsided," as some complained) his fellow Democrats who are running for office, and he has made himself the subject of even more criticism, from both right & left.

    Call it parsing or qualifying or clarifying, what Obama's "definitive ambiguity" amounts to is talking out of both sides of his mouth. If there's anything voters like less than a politician taking a position with which they disagree, it's a politician who is unreliable.

    Most of the criticism of Obama arising from the "professional left" comes from people who took Sen. Obama at his word during the campaign. We have since found out he was "only kidding" about a lot of things he said then. Many of understood that on many matters, he would have to compromise for one reason or another. But none of accepts the notion that he must compromise today what he said yesterday.

    The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

    * "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time." -- Abe Lincoln

  11. More predictable nonsense from the Time's Contrary Mary soon to be behind a paywall and irrelevant.

  12. I'm waiting for President Obama to advocate the building of an Orthodox synagogue in the West Bank.

  13. The sad fact is if Obama grew a spine and actually FOUGHT BACK against the Republicans with vim and vigor, he would come out the victor. Why? Because the Republicans are mental midgets who couldn't debate themselves out of a paper bag. Yet Obama, that rare breed of politician (a smart man) acts like Don Knox in a fist fight with Arnold Schwartzenegger.

    By never challenging the Republicans, by never calling their bluff and using some REALLY tough language that FDR or Truman might be proud of, one can only wonder if the reason Obama doesn't come out and criticize them too much is because he REALLY AGREES WITH THEM.

  14. What about the Greek Orthodox church that was there and was denied a permit to rebuild? Where's the outrage on the left for these people? For once I agree with Harry Reid. I think a pig just flew by my window.

  15. Obama can't win (with this, or on any issue). The Republicans would jump on him just as much if he opposed the mosque as they are now that he has supported it. So, while he is trying to offend the least amount of people, he winds up pleasing nobody. As usual.

  16. There is no legitimate debate to be had on this. Either people believe, as I do, in the freedom of religion, or they are enemies of the Constitution, and bigots besides. "Opponents" of the mosque are ultimately self-defeating and proclaim their irrelevance. No civilized people should even speak to those who would withhold common rights from Jews, Hindus, Christians or Muslims. The opponents of de-segregation in Alabama ended their dialogue with true American values. That was never a two-sided debate. Neither is this. It's merely bigots making fools of themselves, staining themselves for all time. And with regard to American freedoms, they hate them.

  17. No surprise that this President simply did was totally ambivalent.

    This is a hallmark of his speeches with carefully phrased statements that allow multiple interpretations.

    Time for Ms. Dowd to wake up to reality. The President has no intention, or desire to be a leader of the nation. His only desire is to be reelected in 2012.

  18. It was good to hear the Prez take a stand. Then, for about 12 hours, I thought he actually had a backbone.

  19. Obama was foolish to support building the GZM. The timing, electorally, could not be worse. About two-thirds of us are against building this GZM and even a majority of Democrats oppose this GZM. My gut feeling is that Obama knows he is doomed to be a one-term President and he has hateful feelings toward the Democrats in Congress. I don't see how else you can explain such a deeply foolish decision.

  20. Are planners thinking that if there's a mosque there, terrorists won't bomb the site again? If that's the reason to put it there it's nuts. If there's a good reason, fine. My father, a non-practicing Lutheran, married a Catholic and when he took the helm of a well-known non-sectarian (Methodist) institution, we received hate mail calling my mother a "Papist." The "us" vs. "them" isn't just between Christians, Jews and Muslims. It's between what plants your neighbor is growing and are his shades the wrong color - oh, I have to call the HOA and complain! I'd rather live my life fully than worry about a mosque in Manhattan.

  21. Had anyone else made that speech in defense of the mosque I would have taken it for what it was. This however was Obama, and the first thing that crossed my mind when he made that speech was what would happen when the GOP went "boo"? Well, he folded. I expected it. He has folded on every big issue. Even on issues considered to be victories like healthcare and financial reform, the final bills were nothing like the originals. I am still waiting for Mr Obama to pick an issue, take a stand and refuse to back down no matter what. Too many people in that White House need to learn what "stand and fight" means. Say what you want about Bush/Cheney, but when they took a stand they never gave a quarter.

  22. i think you have deliberately misunderstood what the President said. He is a constitutional scholar and spoke first about the 'right' to build the mosque. When he was attacked for this, he said he was NOT speaking about the wisdom, and he WASN't going to get into that argument. So, where's your beef? Most Democrats think he should have said nothing, that in supporting the right to build that mosque, he lost a lot of votes. But he's a brave man, and refused to remain silent. He'd rather lose votes than not speak out. That was the Obama I voted for.

  23. Building a mosque in New York is different from building a mosque two blocks away from the towers on Park Place.

    The city needs a urgent consensus on this matter. Building the mosque could lead to civil unrest and destruction. Obama is Obama.
    "Change we can build on.."

  24. I couldn't disagree with you more, Maureen. The President did not waffle. It's a sad testimony to the debased state of politics in America when nuance is sacrificed to soundbites. Your recent work is depressingly predictable.

  25. Presumably, the Gingriches and Fox News people will soon commence railing against the presence of Christian churches anywhere near the federal building in Oklahoma City.

  26. Equivocating. I'm so stinking fed up with it ... and now on a basic Constitutional issue.

    What the President said Friday night addressed a Constitutional issue that needed to be defended. My thought was that the right-wing had gone too far and the President’s courage and resoluteness was going to start a national conversation that would clarify the Constitutional issue and start the end of eight years of distorted rhetoric equating Islam with terrorism.

    The next day, the President essentially says that they have the right but it may not be wise to exercise that right. Really?

    There is a reason they are called rights. It’s not so we can use them when it is convenient and when everyone agrees. It’s so we can use them when we need or want to regardless of others’ opinion. Of course using a right when many others are objecting will cause some people to claim it is unwise. Well, welcome to the United States. Our national heritage is a story constant struggle to include everyone in our freedoms.

    We have a responsibility to use our rights and to stand up strongly for them. If we decline to use rights because others think them unwise or because of public condemnation, we forfeit the right. That really would be the terrorists winning.

    Two other mosques already exist in the area. What makes this one's proposal unique is that it is proposed to be a community center with a mosque. Think Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts all with a place to meet. Think of a place where adults can gather for continuing education. This nation doesn’t begin to have enough community centers where children and adults can participate in community activities. After eight years of equating Islam with terrorism, this nation would benefit by having communities interact with those whose religion is Islam so the damage of the misconception can be undone.

    On January 6,1941. President Roosevelt delivered a speech called the Four Freedoms. It was obvious the world was heading into a global war. In first part of the speech, FDR said, “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.”

    “The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.” Normal Rockwell painted this one as a common workman standing to speak from the middle of a large group.

    “The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.” Norman Rockwell painted this freedom as a group of people praying.

    “The third is freedom from want … every where in the world.” Normal Rockwell painted this freedom as having an abundance of food.

    “The fourth is freedom from fear... everywhere in the world.” Norma Rockwell painted this freedom as a mother and father covering their sleeping children before they retired.

    FDR also said, “That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”

    We’ve had too much fear mongering, too much condemnation of “others,” we have way too much joblessness, loss of dignity and too much hunger. Our fathers and grandfathers went to WW II with these four freedoms in mind. Their parents and families at home worried about them and were strengthened by the Four Freedoms as what their sons might give their lives for. A large number did die, died to make sure at least our nation had those four freedoms for their families.

    These aren’t things you equivocate about but, who today is standing up for our Four Freedoms? Freedom from want? From the time FDR signed the CCC legislation it took only 90 days to have 310,000 18-24 year olds in camps, working and sending money home to their parents who were on relief. Freedom from Fear? Why hasn’t President Obama already nominated Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, since she’s already proven to be a financial champion for the people?

    These basic four freedoms and a fairly long list of other needs, are points on which President Obama needs to stop equivocating and start taking care of the people’s needs and future.

  27. Man up, Obama. The Fox folks are paper tigers.

  28. It's tempting to say that Sherod taught Obama nothing. But perhaps the lessons he could best learn are: a) keep you mouth shut until you know what you want to say; and b) you don't have to answer every question.

    W. with another bullhorn is a frightening prospect. But one thing he proves is that Americans will tolerate the art of going wrong with confidence.

    OJT is over. It's time to step up, Mr. President.

  29. Fumbled it, agreed. The pity of this is that Barack Obama is way better than that. I'm a Republican who voted for him. I would think this is a no-brainer. He should stand by the Mosque & Cultural Center much as Hizzoner the Mayor just did. Simply put: they own the land, they complied with building and zoning codes, it's their right to build the place of worship and gathering regardless of the religion they espouse.

  30. I am at war against Literalist Fundamentalist Islam. Actually Literalist Fundamentalist Islam used to be unlawful in Egypt around 1300 CE. The founder was jailed and spent the rest of his days in prison. Wahhab resurrected Literalist Fundamentalist Islam in the eighteenth century, more than 4 centuries later, from the safety of the Arabian desert. Later, as Ibn Saud conquered what is now Saudi Arabia, that warrior made an alliance with the Wahhabists. Thus Literalist Fundamentalist Islam is a deviant form that ought to be fought. Obama, with his exposure to Indonesian Islam sounds naïve about the whole subject.

  31. Again, I ask, what is "moderate" about Sharia Law, which Rauf Advocates? "Moderate" by whose measure?

  32. To President Obama: grow a spine and stand up for the most basic of our fundamental rights. You CAN'T be everything to everyone. If you will not be unequivocally clear about this, then what are you in office for?

    It is easy to bash Islam now while it is our leadership's scapegoat for their own failures. But the long term consequences of eroding the 1st amendment and carving out vast exceptions (affecting millions of Americans) is nothing short of scary.

    So far, the President's leadership has been overwhelmingly disappointing on a number of fronts, and this specific issue just drives me over the edge!

  33. Mr. Obama has done a great thing for race relations. In his mosque remarks he has again showed that a person of any color can be a weasel. Under our thin layer of pigment, all of us have the same potential for weakness and strength, for goodness and for evil, for courage and for cowardice. Too bad he could not have made the same point by demonstrating strength, goodness and courage.

    I supported Mr. Obama from early in his campaign. Not again. Fool me once . . . .

  34. The whole thing is idiotic and UnAmerican. Sarah Palin, Harry Reid, Newt, etc spend no time in Lower Manhattan. I teach courses on Murray Street and you won't even notice the cultural center. Fox news, Sarah Palin and their ilk are just using the appalling crime of 9/11 for cheap political gain based on outright bigotry and irrational fear and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

  35. How terribly sad. We've gone mad!

  36. To equate all Muslims with radical extremists is bigotry, plain and simple. Should we ban Christain churches in towns where radical anti-abortionists have killed doctors?
    Religious freedom is a fundamental right in our country. Don't let the religious fanatics, such as the terrorists of 9/11, take that right away from us. Any of us, including our Muslim neighbors.

  37. Is it possible that we might dial down the level of outrage being expressed --here and elsewhere-- by both "sides" on this matter and instead frame the issue in simple human terms of compassion and sensitivity?

    Or does the existence of a right always allow us to exercise it in the manner, place and time of our individualor groups' choosing with no apparent regard or thoughtful concern for the effect it will have on others?

    It would certainly be an easy thing to construct alternate scenarios of this issue by substituting other religions, locations and ethnicities for the parties to this dispute. Any number of such scenarios would leave many of the previous respondents in this thread apoplectic and howling with outrage.

    Yes, the rights being invoked are absolute and gauranteed. Could they possibly be exercised in a more tone-deaf, self-promoting and insensitive manner?

    The elevation of this matter to the status of Constitutional Issue obscures the profound lack of humanity, of feeling for the ongoing emotional suffering and loss of others that lies at the core of this ill-considered project.

    And the fact that there are intemperate, prejudiced feelings being expressed by a minority of those who oppose the project is no more a fair justification for excoriating all those opposed than it would be to denigrate all in favor because of the murderous, terrorist behavior of a minority of the religion's adherents.

    "Mosque Madness"? That's cute, very clever.

    How's that working out for you, being clever?

  38. People like to use the constitution as a justification for their position regardless what the constitution says. Nowhere in the constitution does it say that one has a right to practice ones religion in any one specific place and religious buildings have been denied permits to be built in a specific place for all kinds of reasons. Nevertheless, there is a general sense that giving a religious organization maximum choice in choosing its location is generally wise and so we tend to confuse the freedom or constitutional right to practice or not practice religion (which is in the constitution) with exactly with where it is practiced.

    Similarly, we confuse a right (that is we can do something) with making the choice to exercise that right in a specific case. In addition, we frequently confuse a moral right with a constitutional right. They are frequently not the same assuming you can define a moral right at all (which I am not sure that you can do).

    I disagree with those who express the idea in some earlier comments that the point of a right (constitutional or otherwise) is that you exercise them regardless what others think or feel. You may have the legal right to do so but that does not imply that it is wise in any particular case.

    The current Mosque controversy appears to fall into that latter category. Of course, if there are no objective and legal reason's for denying a building permit, it sure be granted. But is it really wise from a social and political point of view (politics in the sense of expressed objectives of bridging the gaps between various religious groups). As the majority of people in Manhattan appear appear to favor the Mosque it may seem an easy choice to push the project ahead. However, the events of 9/11 have made the area a symbol for other Americans who do not live so close. It is not as if anyone is proposing tearing down Mosques in the area that already exist. What is so terrible about moving the site a bit to accomodate others.

    Finally, lets cool down about all this. Despite the tragedy which took place on 9/11 as I have stated elsewhere, it is hardly the worst disaster, man made or otherwise to have taken place in a city worldwide. Those who think otherwise simply do not know history. That area should have been rebuilt a long time ago. A memorial at the site is appropriate. Beyond that we should get back to the business of running the city and not be so sensitive to every persons feeling regardless who they are.

    However, if we are unwilling to go that far, then at least be even handed in the matter.

  39. This is par for the course with President Obama - he never feels strongly enough on anything to take a real stand. This is an issue where there should be no real debate on except by the loonies on the far right who's tin foil hats have unraveled slightly. The group proposing this development has no proven ties to any radical or terrorist group. It is not a mosque but a community center with a prayer space (the same way that a hospital or airport might have a chapel). The building has been approved by the local commisions responsible for issuing building permits and it's in an area zoned for commerical and religious buildings.

    As far as its proximity to Ground Zero, having worked in that area and being familiar with that street, you would have to walk two blocks and down a side street to reach the site from ground zero. There are plenty of tall commerical buildings in the way, so you probably would never see it standing at Ground Zero. It would not be obtrusive to the area (indeed, I found the design sketches of the building to be rather beautiful). It also would not be the only Muslim run facility near Ground Zero, as there are two mosques that have been in operation since before 9/11 within quick walking distance from the site.

    So this really should not be a huge issue for rational people. The group is certainly within its first ammendment rights to build a religious center. It's not within direct sight of Ground Zero and it's run be an extremely moderate group with a history of strong interfaith outreach. This should have been a no-brainer for Obama to insist that the protests are out of line with what is proposed, not to quibble that maybe the group wasn't wise about their choice of location. We are either a nation that grants religious freedom to all citizens, or we aren't. There isn't any wiggle room on this one.

    Obama and rational people of all faiths should stand firmly in support of this Muslim group. We asked after 9/11 for the moderates within Islam to step forward so that we're not only hearing the radicals. Now that they have, we are swatting them down again. Where is the logic in that response? We are handing Hamas and Al Quada yet another propaganda point to show out intolerant and anit-Islam America is.

  40. Today's harsh reality is the prominence of the conservative thought police. Those of us who came of age during the Vietnam era saw the US as a liberal establishment whose government worked to improve everyone's lives (e.g., civil rights, voting rights and Medicare), even for those subject to less progressive governments closer to them.

    But today we live in a land where progressive leaders are afraid to speak up, whether it is to allow people whose religions are not our own to enjoy their First Amendment rights (nothing like a situationally applicable Constitution, acceptable only when it upholds our beliefs), to extricate us from two costly wars fought against groups that had nothing to do with "Wanted dead or alive," or to eliminate tax breaks for those who need them least (but whose donations provide the most oil for the system).

    Perhaps, sadly, and despite the yearnings of grass roots progressives, we truly live in the conservative country of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, that FDR, JFK and LBJ were aberrations.

    And perhaps Ms. Dowd's greatest service is less what she says than it is that she keeps hope alive.

  41. I was born in Manhattan. All my children were born in Manhattan. I went to the top of the WTC the day it opened to the public and looked out all around Manhattan. I lived in Manhattan with my wife and children on 9/11. Unlike most of you who are posting from around the country and the world, I was there on 9/11, I lived it. For you, it was just on the TV. You could shut off the TV and the sirens, the smoke, the horror would be gone. I, and millions of other NYC residents and commuters did not have that luxury. It took me over two hours that day to find out whether or not my brother had died. He was lucky. He was merely one of those people covered head to toe with ash. I waited a day to find out if my cousin, a Bronx fireman, had lived. Thankfully, he did. I will never forget one second of that day. The terrorists may have attacked your country but they attacked my home. Still, despite all that, I say let them build. I love our freedoms more than I fear their hate. It's what makes us better than they are. It's what USED TO make us the envy of the world until we became narrow minded, frightened, little people. I love NYC with all my heart and still mourn that day and the friends and neighbors I lost. But what has made NYC so dynamic, so wonderful, so unique is the freedom to live, pray, and speak freely. I will fight for those freedoms for without them NYC and the United States are lost forever.

  42. We are allowing this issue to become infinately larger than it is, or should be.

    If we take the 'long' view. A view, say thirty years from now, and see what makes sense, I think we will be much better off.

    Thirty years from now a fantastic and beautiful new World Trade Center building will be completed and stand on the site of a tragedy.... The 'nation's' tragedy. The building will stand as a rsymbol and eminder to all that America gets hit, but gets 'back up' to face the next day. The building will be home to a memorial to those who died in the tragedy... A memorial that will make it clear that these men, women and children died unnecessarily at the hands of terrorists who have no answers, just the ability to perform evil acts.... The families of the victims can seek refuge and remember their loved ones at this new and now sacred place... They will be able to reflect, grieve and honor.

    Up the street will be a new mosque and social center where Moslems and others will be able to enjoy their constitutional right to express their religious beliefs. Hopefully, they will also express their desire for peace and an end to any terrorism that continues at that time... These will be Americans enjoying their days and their religion.

    Thirty years from now people will walk down the street in New York and you won't be able to tell which side of this argument they were on. They will go about their lives, not forgeting, but with a knowledge that we all have to live together somehow, and that we all have our children to think about.

  43. I suppose that there are different ways to interpret the two statements from President Obama. I choose to believe that President Obama sincerely meant the first statement -- the one regarding our Constitutional right to freedom of religion. I also choose to believe that President Obama was responding to many on the right who were saying that the matter is not a Constitutional problem but one of wisdom.

    I don't buy that argument, for supposed "wisdom" is often not more than whatever the prevailing emotion of the day happens to be. And I certainly believe that "freedom" can never be replaced by "wisdom." So, I will continue to believe that President Obama did not mean to "waffle" on his statement; he was merely saying that he wouldn't comment on the wisdom argument.

    Perhaps the citizens of this country are in too much of a hurry to find fault with anything and everything Barack Obama says or does. Perhaps it's time to take a deep breath and stop carping.

  44. Obama said that Muslims have the same right to build mosques as Jews and Christians have to build synagogues and churches. The next day, Fox News put on their website that Obama “enthusiastically supports mosque at ground zero.” Obama’s follow up comment basically clarified that distortion. It also added a little nuance: that it may be unwise to build the mosque. As someone with “Muslim roots” similar to Obama’s—in my case, the kind of roots that in some places draw glares and whispers and put me and my family at risk for hate violence—I have to say that I question the wisdom of building this mosque at this time. Not unwise because, hey, we Muslim types are sort of responsible for that terrorist attack, and it would be in poor taste to build a mosque so close to the scene of our crime. No. Unwise because a significant percentage of the American public suspects us, and their conversations of our loyalty have moved into the mainstream. Our right to equality is being debated on TV. And, the people in power who might protect us will not, because they are scared. (Could be worse: Sara Palin, VP.)

  45. Maureen Dowd nails this one. This whole Mosque issue is just another case of Republicans and the right wing media building up a non event into a national debate of historical significance. This mosque is not being built on the Ground Zero site. It's being built two blocks away. If built, this mosque will disappear into history once it has left the pages of the political insanity that is right wing propaganda. I am so sick and tired of the irrationality coming from the right wing media, which colors the debate and makes the country a joke. What the Democrats really should have done on day one when they entered office was actually reimpose the Fairness Doctrine, the single issue the Rush Limbaughs of the world feared most. Giving the American people a balanced view of the issues, instead of 24/7 propaganda polluting the radio airwaves of America from coast to coast, and having an immense effect on the public discourse and ability of the politicians to solve the nation's problems.

  46. This whole issue reminds me of one of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" episodes entitled The Monsters on Maple Street.

    Maple Street is "Main Street, USA." A serene little middle-class town where the neighbors are all polite to one another. The episode begins in late summer; Maple Street is full of playing children and adults talking. A shadow passes overhead and a loud roar is heard, accompanied by a flash of light. Later, after it has gone dark, the residents of Maple Street find that their machines no longer work, and there is no power. The residents all begin to get suspicious of one another attaching illicit meanings to innocent actions. Eventually, they turn on each other out of fear.

    The film cuts to a nearby hilltop, where it is revealed the mysterious "meteor" that had flown overhead earlier in the episode is indeed an alien spaceship. Its inhabitants, two alien observers, are watching the riot on Maple Street while using a device to manipulate the neighborhood's power. They comment on how easy it was to create paranoia and panic, concluding the easiest way to conquer the Earth is to let the people of the Earth destroy themselves.

    This is Rod's closing narration:

    "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own: for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone."

    How prophetic of Mr. Serling.

  47. I think this issue also raises what should be a very serious discussion on the freedom of the media. At the moment it amounts to an unlimited freedom (readily practised by, among others, Faux News - that label derives its wit from the recognition of that practice). I'm sure the practitioners do not respect the public whose ignorance they trade on. Their weapon has great power. And, at the same time as they deploy public ignorance to terrorise their opponents, they foster the ignorance they depend on for that power. That is where I think they reveal their lack of respect for the public. They have evidence to confirm their belief that their strategy works, and amazingly well. I for one can't see why a comparatively small group of media proprietors should have such an unrestricted right to spread ignorance for their own ends, whatever they are. I lament that the mass media have so often been a vehicle for peddling prejudice and ignorance.

    It is a truism that freedom can only ever operate within a framework that imposes limits. A freedom to bear arms works effectively only when arms are not deployed against innocents. Similarly I would argue that media freedom works effectively only when such freedom operates to educate. I'm not advocating a Platonic Council of Philosophers, both examples need effective self-regulation to work properly. And that depends on ethical social education (not just teachers in schools). In fact it could be argued that in abdicating responsibility for such education and passing the responsibility off to poorly paid and chronically undervalued teachers we are the agents of our own destruction.

  48. Why is it an article of faith among the media that Obama changed his position on the so-called "Ground Zero mosque"? Out of the many commentators that I have seen discuss the president's "flip-flopping" on the Cordoba House issue, I have not seen one point out how any comment that he made on Friday was inconsistent with any comment he made on Saturday. If he actually did change his position, someone should be able to show us the contradiction.

    The only actual analysis of his comments I can find is from the Washington Post:

    Here the author paraphrases Obama's comments and concludes that he did not change his position. Of course, the author cannot show that the president's comments were not contradictory without quoting them in their entirety. How else would one prove such a negative?

    But most of all, I don't understand why people are criticizing Obama's complicated stance on the issue. The American education system is in terrible shape, but is it so bad that our journalists lack the basic reading comprehension skills to understand a presidential speech? Then again, it makes no sense that we've spent so much of the past few weeks focusing not on the economy, but on a non-issue like the "Ground Zero mosque"; which can accurately be described (invoking Voltaire) as neither at Ground Zero, nor a mosque.

  49. According to Ms. Dowd, "By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for."

    Oh really? It comes as no surprise that Maureen ignores Feisal Abdul Rauf's famous quote: "I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened. But the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened."

    Instead of building a $100 million (where is the money coming from?), 13-story mosque and Muslim community center at this location, why isn't Feisal Abdul Rauf seeking to construct a multicultural, multifaith center for global peace and healing? If this was the case, I am confident there would be no opposition, but this possibility has not been advanced. Again, time to be informed who is funding this venture.

    Ms. Dowd also states, "Have any of the screaming critics noticed that there already are two mosques in the same neighborhood — one four blocks away and one 12 blocks away." Exactly. No one is asking for these mosques to be torn down, but why is there a need for another? Moreover, few are saying that a new mosque cannot be legally built, but rather that the location of this new mosque represents a thumb in the eye for families of 9/11 victims.

    Ignored by Ms. Dowd is the historic use of mosques as trophies following conquests, resulting in the conversion of churches, synagogues and Hindu temples into mosques. For example, the Turks converted almost all of the churches of Constantinople (today Istanbul) into churches, including the Hagia Sophia cathedral, after capturing the city from the Byzantines in 1453.

    Feisal Abdul Rauf plans to name his 13-story mosque and community center "Cordoba House". The Great Mosque of Cordoba was first a church that became a mosque after the Muslim conquest of Spain, but which again became a church (Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción) when Ferdinand and Isabella reconquered Spain.

    One must wonder: With 20 million flood victims in Pakistan, why is $100 million from some anonymous source being channeled into a mosque in the shadows of the World Trade Center instead of being used to assist these poor persons in desperate need of help? Sure, legally there is nothing standing in the way of the mosque, but the motivation for its construction need be questioned.


  50. Try as I might, I'm unconvinced by these arguments that say the government in general or the President in particular should approve or not approve of where people practice their religion.

    On Friday, Obama articulated a constitutional principle so fundamental that it should have been without controversy. Having said as much, how could he properly go on to say that x is a good place for a mosque, or y is a bad place for a synagogue, or z is an indifferent place for a Cracker Barrel? Let a free people do as they will, within the law.

    For that reason, It seems to me the Saturday statement was complementary to Friday's and equally principled. Whether it was politically wise to make either statement on a local matter turned national frenzy is another question.

    Obama is not political obtuse. Whether Saturday's "walk back" was a ham-handed attempt at politics or a bungled clarification is anybody's guess. But it was no reversal.

    Further, I disagree that Clinton was regarded as ultra-fallible. We basically accepted that the guy had played around but that that did not translate into being a total louse or crook, neither of which he was. Being superb at the game of politics does not make one a total Machiavellian.

  51. Obama’s comments boil down to the fact that just because you can so something doesn’t mean you should. But that is not to say that he wasn’t obligated, as the leader of the nation to say; should they or shouldn’t they? For someone who, it is said, looks to Lincoln as a roll model, he ought to have understood that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. He tried to give his support to the First Amendment without actually stepping into the fray. (The mayor did it so much better). That is a far cry from the image he projected during the campaign. More to the point, that is another example of a complete disconnect between the pre & post election Obama (to be a bit fair, McCain has checked his maverick coat at the door to the Senate in a bid to hold his seat). But this “waffle” is just on more instance of “change”, although we thought he would change DC, it has been Washington that has changed the President.
    Personally, I can’t take it no more. I have finally exhausted my patience with Barack Obama. Up til now, I have told my disillusioned friends and myself that we needed to give the President time. He had inherited a mess, and a number of challenges that arose since the election further exacerbated the pressure on him to keep his pre-election promises. And certainly, he had never anticipated needing 60 votes on virtually his entire agenda. But it is now a year and a half, and his irrational stance on the Afghanistan War, his failure to put job creation the highest priority, and most of all, his inability to communicate the rational for his overall program have exhausted my ability to continue to rationalize my continued blind support. Mr. Obama needs to hit the reset button. He needs to listen to his campaign speeches, and he needs to tell those who supported him, who believed in him, who looked for the dawning of a new day in Washington, what went wrong!
    And the saddest part of the story is yet to come. The Republicans, with their Tea Party appendage, will undoubtedly make great gains in the coming elections.
    And I’m sure, many of my moderate & liberal counterparts, share my disillusion; with little or no hope for the foreseeable future. This is not the America I had so long believed in, the America that Barack Obama was going to finally turn into reality.

  52. Another show of inexperience. My last comment about the president being inexperienced was not accepted but I hope this one does. Face it Prez. Obama has minimum exposure to the non-academic world. He has no business running the country if he can't make up his mind when he is not in front of the teleprompter (or not playing golf). He doesn't know what the nation's top priorities are. He could have easily escaped by staying away from the Iftar party in the first place. Obama's naivete is showing off more day after day.

    As far as the Mosque issue goes, I wonder what our el Presidente would have said about the morality vs constitutionality when NBC censored a Cartoon of Prophet Mohammad in the April 201th episode of Comedy Central's South Park?

    Tolerance is not one way. It does not fall in the sole domain of constitution hugging America to be tolerant and multicultural. Ask the girl with the acid burnt nose for going to school! Ask the loved ones of the women stoned or ready to be stoned for alleged adultery! Ask the numerous Muslim women under threat of being killed for defying family honor. Ask the threatened cartoonists from Denmark. Ask our brave soldiers serving in the Middle East if they approve of having the symbol which motivated 9/11 be places at the gateway to he very same war zone.

    Let the people wanting to build the mosque openly show their tolerance to criticism of Islam - let them allow cartoons, let them denounce killing of the innocent, let them not enforce the Shariah personal laws in the West - and only then they deserve any consideration from anyone for tolerance.

  53. Those who call on Obama to develop some spine fail to consider two factors that ensure that that will never ever happen.

    1. Obama has spent his life bending the knee to the powerful and that obsequiousness
    has yielded rich dividends for him personally. There is no incentive for him personally to unlearn that behaviour particularly as it has been so richly rewarding for him personally.

    His empty waffling is increasingly been seen for what it is - an effort to deceive the American people into thinking that he is serving their interests while all the time serving the interests of the powerful elites in our country.

    2. Obama is all about Obama and only Obama. Like Richard Nixon he is completely bereft of any moral compass and hence is utterly lacking in any commitment to any principles other than looking out for number one.

    The Democratic Party made a disastrous mistake in nominating dud Obama as its candidate for the White House in 2008.

    The party has a moral and national responsibility to provide the American people with a choice in 2012 that is not another Bush in the form of Obama.

  54. You would never guess from articles in this newspaper and comments on them that a large majority of Americans and most New Yorkers would prefer this mosque not be built on this specific location.
    If everyone who is opposed to this mosque being built at Park Place is a bigot, then most Democrats are bigots, most people of color are bigots, just about every demographic group not labelled "liberal" or "lives in Manhattan" is more bigoted than not. If those who duck the question or speak Clintonese on the subject are at least suspect bigots, then the President and practically the entire New York Congressional delegation belong there, too.

    You would never guess that religious organizations have ever been denied the right to build in a specific spot in America due to zoning restrictions. You would never guess that moving this location away from the immediate Ground Zero area wouldn't be the equivalent of a Taliban atrocity. You would never guess that those who would build this mosque/community center have previously tried to build this in
    other areas of Manhattan miles from the Park Place location. You would never guess that the two mosques more or less in the vicinity are tiny storefront mosques, not some thirteen- or fifteen-story structure

    that would be visible from Ground Zero. You would never guess that the mosque that is four blocks away has a message on the front page of their website saying that they have nothing to do with this effort.
    You would never guess that those who usually are in the forefront of arguing sensitivity over legality on other issues bare their teeth and growl "This hurts your feelings? Great!" when asked to exhibit
    some sensitivity to their usual political opponents.

    Mind you, there's some real losers on the other side of this argument, too, but they argue elsewhere and ultimately, all that means is that we have two sets of idiots arguing about this. The only thing the two sides agree on is that "compromise" is the dirtiest word in the English language.

    One Muslim writing for a Islamic British paper recently said "The fact is that building a mosque next to the site of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, which were destroyed during the 11 September attacks, is
    a strange story. This is because the mosque is not an issue for Muslims, and they have not heard of it until the shouting became loud between the supporters and the objectors, which is mostly an argument
    between non-Muslim US citizens!"

    What do I think? Do I have some personal, visceral opposition to this? No, but I do recognize that the current location and/or the large size of the structure is likely to cause many others real pain for a long time (and if you get mad at Americans not loving Islam, maybe you ought to get mad at those slaughtering people left and right in its name, and stop sounding so apologetic about them).

    But what I really think is that those who want to build the mosque here have some hidden motivations; they just aren't the hidden motivations those looking for hidden motivations think they are. They bought the Park Place location because they were able to get it for a bargain-basement price. They like the location because they think it moves them upmarket and they hope to get a more affluent group of worshippers, being much closer to the financial district. I think the originators have bigger dreams than wallets, and they hope rather than expect that if they build a showcase, the money will come, largely due to the connections the originators have been cultivating for a very long time. I think this has a lot more to do with the ambitions of a few locals than some global jihadist conspiracy.

    Given all that, I think moving the place to a less sensitive site in lower Manhattan where these personal ambitions could still be met is a reasonable compromise rather than the destruction of religious freedom in America.

    So given all that, build the mosque, just don't build it where it will stick out like a sore thumb to those who visit Ground Zero. Or build a smaller one at the current location, but it probably would be better to let this showcase be built elsewhere through a property swap, say a few blocks east of the current location, one closer to the intended audience. Is that so unreasonable, or is it too much to ask people to give up an opportunity to claim great moral superiority and call your opponents especially juicy insults?

  55. Ms. Dowd,
    All Americans who are upset about Mosque madness could be soothed by the clarifying perspective Abraham Lincoln embraced in the Gettysburg Address:

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought on this continent, a
    new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live.
    It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate--we cannot consecrate-we cannot hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead,who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.The world will little note nor long remember what we say here,
    but we can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated
    to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-- that we here highly resolve that those dead shall not have died in vain-- that his nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    Larry Simmons

  56. This hysteria is only underscored by the lack of hysteria unrealized by a "give me back my country" public/media/political party unfazed by catholic priests (who knows how many) sexually abusing children. A church leadership, when backed into a corner responding with an authoritarian nod of the head that bad things may have occured. We need to separate the church from our kids(state). Close down all catholic schools! Enact legislation to bar/ban/stop all church construction next to or within 5 miles of any school or playground. This has nothing to do with "Freedom of Religion". The contitution does not read Freedom of Sexual Assault! These catholic schools and houses of worship will become trophies of the catholic church's triumph over the rights of our children to live free unabused lives. Tune in next week when I will address protestant churches with rattle snake rituals and what leglislation to enact to protect us from protestant ministers who preach abstinence, then spend weekends in massage parlors writing sermons on the evils of homsexuality! (a little to the left my son)

  57. We have been awaiting World War Three for some time. World War Three will be a religious war, at least one with religion as the excuse. Our country is baiting the Islamic world into an open conflict with our continual alienation of over one billion people. This is what Osama bin Laden was hoping for. That a guerrilla attack (and yes, by military standards, 9/11 was a guerrilla attack...using box cutters to commandeer planes is a guerrilla act, using fear to control the situation) would send our country into xenophobic hatred enough to declare war on Islam, thus validating a rally to Jihad. Well, it is getting very close to working. World War Three is not one that we will come out of in one piece. It will likely involve the use of nuclear weapons on both sides before the end. The hatemongers on the right and those who blindly accept their lack of wisdom are sowing the seeds of a conflict that does not have to be inevitable and I think they might be doing it deliberately. This community center is not the right fight to be having now. We are still in the middle of a catastrophic economic meltdown. Making the building of this community center into such a huge issue is little more than bread and circuses...and we all know how well that worked out for Rome. President Obama needs to adopt the assertiveness of his predecessor and squash this constant hate and fear mongering while he still can.

  58. Maureen, it is great when you are a gadfly on blatant issues that need attention or correction but this didn't happen here. If you listen to outbursts from either side of this dust up there is no meeting of the minds. Most of them make proclamations without even being aware of the true ground zero of this situation.

    The President voiced his view of the Constitution in this situation, his governmental duty, but did not take a side as to what was the right thing to do, a societal issue. The latter is worked out by loud and soft conversations and rants until some equilibrium is reached. Hopefully it will be in a forward civilized direction.

    I for one want our wars ended, our military reduced, available affordable health care, proper private and public investment in our economy to improve prosperity, and finally improved international relations.

    Deciding whether the public will accept a quasi mosque in its midst will go through the nasty but necessary mill of public banter. It is not however going to set government policy. That is firmly in place by the Bill of Rights.

  59. Ultimately the decision to build or not build must be one taken by the members of the congregation. Since there are no zoning laws already in place and any new zoning laws would be plainly unconstitutional, the solution is for the city to offer a property swap and for the members of the mosque to accept.

    Barry is irrelevant. Since his election he has proven time and time again that he is a narcissistic empty suit standing in front of the TelePrompTer. He is without merit, with the noted exception of saving Millard Fillmore from being the worst president ever. Even his attempts to save himself from his own gaffs are laughable, the beer summit being the prime example.

    The single most important question in the nation today is how quickly can he be removed from office, followed by how soon can we erase him from history.

  60. In my opinion, the building of this mosque so proximate (in time and distance) to Ground Zero is unwise.

    Constitutional legality is not synonymous with prudence.

    Any possible associated healing intent to this project cannot be forced upon the aggrieved.

    Forgiveness must be given, not taken.

    Humility is integral to spirituality. I see no humility in the building of this mosque on this site at this time. Thus, I do not see this project as a simple, respectable expression of Muslim spirituality.

  61. So the Bamster has made a mess of the Mosque issue! Wow, imagine that. 50 years from now historians will look back and see the Obama presidency as an aberration. A time when an immature, arrogant, unaccomplished, incompetent speech-maker somehow got elected President on the basis of rhetoric, seductive oratory for the pliant masses, abstract words like hope, change, unity, fairness, yes we can (yes we can what?), words that sound inspiring but have no definitive meanings, words that mesmerized those expectant ones who are perennially "Waiting for Godot" to bring meaning to their lives. Words that stir the passions but mean different things to different people. Words that send tingles up the legs of the fawning, shallow-thinking, show-biz oriented media. Is there any doubt then that this pretender doesn't know how to deal with the concrete, clearly defined issues of the day. That he flips and flops and flounders on social, economic, foreign policy, national security, and the other vital issues of our time. It would be easy to believe that he and Michelle are simply on a busman's holiday, gorging on the perks of the office, living the high life while they have unfettered access to the trough. Predictably, the man has been a disaster for the country. Hopefully, once he is gone, relegated to giving speeches, writing memoirs, and dishing the dirt with the gals on The View, some of the damage he his done can be repaired.

  62. Never forget. But then, does life come to a standstill, frozen forever in those terrible hours of 11 September 2001, or does it move on and heal? I think the latter as a new building will arise, phoenix-like from the ashes of this tragedy.

    I think to understand the issues of those who commit criminal acts behind a religious veneer, we need to frame it in a Western context. The point of greatest similarity in recent times has been in Northern Ireland, where both Catholics and Protestants alike committed some pretty atrocious acts, but behind their religious identities. Now, does that make all (especially Irish) Catholics or Protestants criminals or terrorists? Of course not. Similarly, then, with Islam there are those thuggish elements who hide behind the veneer of their tradition and in our ignorance we want to label them all as criminal or potential criminals. Xenophobia run rampant.

    The best victory the terrorists can have is that we succumb to fear and become just as intolerant as they are. If their version of "jihad" is on the outer physical world, rather than through an inward mastery against our lower impulses, becoming like them would make their day. Then the America our forefathers fought and died for, many coming here to flee religious persecution will be forever lost, the next dark ages upon us, even if the darkness descends with an almost imperceptible slowness.

    President Obama needs to speak with the conviction that one would think all his years of studying the Constitution and being a professor of same would have given him. Forget the polls and the howling demons of Faux, they will howl no matter what choices he makes, being the locus of reactionary agitation. As the President he should strongly back the First amendment and welcome the mosque, for precisely the reason the terrorists can't stand, we are tolerant of all religious traditions. That is the real America.

  63. It is likely that what the president meant by his choice of the word 'wisdom' is, that, legality aside, by choosing a site this close to the former WTC, the project was almost certainly going to be controversial and therefore lead to another round of national madness by people who would rather shout at each other than lift a finger to do something useful about what ails this country.

    The man acts like an adult - it really is too bad that so many of our citizens cannot rise to the task.

    I hope that the mosque is finally built at its intended site and this sorry paroxysm makes us a better people in the long run.

  64. I see two types of madness. One is the madness, as in craziness, of the right-wing, which seems to want to make an exception to the idea of freedom of religion. The other is the madness, as in anger, of people like Dowd who are making a big deal over Obama's words. He stated unequivocally (yes, unequivocally) that the mosque has a legal right to be there. There is no inconsistency in his also acknowledging that there are people who feel it might not be the optimal location for a mosque. This is a president who understands nuance, and there is nothing wrong with that. Life is full of grey areas, subjectivities, and complexities. Obama represents a more intelligent type of public discourse that is sorely needed in the light of America's rapid dumbing down.

  65. I completely understood President Obama's comments on both occasions. In his first comment he expressed recognition of the Constitutional Rights for the building of the Mosque - that really isn't a Mosque at all. In his second comment he chose not to give his personal opinion about whether it was a wise decision to build the Mosque; and that was his Constitutional Right. There was no flip flop whatsoever. I think people are stuffing words into the President's mouth. I also think it a sad affair that those that oppose the building of the recreation center because of the Muslim involvement are thinking from a place of prejudice. Just because a certain group of Muslims committed terrorist acts, does not mean all Muslims are capable of committing terrorist acts. This is a most embarrassing statement about the United States.

  66. Dear Maureen,

    Here are my $.02 worth:

    I disagree completely with you.

    The President of the USA is sworn to uphold our laws which clearly support freedom of all religious groups to worship where they may. However, the government has no business commenting in any way on the moral issue of whether the location of such house of worship is appropriate to cultural/social times. So Obama is right and you are wrong.

    Second, the placement of the mosque although completely legal will do nothing to heal wounds or improve "islamophobia" which some Muslims are constantly bellyaching about. You do not need a PHD or be a member of an intellectual elite ( and I count myself in that group) to realize that moving the mosque to a different location would truly serve the interests of the entire US community and promote tolerance rather than poke an ugly angry bear in the eye.

  67. Ms. Dowd completely avoids the substantial issue. i.e. It is not about religious freedom, or about the right for Muslims to have mosques in the United States. That is not in question.
    President Obama 's reservation perhaps reflects an understanding that one does not add insult to injury, that a mosque is not only a religious building but also a traditional symbol of Islamic triumphalism.
    The major point is that it is wholly inconsiderate of the feelings of at least a good share of the victims' families. This is the issue. Basic human consideration and decency.
    The Mosque can be built Uptown and no one will object.

  68. The absolutely legitimate debate is and has been whether it is an unnecessary affront to commonplace sensibilities and sensitivities to locate a mosque near the 9/11 site. To me, it is grossly inappropriate. The intellectual dishonesty of President Obama to pretend that he was just giving all us yokels a little constitutional law civics lesson is offensive. He was saying more than its illegal to ban the mosque, he was saying its ok to build the mosque. Many of us do not agree. Many of us who think that despise the intellectual vacuity of Ms. Palin as well as the self-serving opportunism of Mr. Gingrich. There is a place for the Japanese to celebrate their proud country and countrymen, the Vietnamese to share their vibrant culture, and Muslims to extend an open hand, just not at Pearl Harbor, the Vietnam War memorial or the site of 9/11. There are some places where it is simply a matter of common decency to allow those who've lost so much to have to themselves.

  69. There were three possible things for Obama to say:

    1. Muslims, like all Americans, have an indisputable legal right to own property and to worship. I support this right and particularly here. It will show the world we cherish our freedoms.

    2. Muslims, like all Americans, have an indisputable legal right to own property and to worship. I support this right, but in this case, I ask the builders to consider the sensitivities of other Americans, and to act on the equally important principle of comity.

    3. Muslims, like all Americans, have an indisputable legal right to own property and to worship. In this case, though, I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there.

    Either of the first two alternatives is morally defensible and personally respectable. As for the third alternative: the legal right to own property and to worship is undisputed. The only issue is the wisdom, prudence or comity of the building project. By choosing the third alternative, Obama eviscerated himself. This was Obama at his very worst, and that's saying something.

  70. Yes, Obama fumbled. In fact, he didn’t just fumble, but he fumbled really badly. It may have wiped out the last vestiges of his credibility as a morally courageous and upright president. As if he did not know that he is our president, again, he has chosen not to lead the nation, but, instead, to leave a tough task for someone else to do.
    It also makes one wonder whether he is really as smart as he is cracked up to be. For, especially, as president, he should know that he would gain more politically by upholding the core principle of our Constitution and by firmly maintaining the role of moral leadership than by appearing so desperate in trying to gain small political gains by appeasing the most bigoted segment of our electorate. By taking such a coward and low moral posture, this president has managed to shame our entire nation, too.

  71. I think that Obama made the wrong choice by supporting the mosque. Anyone who has opposed having a mosque there has never said that there shouldn't be a mosque at all, just not there. Reid made the right decision to be against it as did Patterson. As a matter of fact, Patterson is negotiating with Cordoba House on where to place besides there. I tend to find it the other way in that putting a mosque there is exactly what the terrorists want just like building the Freedom Tower instead have backing what they took away from us, which is the Twin Towers, a true worldwide symbol that they destroyed on 9/11. I wouldn't be surprised if the Freedom Tower will be used as their pillar. BTW, I did recently hear that Hamas supports having it, so maybe that will change the minds of those who want it now that a terrorist organization does. Then again, Hamas is reguarded as everyone's favorite terrorists because they attack the country that a good part of the world wants to see destroyed and cheers them on. Keep in mind that it was Hamas who partied shortly after 9/11 occurred for those who have forgotten, because I haven't.

  72. President Obama makes presidential disasters like former Presidents Carter and George W. Bush look almost competent—well, not really. President Obama is, however, a major disappointment.

    I have no real idea whether the neo-conservative led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan made sense. I do understand that President Bush uses the same advisors (the notorious Kagan clan, is an example) for those missteps that President George W. Bush used. The neo-conservatives might help the president muddle out of the mess. Who really knows?

    I am not certain what the financial crisis demanded. I do know that President Obama kept major players in the Bush administration failures in that crisis to solve the problems in his own administration. We are still floundering on making the major institutional changes the crisis demands.

    He has made some improvements over Mr. Bush in major areas—allowing approval of safe contraceptive care for women is one, but the poor fellow is not really up for the job, is he? Double-talking about freedom or religions was nonsense. Does the man have any convictions? Apparently, he does not have many. What a sorry disappointment the man is.

  73. The First Amendment cuts both ways. Let 'em build the mosque. And then let thousands - no, tens of thousands of Americans protest in front of it -- every day -- every week -- especially on Fridays. Let the place become as contentious as an family planning clinic in Alabama. Make the owners squirm. Subject the attendees to signs and shouting. Americans who are justifiably angry - have First Amendment rights too. Build the mosque. And then let the protests begin.

  74. Another non issue, which really equals another republican wedge issue.

    The absolute transparency of the GOP and it's racist base is shining like the light of day. They don't even try to hide it anymore. It is blatant; divide, distract and conquer.

    If they were so worried about this site, why didn't the conservatives do something with it? They had nine years.

    Plus, according to the wealth distribution gap in America today, the rich conservatives have all of the money and could certainly have purchased the property without any trouble at all.

    But as long as they can keep their tea baggers distracted from the real problem in this country - the richest 2% and their conservative deep-pockets - what's wrong with stirring up a little hate amongst the underclasses?

    It gets people riled up, and to the voting booth.

    Unfortunately for the GOP, their demonetization now includes everyone but white, millionaire fundamentalists' and their Wall Street bosses. Hardly a large group of people.

  75. I'm certainly disillusioned with the president. My vote, and my financial support, was not intended to empower someone who seems afraid to stake out the moral high ground in the face of clownish, demagogic opposition. Change? No, I'm afraid we've all been short-changed. A great orator who is afraid to use his skills either doesn't know what he believes in, or fears that what he believes in is not popular enough to take a stand on. The best chance for a second term in this case is counting on the opposition to anoint a true incompetent as an opponent. It's likely they will. Either way, we as a nation seem to be losers.

  76. Here is how everyone should respond to this issue:

    Say it is a non-issue, that it's just a bunch of namby-pampy, piddle-in-their pants, scared-out-of-their-wits, conservative republicans who are afraid of a religion they don't understand.

    Then say:
    This is America. Most American's don't bother about what others believe. Like the doctor telling you to turn your head and cough, it's nobody's business, religion is private.

    We are strong enough an confident enough and brave enough to enshrine freedom of religion in our constitution. You can worship whatever you want where ever you want. It doesn't scare us.

    Then say:
    It's written inside of our national anthem, the very last line - you can't be the land of the free unless you are the home of the brave.

    What's going on here?

    Here's what I think: The real, core of the republican party is about 30,000 extremely wealthy families.

    They see the rest of humanity as cockroaches.

    Unfortunate for them, they are trapped inside of a semi-democratic system.

    They just don't have the numbers to do as they want.

    The good news for them is that there is really only one governing principle in our system: Free Contract.

    Now as you can imagine, in such a system, bargaining power is everything. So everything that goes on around us is all about individuals or groups of individuals trying to enhance their bargaining power: from advertising on television, to personal grooming, to what goes on in the dens of inequity on Wall Street and in Congress - it's all about people trying to enhance their bargaining power.

    The rich people know this. It's how they got to be rich in the first place and how they stay rich in the second place.

    So they buy and hire media to control the messages that are transmitted. They use scientific marketing consultants to shape the messages. Then they amplify it through emotionally charged issues, such as this nonsense, out to the masses to get them to surrender their bargaining power.

    It's an election year, and here we have people discussing this issue. In discussing this issue you are only enhancing the bargaining power of the Republicans, and when I say Republicans, I mean the handful of Americans that are worth more than $10 million and lack a conscience.

    The remainder Republican's are just a bunch of piddle-in-their-pants fraidy-cats who are so afraid of some boogey-man that they can't wait to abandon their freedoms and their principles.

    They need to get a grip and grow a pair.

    Furthermore, you only fear that which you don't understand. Read a book about Sufi's and learn that there is absolutely nothing to fear from these people... except when they read how kind, gentle and introspective Sufi's are (the buddhist of the muslim world) they might want to convert.

    All we have to fear is fear itself.

    If you want to be the land of the free, you must be the home of the brave.

    The way to combat fear is with knowledge, information, and education.

    This issue should be treated with contempt. IMHO

  77. Maureen, I can't get away from the feeling that you are the one not getting it. Obama said that he did NOT comment on the wisdom of building a Islam-inspired community center. We know he didn't. Was this addendum helpful? I think it was. He just should not have said it with the same tone of voice as when he spoke at the start of Ramadan. He should have said it while Fox News was at his tail trying to get Obama to clarify what he had said. Over his shoulder he should have looked back at the Fox reporter and said "I did not say that it was a wise decision, I only spoke up to say that they have every right to build one. Whether it is wise or not is a totally different question." And this we all know to be true. It has brought progress. No one has mentioned yet that all of a sudden the debate has changed. Republicans are no longer talking as if there is no 1st amendment. They have rephrased the issue as if it always was about the wisdom to build the first place, not the whether they can. This will lead to the final solution of this populist drama. We can talk forever whether this was wise or not, while the community center is being build, during the opening of the community center and forever after until we finally realize how wise it really was, since it will have brought us all together, realizing what a great country this is . . .

  78. Maureen Dowd tends to treat popular views from the Arab or Islamic street as justified or at least impermeable convictions that we have to learn to work with or work around. On the other hand, she treats popular views from the American street as manifestations of bigotry that need to be attacked or ignored. Thus her inability to see how the Cordoba Center is grossly insensitive and ought to be morally (not legally) challenged. Of course all decent people have to support the right of Muslims to build mosques where they want, including near Ground Zero if they insist. So, much of the right-wing rhetoric is misplaced. But decent people should also acknowledge that it is extraordinarily rude and provocative to insist on building near Ground Zero. In other words, Muslims have a right to build, but that does not mean it is right to build. Opposition to the plans ought to be conducted in an extralegal register. It's an ethical matter, not a legal one, though many of us have trouble believing that law shouldn't intervene wherever ethics are breached.

  79. I never interpreted his original comments as approval of the mosque, and don't understand what all the fuss is about, or why there was even a need for follow-up clarification from him. All he said was that they have a right to build it, and they do have that right.

    People act as if the constitution contains a clause that says, "you have the right to not be offended by others".

    Although, I generally find all religions to be quite offensive, I really hope that they do build this mosque just to agitate those that are too uptight to brush it off.

  80. Why should Obama or anyone else comment on the wisdom of the decision to build a community center (including a mosque) at that particular location? If someone wants to make ill-considered use of their own land, on their own dime, then it's nobody's business but theirs and the people actually affected. In this case, that's the members of the sponsoring organization, and the prospective users of the facility. Certainly not the president of the United States, unless he's planning to retire to Manhattan and use the gym at Cordoba House.

    He didn't contradict himself.

  81. Obama, by his constant wavering on social issues and acquiescence to the war enthusiasts, willfully has joined the ranks of one term presidents. Many who voted for him will simply not vote in 2012. Not a bad deal for him, because ex-presidents live a life of splendor, but what about the rest of us? Will we just have to get used to living under Ma Grizzly and her ilk? The incumbent, of course, will be nominated and go on to be a guaranteed loser.

  82. I don't see contradiction or flip-flopping. Two different things:

    Yes, whoever wants to has the right to build a mosque/islamist center near ground zero, freedom of religion, country of laws and all that

    No, it isn't a particularly good idea, because it rubs so many people the wrong way (some of whom are still dealing with personal loss beyond the understanding of those who didn't lose close friends and relatives on that day) and gives fodder to the loonies on the right. Whoever proposed that center is shooting themselves in the foot by strengthening the xenophobes among us. It's a matter of perception.

    Why didnt Mayor Bloomberg sit down with these people and explained the issue to them?

  83. The President was absolutely correct, in both statements. He was crystal clear about the principle involved, both times. In the second statement, he was saying, as far as I can see it, that it really doesn't matter how wise or appropriate or how any of the other excuses the right comes up with---it just doesn't matter. The mosque people are guaranteed the right to their building under the constitution.

    It may be and probably is not a "wise" thing since it is obviously stirring up hurtful and possible violent feelings among Americans. Some of us would have preferred that the situation never came up, just to avoid this ugliness. But it has come up, and there's only one response, that is, unless we're all ready to give up our own religious freedoms. If the Muslims want it, the mosque stays.

    Obama said it just right. That's what he was saying, jerko. Wisdom had nothing to do with it. He didn't have to comment on that part of it. The bottom line was the same. What is so difficult about that?

    Obama has shown more courage than any president in recent years. You are attacking him at every turn, thereby helping to guarantee that one of those howling hacks out there will be his successor.
    Think Palin, think Gingrich.

    Obama is a good man. Look at his face. He can't do it all alone. The right is battering him for every little thing, mostly for being a good man. For celebrating his birthday, for letting his wife go to Spain. For playing basketball, golf. And now people like you bashing him on a daily basis for knowing he can't perform miracles.

    Support this guy. Help him. Help all of us avoid the catastrophe up ahead. The Republicans really will finish us off.

  84. I was with you all the way up to your implausible leap to the possibility that those who are against building the mosque at that site are suffering from moral timidity. You’ve got it wrong. The people of NY and the rest of the country are the ones who have grown a backbone. Mosques are built all the time in all of our communities and for the most part, there’s been little push back…so there’s your apparently much needed proof that we get what the Constitution says about freedom of religion. This is NOT about freedom of religion; they have the right to build there, end of story.

    HOWEVER, since the imam has stated his hope that the mosque will be a building bridge to other religions, he surely can see by now that it is definitely not going to be the case since it has evoked the emotions of New Yorkers including the families of 9/11 victims, along with the rest of the country. It’s causing pain and hurt and anger in almost 70% of Americans and we’ve decided to not be shy in expressing those feelings. I don’t think the leaders of the dissenting 30% should insist on having it their way.

    Since most religions are based on kindness and consideration, our responses alone would be the reason for a religious authority to stop and reconsider the current plan. The imam should come out and say he’s grateful for the support of the mayor of NY and the president of the US but after realizing & understanding how hurtful it would be to so many Americans, he has decided to locate the mosque elsewhere even though he realizes he has a legal right to build in the current location. At that point, he would likely win the hearts of many Americans and actually complete his stated goal of building a bridge to other religions.

    If he continues his current plan, however, that will serve as an obvious insight into the fact that his genuine intent isn’t actually reconciliation but rather, to simply assert himself and his mosque no matter what the cost. And like it or not, a mosque so close to Ground Zero would represent a daily finger in America’s eye. Showing kindness to others even when you believe you’re right is a sign of strength, not of weakness. Thanks to our Constitution, we are a tolerant and giving people. We simply ask others to be tolerant and giving as well.

  85. This debate is already so tiresome. The Constitution is a powerful document that guides our country (hopefully) to doing the right thing. How many of the people in these posts really believe this mosque is about the principles of the Constitution?
    It is so much more than that. It's about respecting each other and valuing each other's sensitivities. If the Muslims really cared about showing respect for other's sensitivities, they wouldn't stir the pot and move it elsewhere. By continuing to keep this in the news, people get more angry and divisive.
    It would be the right thing to do if the mosque were built somewhere esle, but people who want it keep hammering that it should be in lower Manhattan for some reason. Yes, the Constitution gives them every right to do this. But for those of you who think this is about the Constitution, please explain your reasons to the victims of those lost on that fateful day.
    There feelings have become lost in this whole debate.

  86. How embarrassing for the United States as a President has to educate the people, Media, Press and Law Makers on the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. We learned that in school but it seems many either forgot or skip that class. On 9/11 the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. Today their is a Mosque at the Pentagon with no one having a complaint. Would this be a problem if a Synagogue or Catholic Church were using that site. We allowed 4000 plus brave soldiers to die in Iraq for what we call Freedom and now we're showing the World it doesn't mean what we say. What's next to be taken away before the US is completely destroyed by the real axis of evil within the USA. We are destroying ourselves and our country.

  87. Obama campaigned as a synthesizer, but as president, he has acted as a polemicist when he hasn't deferred decisions to the Democratic congressional leaders. In regard to the mosque controversy, he should have readopted his synthesizing charade, saying the Muslims have the right to build near Ground Zero but it's a very bad idea since it's creating division instead of bridging division. Perhaps Obama needs to hold a "coffee summit" to clarify his remarks and to apologize to the families of the 9/11 victims.

    Our rights are based on the premise that we must be respectful of the rights of others to express their viewpoints and their sensibilities. In his Ramadan dinner speech, Obama said, "And we can only achieve 'liberty and justice for all' if we live by that one rule at the heart of every religion, including Islam--that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us." Perhaps the imam and his followers need to ponder the Golden Rule and consider doing unto the infidels as they would have the infidels do unto them.

  88. Is it so inconcievable that appeal to rights may not end the debate? I happen to believe that there is absolutely nothing morally at stake in the outcome here, as long as the decision on whether or not the structure gets built is not one made by the state or city government.We are conflating two separate discourses here. It is so frustrating! There is the discourse or rights that is political and then there is moral one, based on taking into the account respect for others. President Obama demonstrated a grasp of this distinction and in fact needed to underscore that the political/legal debate issue is closed. The moral one however is open-ended and should not be decided by the media but through some kind of mediation.

  89. Of all the people to criticize for contributing to this ridiculous controversy, you choose Obama? His message is clear and consistent. Muslims have the right to build a mosque. Personally, he indicates he thinks the location could be reconsidered, but they have the right. Too much nuance for you, Maureen?

  90. Is there some problem with bars, liquor stores, peep-shows, sex shops and off-track betting in that area? Construction and office workers need a little relaxation after a hard day's work and most of them prefer these more humble diversions than going to church, temple or mosque.

  91. You are correct in your analysis, Ms Maureen Dowd, Spread the good word here and there. They are all geeting insane. Intolerance is a viscious circle.

  92. Yonkers, New York
    18 August 2010

    President Obama's original comment on the building of a mosque in the vicinity of Ground Zero was loud and clear: Muslims enjoy religious freedom in America, and the proposed mosque is thus a Constitutional Issue, meaning they have a right to do it.

    His later comment on his original comment, however, tended to becloud what he said originally. That doesn't mean that he has backpedalled; it only means that President Obama was not as crystal-clear the second time as he was the first time.

    And Maureen is right: Osama will be the ultimate winner if those who more emotionally than rationally oppose the building of that mosque near Ground Zero succeed, and thus show to the whold world that America's claim to religious freedom is hypocritical.

    Mariano Patalinjug

  93. Thomas Jefferson took innumerable actions that helped shape the future republic (small "r") of the United States, which he envisioned as a vast "Empire of Liberty". He also held a remarkable succession of public offices, all of which he executed with integrity. He could have had an epitaph a mile long, enough to fill up two or three very large tombstones.

    B his epitaph, written by him with an insistence that only his words and "not a word more" be inscribed (notably omitting his service as Virginia Commonwealth/State legislator, Governor of Virginia, Ambassador (Minister to France), member of Congress, Secretary of State, Vice-President and President), reads:


    There you go.

  94. Let us say yes to freedom of religion and yes to freedom of religion and non-religion. Let us build a non-specific religion building including all cultural, ethnic, social and political groups and characteristics of the country there.

    “The one who owns property would not be free.” - Andrew Colesville

  95. Why is it that liberals have to find a straw dog to set afire on every topic. I know of no sane person that says the mosque can not be legally built. It is just an insult and typically poor taste of muslims to WANT to build a mosque so close to where 2901 were murdered. To those who think that 600 feet is far enough away for the families of those who died that day, ponder this: the people who lept from the upper floors rather than be incinerated, traveled almost two and a half times that distance before they splattered on the pavement!

  96. I would call it typical Obama. I am starting to think because he lacked a father figure he doesn't know how to act like a "man". i.e stand for something, stick to principles. the same response here is echoed in all of his policies of comprimise that are so dilluted they won't work.

  97. Barack HUSSEIN Obama, (Please note that Hussein means handsome or good and in the Jordanian culture, it is a royal name) has managed to portray his "personality" to the people of America as an icon of HOPE, a reason to believe in a "NEW CHANGE". Perhaps the building of the mosque at ground zero is “change you can believe in!”

    The debate is really not about whether or not to build a mosque; I think Americans do not really care where any mosques are built; rather why on earth their “great” president would want to warp their identity by building an Islam house of worship at the same place thousands of lives were destroyed by supposedly the same faith/fate/place.

    What is Obama doing? he is slowly bringing in the whole “Islam Supremacy” into the United States by indicating that “All religions/cultures are free to worship in what ever way they will” (Freedom of worship) terming it as equality. I will quote his word and say “I will overlook commenting on the issue at hand” I think this has been going on for quite sometime only that something solid is about to be born thus raising fears and concerns among the citizens.

    Al-Qaeda, Osama-Bin-Laden, building of mosques at ground zero would make the perfect movie of the millennium staring yours truly Hussein Obama; how ever let us try and look beyond this. I know it will be very closed off to ask this question “Why don’t we have churches, temples or synagogues in the Arabic/Muslim worlds?’ no need to answer; it is a rhetorical question. Building of the mosque at ground zero is / will be the worst insult to the American people which is just the beginning of what is to take place soon.

    As I conclude, let us try and see beyond this debate, for what its worth did not the national prayer commemoration day go to the Muslims? http://www.islamoncapitolhill.com... as they say nowadays “It’s our time to shine”. Whether we like it or not Muslims/Islam is taking over the world and we better be ready and well equipped both faith wise and mind wise for this change which we are really not sure “We can believe in”


  98. If one does not like Obama, no matter what he says he is wrong, insensitive, spineless, etc.

    First, he came out as Potus and defended the constitution in terms of religious freedom. What is wrong with that? Do we want a leader to turn his back to the Constitution for the sake of popularity?

    Then to sooth those who accuse him of being insensitive, he came out and stated he would not judge the wisdom of building the mosque so close to the Ground Zero. Even as Potus he does not have the right to judge and he is telling the attackers that he remains neutral. Only time will tell whether it is wise to be so close and the safety of those who attend the mosque from possible patriotic radicals.

    But what is considered close and far? If the mosque were to be built 4 blocks away, would people stop complaining? What about 8 blocks or midway between the Pentagon and Ground Zero, both sites that were attacked by the terrorist?

    Obama may have fumbled with the economy, but in this case, Ms. Dowd, where is the bone you are trying to pick?

  99. I agree with you Maureen, but then again we are just "lefties" left over from the day when it was mainstream to believe in such things as the constitution, a social safety net, civil rights, etc. Too bad we aren't more appreciative of the strong stands this president we thought we elected takes on such issues.

  100. New York!!! New York!!!!! New York!!!!!!!
    You are America melting pot, with tolerance and accommodation , despite all the odds and controversy New York is USA.
    No words of condolence, no tears shed, not even expression on my face can convey my deep sorry and sincere sadness to those who lost their loves ones in 9-11-2001. Nothing can compensate for the loss of love ones, not the tallest monument, or the largest fountains, or Garden of Eden can distinguish the pains, nobody else can comprehend the agony you are going through. I wish I know of a mean to ease that pain. I, as Muslim American, sincerely expressing from the bottom of my heart, but I do not know how to convey to you, to every one of you. I share the anger with you. I frequently scream to Allah wondering why this and other hideous crimes are committed in the name of Islam. The Islam that I believe in does not advocate hate, intolerance, destruction or killing. Those who committed such hideous crime are not Muslims, they are psychopathic criminals.
    9-11-2001 was a test to us as Americans, and mostly to New Yorkers, the true America face. A test to how far can we stand to what we preach, to our resolve as a nation. Hope we also have learned from our past during WWII, when Japanese Americans punished to what Japan did. They were patriotic Americans but collectively punished. It is my hope not to repeat this mistake.
    In less than 3 weeks we Muslims will celebrate the end of our holy fasting month of Ramdan, it is another test of our resolve as a nation, and more so to New Yorkers, as it coincides with 9/11. What I would like to see from Muslim fellows in the USA and in Europe is to observe a moment of silence before the prayer, Imams denounce terrorism in their speech and after the prayer to leave hand in hand with each other and with non-Muslims marching and demonstrating against terrorists, a one million man and woman march for peace and tolerance.

  101. One good observation for a change. Obama is a flip flopper whose speeches are laced with ambiguity. If you want to know whether he actually said what he really believes? you'll have to wait until later when the polls come out.

    As to the mosque, it is not an issue of whether Muslims have a right to build mosques and practice their religon in America. There are mosques all over America and Americans are extremely tolerant of Muslims, as they should be. It is a question of the propriety of placing the mosque in that particular location. Remember that GZ was to become a memorial site? Do people remember why? The idea of erecting an enormous edifice - yes a muslim edifice - at GZ is for good reason repugnant to most Americas.

    And by the way, I hope Ms. Dowd is right that this Iman is moderate and good intentioned. It seems that other such so called moderates have turned out to be wolves in sheep's clothing.

  102. And it gets at the heart of why so many liberals are critical of this administration. It's not about wanting canadian health care and no military as Gibbs dismissed the critics on the left; it's about having some principles and fighting for them.

  103. In this most partisan of times, when Republicans attack on the slightest pretext, it was tone-deaf of Obama to state his ideals on this issue. He may be right, but the reality is that Muslims are a very small voting bloc, and Republicans and tea partiers are grasping at every straw to turn people against Obama. With his current approval rating of 40, they unfortunately seem to be succeeding.

    Liberals like Ms Dowd (the professional left?) will base their opinions of Obama on what he does with issues like this one, don't ask don't tell, etc. At the other end of the spectrum, you have people who base their opinions on Obama's skin color, abortion, gun rights and other such nonsense.

    Bizarrely, the people of this country seem to have forgotten the main business of a president. At a time when the country is in deep trouble, ideologues must be ignored and the work of the state carried out.

  104. By his growing accumulation of missteps, President Obama is making himself increasingly irrelevant.
    If any American president can be said to be irrelevant, he is well on his way to attaining that status.

  105. Ms. Dowd is right that the President looks weak when he won't take a clear stand on a big issue, and instead falls back on transparent Clintonesque language games.

    Paradoxically, Obama would appear stronger to simply say - YES, America is down on its knees and I support it. It would show a sense of historical understanding, and an acknowledgement of the basic historical truth that Islam seals its' victories by building a grand mosque on the site of the former monument of the vanquished.

  106. This is a local zoning approval issue. If the area whee the mosque is proposed meets all local NYC requirements, how can a permit to build be legally denied? Government boards and agencies have absolutely no right to deny say a muslim mosque or whatever if such a building can be built in thew area in question. If a christian group or Jewish group or Hindu group or Mormons or whatever proposed it, the EXACT sam standards have to be applied, this is a foundation of our Democracy. How can this even be questioned? This issue has arisen only to stir up political tensions. Where are the leaders on this "issue?" Either fanning or the flames or unfortunately hiding from them. Obama and others should come out and say - first you can't approve or not approve based on content especially religious content and second this is a local approval issue and if it meets the requirements it gets approved plain and simple! The fact that this "mosque" is an issue at all disgusts me with this country right now.

  107. This is stupid. It's an opportunity for politicians the gain exposure-good or bad. The fact is, they are sworn to uphold the Constitution so they all need to say it is ok for the Mosque to go up. Americans should not look to the government for resolve on this on.

    They people of NYC ,on the otherhand, have the right not to lift a tool to build it. They have the right not to bid on the project or to excercise their craft licenses.

    It is that simple.

  108. After attaching the professional left herself through insinuation that the left has not supported Obama, Dowd is attempting to crawl back into the good lights of liberals by criticizing Obama for being wishy-washy on this issue. Obama is a wishy-washy kind of guy; look what happened with single payer health care and Wall Street. And Dowd is right in another critique of Obama: he is a kind of Spock; cold, intellectual, not the kind of guy you would go fishing with, or even drink a beer. Not like Bill Clinton, Bush, or JFK. More like Jimmy Carter, alas. If Americans really want a good idea about what to do with the whole situation down where the World Trade Centers used to be, listen to the fake centrist Lou Dobbs who has a great idea: Why not building a massive interfaith center on the site? What a brilliant idea! Let our so-called religious leaders learn more about tolerance by attending and addressing the services of other religions? Dobbs, who pretends he is an independent, is really just another right-wing ideologue, but his idea is better than any I have heard. Dowd, can't you come up with more suggestions for success, not just lame attacks? Trumped by Lou Dobbs!

  109. Thousands of Americans were killed in the name of Islam near the proposed building site. A little sensitivity is in order here. Seventy per cent of Americans recognize that. So should you, Ms. Dowd. And if there are already two mosques nearby, why the need for a third?

    Feisal Abdul Rauf is not a moderate Muslim. He is an advocate of Sharia. He has called the US “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11, and has ducked questions about whether groups like Hamas count as terrorist organizations.

    Obama is not a former law professor. His titles were lecturer and senior lecturer.

    Madam, how about a little more time and thought for these columns?

  110. You knew it was going to end badly when he wrapped up his Iftar remarks with the cringe-inducing line "The Writ of the Founders Must Stand." Freedom of religion is hardly the "Writ of the Founders," but rather something that was voted upon and ratified by the citizens of the several states. That line made clear that he had decided to step into the Fox News framing of this issue; therefore his loss of nerve the next day was at least as craven as anything Harry Reid had to say on the subject. The President should grow a pair and reject the right's secular hagiography, along with the related assumption that the reverent tone they use to pronounce "Founders" means that they alone understand the "original intent." Because the Founders' Original Intent in this case is clear.

  111. The fact remains that this group could simply choose to build their mosque elsewhere in order to diffuse a sensitive issue - and refuses to do so. They're trying to make a point. And what is that point?

  112. "This — along with immigration reform and AIDS in Africa — was one of his points of light. As the man who twice went to war in the Muslim world, he has something of an obligation to add his anti-Islamophobia to this mosque madness. W. needs to get his bullhorn back out."

    One, with his two wars in the Muslim world still going on ten years after we invaded Afghanistan, maybe W's bullhorn wouldn't be terribly credible. Two, the AIDS in Africa thing was the one time I had second thoughts about W, that maybe he wasn't the simplistic opportunist he appeared to be. Then I discovered pharma was his biggest donor industry that cycle.

  113. "He charged the president with trying to turn the issue into a political football. But that is not quite right. It already was a political football and the president fumbled it."

    Well, Princess of Snark, that's about the only redeeeming sentence in this article. Much ado about nothing except the hypocricy of the nattering heads.

  114. To me, the President was very clear. We have the right to any religion, and he is not going to discuss "talking points" otherwise. He is not going to "debate" a given, not going to debate those who are fearful, paranoid or politically motivated.

  115. I have the right to display a big red and blue civil war era confederate flag in my apartment window, easily visible to all passers-by. That's the first amendment in action for you. However, my apartment is located smack dab in the middle of Harlem, so I decided not to display it. For some reason, many residents there are sensitive about this thing called slavery that used to hang over the heads of their ancestors. It wasn't my right to dictate their feelings on the matter, so I played the good neighbor. It just wasn't all that important to me to place that flag right THERE.

  116. I too found the president's two statements to be clear and perfectly consistent with one another. And exactly correct, also.

    Toleration is only toleration when it applies to something one disagrees with and disapproves of. It isn't toleration to allow a Roman Catholic church to be built in your town unless you disapprove of Roman Catholicism. Indifference is not toleration.

    And religious toleration isn't religious liberty. Read James Madison. Toleration is giving permission for a Roman Catholic church to be built when you disapprove of Roman Catholicism. LIBERTY is Roman Catholics building a church without having to ask their Protestant neighbors for permission.

  117. I've come to the point where I read the comments first, then, if my interest is piqued, I go back and read what Dowd actually had to say.

  118. Ms Dowd, yes. They should be dismantled. And they should be sent back. This country cannot afford a second fifth column in addition to the one already in Detroit. 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslims, and the "moderate" Muslims in this country watched and applauded. Newt Gingrich had the right analogy. How many non-Muslims have you seen involved in terrorist activities? and that's in this country alone.

  119. To TJ #6 and everyone else misrepresenting this issue by twisting it into a freedom of religion/First Amendment concern, which it is not:

    The Muslims behind this "mosque business" are either horrifically insensitive or spiritually complicit in the 9/11 attacks. I suspect it's a little of both, and now President Obama has thrown in his lot with them.

    This has NOTHING to do with "religious freedom." It has EVERYTHING to do with sensitivity, respect and good faith.

    The Muslims pushing this mosque project, AND President Obama, are horrifically insensitive, they totally lack respect for others and are acting wholly in bad faith.

  120. A male WASP would be labeled "insensitive" and embarrassed into not building ...... maybe he would be threatened with a hate crime.

  121. Obama has not really been trumped by Messrs. Bloomberg and Christie, contrary to what Ms. Dowd would have her readers believe. Rather, his being inexorably held under a sinister cloud of suspicion by white-America in general, and his Republican political opponents in particular, has meant that President Obama would pathetically dither on such volatile questions as Islam and Christianity vis-a-vis the ongoing war on Arabo-Islamic-oriented terrorism. The fact that, as Ms. Dowd herself acknowledges, Mr. Obama has Muslim roots on his father's side of the family, further complicates matters in an apparently vengeful American society.

  122. You are being excessively hard about this. President Obama never said the mosque should of shouldn't be built. He said the spirit of America allows it to be built.

    And: the rest of America is watching.

  123. Everyone wants to believe Obama is terrified of the "Vast right wing conspiracy" so they can blame the Republicans for his flip flops.

    Don't they think their messiah has any guts.? Don't they think he makes his own decisions?? Don't they think he is tough enough to be President??? Do they think he is scared of the Republicans??

    Seems like the libs don"t think they have a leader?

    This is the "Changey" thing.

  124. The term 'terrorist' was first extensively used in the United States to refer to fiery Protestant preachers whose sermons tired to terrorize their auditors into repentance and conversion.

    One of the themes of these terrorists was fear of, and hatred for, the Roman Catholic Church.

    Roman Catholicism was held to be the enemy all things good and true. The Inquisition banned protestant books and burned 'heretics' at the stake! The Roman Catholics oppressed and murdered millions! The Pope was called the Anti-Christ and the Whore of Babylon. Roman Catholicism, with its allegiance to a foreign potentate, was believed to be completely incompatible with democratic institutions. (In Spain in the 1920s the RC clergy taught that voting for a secular party was a mortal sin.) There was a time when the majority of Americans, if given the opportunity to vote on the matter, would not have allowed ANY Roman Catholic church to be built in this country.

    In the 1840s the mayor of Boston, of all people, could rant that the RC Irish, with their alien religion, language, and savage manners were going to adulterate and destroy the real America. The Irish would never be willing or able to assimilate. The Irish would stick together and cling to their own ways. Etc.

    Prejudice always has its justifications. No bigot ever believed that he was a bigot. Bigotry is always based on an actual belief about the 'nature' of another group, and bigotry always feels like common sense to the bigot.

    Are you a bigot, dear reader? How would you know if you were?

    "When will they ever learn? When will they learn?"

  125. Good one, Ms.Dowd...say it loud.