Mosques, Maxims, Monticello and Mojo

Mosques, Maxims, Monticello and Mojo


I suspect that I am the only political blogger who has not yet posted about the mosque/not mosque expected to be built/not built in a location somewhere near/not near ground zero in New York.

I have avoided this issue thus far because I feel a lot like this guy – or this guy – or perhaps like William Shakespeare – It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I see this as little more than a excuse by partisans and bloggers on both the right and left to flog their favorite bogeymen in the hope of securing a minor political advantage. The significance of this story is just not worth the ink and electrons spilled on it.

But, that has not stopped anyone else, so let me make my position on this question perfectly clear – This blogger stands firmly with Michael Bloomberg, Grover Norquist, Chris Christie, Joe Scarborough, Michael Gerson and Barack Obama (Friday, 8/13/10 version) in support or indifference to the location of the Cordoba project mosque – and stands in opposition to Harry Reid, Howard Dean and Barack Obama (Saturday 8/14/10 version) who do not explicitly support the location of the Cordoba project mosque.

In America, in matters of religious tolerance, there should be no close calls, no qualification of primary principles, and the first amendment should not be location dependent. I am not sympathetic to the distinction of “rights” vs. right which strikes me as a Clinton-esque parsing for those looking to rationalize forcing the Cordoba Project to move the mosque/cultural center.

I”m going to make this easy on myself and crib extensively from a previous post invoking the views of a founding father whose words are as relevant now as they were 230 years ago.

Thomas Jefferson writing in the third person, in a letter to Dr. Jacob De La Motta on the occasion of the 1820 dedication of a synagogue in Savannah, Georgia:

.“Th. Jefferson returns his thanks to Dr. De La Motta for the eloquent discourse on the Consecration of the Synagogue of Savannah, which he has been so kind as to send him. It excites in him the gratifying reflection that his country has been the first to prove to the world two truths, the most salutary to human society, that man can govern himself, and that religious freedom is the most effectual anodyne against religious dissension: the maxim of civil government being reversed in that of religion, where its true form is “divided we stand, united, we fall.” He is happy in the restoration of the Jews, particularly, to their social rights, and hopes they will be seen taking their seats on the benches of science as preparatory to their doing the same at the board of government. He salutes Dr. De La Motta with sentiments of great respect.”

His short letter speaks to both the intent and core convictions of an architect of our country and constitution. Consider the pride and importance that Jefferson invests in the principle of religious freedom and diversity in this letter. He finds it “gratifying” that our country was the “first to prove to the world” the “two truths” that are the most beneficial to human society – “that man can govern himself”, and absolute “religious freedom” is the only answer to “religious dissension”.

Andrew Sullivan reminds us that Islam was explicitly included in Jefferson’s message of tolerance. He quotes from Jefferson’s autobiography where Jefferson expands on the intent of the Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom“Jefferson On The Toleration Of Islam”:

Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.’ The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

Finally in a letter to Moredcai Manuel Noah, Jefferson notes that while protection of religious freedom under the law is a necessary condition, it is not sufficient to ensure tolerance and the fair and equitable treatment of all religious belief.

“Our laws have applied the only antidote to this vice, protecting our religious, as they do our civil rights, by putting all on an equal footing. But more remains to be done, for although we are free by the law, we are not so in practice. Public opinion erects itself into an inquisition, and exercises its office with as much fanaticism as fans the flames of an Auto-da-fé. The prejudice still scowling on your section of our religion altho’ the elder one, cannot be unfelt by ourselves. It is to be hoped that individual dispositions will at length mould themselves to the model of the law, and consider the moral basis, on which all our religions rest…”

The work of religious tolerance was incomplete in the time of Jefferson, and remains incomplete today. Religious intolerance is an issue that every generation of Americans must face anew. As Americans of good will fought for the principle of religious freedom at the beginning of the American experiment, it falls to Americans of good will in each generation, of every religion, race and creed, to ensure that in their own time their generation remembers and understands that – as regards religion – “divided we stand.

To wrap this up I will invoke a poet/philosopher of our own time – Mojo Nixon. While these lyrics were written in response to another civil libertarian challenge, I don’t think Mojo would mind my applying them here…

“You know – Thomas Jefferson
Is gonna be mighty pissed
When he finds out about this,
I say – Come back from the dead Tom,
Sock ‘em in the head.” – Mojo

Cross-posted from Divided We Stand United We Fall

UPDATED & EDITED: I added one word to the body of the post. You find it.


  • NeldaDee

    I’m still trying to understand what the fuss is about re Obama’s “Saturday version” statement… He said he “was not commenting and will not comment on the ‘wisdom'” of the project. How does this contradict his Friday statement? To me, it simply means “no comment.” Whether he supports it or is indifferent to it does not matter. I feel like a lot of people think that by using the word ‘wisdom,’ he meant that it is ‘not wise.’ I didn’t get that at all. But maybe it’s just me…

  • kranky kritter

    I am not sympathetic to the distinction of “rights” vs. right which strikes me as a Clinton-esque parsing for those looking to rationalize forcing the Cordoba Project to move the mosque/cultural center.

    Since that explicitly calls me, The Cranky Critter, out, I feel the need to correct your error in stating my views.

    I also don’t think the Muslims choosing to build a mosque 2 blocks from ground zero should be forced to move it. There’s absolutely no legal basis for such actions. They have the absolute right to build mosque and practice their faith where and how they see fit, should they choose to insist upon exercising this right.

    If this group insists on their right to build the mosque where they have chosen, I will support their right 100%. No reservations. everyone else gets to like it or lump it. That’s America, god bless it. Allah too. Same entity, ASAIK, BTW.

    And I hope that this group will choose to build the mosque in some alternative spot, as a forthright demonstration of respect and sensitivity to folks made uneasy by the idea. They don’t have to do this, and they absolutely should not, under any circumstances, be forced to do this. I continue to hope that they choose to do so anyway.

    in the long run, I doubt the location will really matter that much. Folks will by and large tolerate the mosque in this spot. Especially over time, as memories fade and time heals wounds. But in the shorter term, I think it will add to interfaith antagonism and less understanding and respect.

    Hopefully it will not become a lightning rod for nasty uncivil protest and even violence. But it might, especially the former. And maybe such ugly protests will be a shame. For better or worse, what we’d get would be a place where peaceful muslims are regularly asked to answer for their actions of the more violent advocates of a very ugly form of islam.

    I shudder to think about future drunk ground zero tourists on walkabout. If and when such stuff happens, I hope the persistent advocates of the mosque’s placement remember that it might have been avoided.

  • Justin Gardner

    Good post, but Obama doesn’t oppose the mosque and doesn’t share the opinions of Reid and Dean. At least he hasn’t stated it as such.

    He said on the 13th that they had the right to build their community center and on the 14th he said he wouldn’t comment on the wisdom of putting it there. So, basically, he supports their right to build the mosque, but he won’t comment on whether or not it should be built in the proposed location.

    Please amend the post with the correct information.

  • theWord

    While I have already condemned Dean and Reid for cowardice, I think that Justin correctly points out that if anything is Clintonesque it is your twisting of the heroes and villains here to fit your preconceived notions. Not mentioning Palin, Cantor and Newt and planting words in Obama’s mouth shouts out the agenda of willful blindness to who is clearly setting the match here.

  • mw

    I am not going to amend the post, because what I wrote was correct. I at no point said Obama “opposed the mosque”. I said I was opposed to the position staked out by Obama on the 14th – which was that Obama[8-14-10] did not support the location of the mosque. To say “he won’t comment on the wisdom” of the location is unequivocally not a statement of support for that location. I support that location for the mosque because the property owners want it there. That puts me in opposition to Obama[8-14-10] and in substantial agreement with Obama[8-13-10]

  • Justin Gardner

    mw, not commenting is just that…not commenting. It is neither a statement of support nor opposition. Reid and Dean both said they oppose the mosque being built there. So you’re grouping Obama’s non-opinion with two opinions of opposition. You do see that, right?

    If you want to say that you oppose him not stating an opinion and therefore he’s not showing the appropriate leadership on this issue, that’s fine by me. Because I think that’s what you’re ultimately aiming at. But you can’t group the three together because you create the illusion that all three oppose the mosque being built. So please clarify your point.

  • theWord


    Blinders. They are quite apparent. If he said they SHOULD build it there he would be condemned for the position AND weighing in on something that is not his call. The fact that you have condemned no one who actually started it makes your views IMO worthless.

  • blackout

    I had a feeling the two Obama mosque comments portion of the post (the second not a step back so much as a step to the side) would occupy the comment section. It does strike me as one of those moments where Obama wants to do/say the right thing without paying the price of supporting principle over political expediency, and I appreciate mw’s jab at his expense. It is unfortunate that the rest of the post seems to have escaped comment. FWIW, I enjoyed the larger point, mw.

  • Justin Gardner

    I said it was a good post and I definitely meant it. These things are continually evolving and will continue to do so. Glad to see that Jefferson was thinking about it way back when as well.

  • mw

    He did comment on the 14th. His comment on the 14th had the words “no comment” in it but he was explicitly speaking about the wisdom of the location. The exact words:

    I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there

    In no way can that be interpreted as a statement of support for that location. It can be interpreted as questioning the wisdom of the location. It can be interpreted that he is making the exact same point as Kranky – “rights” vs. “right”. It can be interpreted as saying “I wish they would move it.”

    I am not the only one who thinks Obama actually said something on Saturday morning. Maureen Dowd:

    “When the president skittered back from his grandiose declaration at an iftar celebration at the White House Friday that Muslims enjoy freedom of religion in America and have the right to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan, he offered a Clintonesque parsing.

    “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” he said the morning after he commented on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”

    Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President: You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning when, lo and behold, Harry Reid goes craven and the Republicans attack. “

    I think my wording is precise. If you want me to change the wording – give me the exact words you want changed.

    I’ll consider it.

  • Justin Gardner

    Well, using Maureen Dowd isn’t helping your case. How long has it been since anybody took her seriously? Also, the “she said it too” defense doesn’t hold up when you’re talking about fact vs. opinion. She is,after all, an editorial columnist who gets paid to write about her opinion.

    As far as being precise…that’s my problem. You’re grouping Obama into company he doesn’t belong with. That is, until he comes out and makes declarative statements that line up with what Reid and Dean said. At that point he belongs in that crowd. Until then, you can’t claim he opposes it. Sorry. Your opinion of what he said does not substitute for the facts.

    I really wish this wasn’t even a debate. It’s blatantly clear that when somebody says they won’t comment on something…that means they’re not commenting on it. He didn’t sneer or smile or give us all a wink. He wanted to make a point about their rights as American citizens. Period.

    As far as claiming that the statement can in no way be interpreted as a statement of support? Really? You don’t you think that this administration would have made it known if Obama did oppose this? Problem solved. No more backlash. I think it’s far likelier, given that he called it out specifically on Friday, that he supports it being built. The right is hammering him for this because they think he supports it. So, this “in no way” argument is proven false by the fact that the majority of folks out there think the exact opposite.

    Listen, I’m not going to tell you how to write it. Also, I already suggested something in a previous comment, so it’s ultimately up to you how you amend it. But it needs to be addressed in some fashion. Saying it’s your opinion is a good start.

  • mw


    First – this is a blog, not a newspaper. I am a blogger, not a journalist. A political blog post is understood by everyone to be an opinion. But – If you want me to put a disclaimer on every post saying “THIS IS AN OPINION – YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY” – I’ll be happy to do that. As long as you do the same for your posts.

    Frankly, I think you are playing a little loose with the facts. Obama did not say “No Comment.” as you claim. He said “I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there… These are vastly different statements with very different meanings.

    So you don’t like Maureen Dowd’s interpretation? – How about –

    Peter Beinart:

    “…on the moral issues surrounding the “war on terror”—starting with Guantanamo Bay—he has been Clintonesque in the worst sense of the word. His initial statement in support of the mosque was laudable; his subsequent efforts to deny that that’s what he meant have been pathetic.”

    Glenn Greenwald:

    “But by insisting now that he was merely commenting on the technical “rights” of the project developers — as a way of responding to Republican criticism that he was advocating for the project itself — he has diminished his remarks from a courageous and inspiring act into a non sequitur, somewhat of an irrelevancy. After all, the “right” of the mosque isn’t really in question and didn’t need a defense.”

    Ben Smith:

    “Obama’s new remarks, literally speaking, re-open the question of which side he’s on. Most of the mosque’s foes recognize the legal right to build, and have asked the builders to reconsider.”


    “Oh well. It was a nice gesture for the president of the United States to unequivocally recognize the constitutional right to religious freedom. It’s probably too much to expect that he might unequivocally stand up for religious tolerance too. Common ground and all that.”

    You don’t have to agree with their views. You just have to acknowledge that plenty of others read Obama’s comments just as I do – as an attempt to walk back and minimize his statements of the night before and a failure to unequivocally support building Cordoba House on that location.

    What you are asking me to do here is not to substitute fact for opinion, but to substitute your opinion for mine.

    I actually though about the words and phrasing I used for the grouping pretty carefully. I did not claim that Reid, Dean and Saturdayobama had exactly the same views, which is what you are implying I said. I did say that group failed to support Cordoba House on that location. And that is absolutely true.

    But WTF… It’s your blog. I guess I can follow Obama’s moral leadership and be just as spineless as his demonstration Saturday morning.

    I will add one word to the post.

    And the disclaimer of course.

    I expect you’ll be following suit.

  • F

    Wow, what a dick


    Explain to me again why you have him as part of the writing staff.

    This post is a perfect example of how to be a bully/conservative in 5 easy steps:

    1) write/say a falsehood about someone
    2) get called on it and told to stop
    3) ignore and or prevaricate
    4) called on it / told to stop a second time
    5) agree to stop, but on the way to stopping get in one last punch

    Thanks mw for the lesson

    children, nothing more than mean destructive children

  • Justin Gardner


    Thanks for the change, but grouping the three together is still purposefully misleading and that was my original request. There is such a thing as a “neutral” state and that’s where Obama is right now. And the “I’m a blogger” excuse doesn’t pass the smell test either.

    As far as following suit, no, I will not be posting a disclaimer at the bottom of every single one of my posts and I didn’t ask you to do that. Get snarky and disrespectful if you want, but how many times have I asked you to alter something? I believe it’s a grand total of one time…this one. Consider that spineless if you want.

  • JimS

    It. Is. Not. A. Mosque. It is a community center that will have a “mosque” inside a relatively small part of it. Buying into referring it as a mosque is buying into the attempt to define it as something it is not. Just as it is not at Ground Zero, but six Manhattan city blocks away in a neighborhood that includes a strip joint and bars and other typical businesses for that part of New York. Sacred ground, my posterior.

  • Justin Gardner


    Mike is a valued member of this community and, as mentioned in a previous comment, I think the post is a good one. Obviously I don’t appreciate how he has handled my small request for an adjustment. Oh well. We all have our bad days.

    Still, please don’t call people names. We try our best to keep this place civil and name calling is always a slippery slope towards a melee.

  • kranky kritter

    MW seems to be the only one who thinks its possible to read between the lines when someone says “no comment” or “I will not comment.” Doing such a thing always calls for some speculation on the part of the listener or reader, but it’s not an inherently unreasonable thing to do.

    Just as MW interprets it, I read Obama’s combination of statements as implying that he is taking the exact same stand as I have: He unequivocably supports these folks rights to exercise their religious freedom, and he fully understands that the wisdom of the decision to place the muslim center in this spot is nevertheless questionable. {And I mean questionable in the actual sense of the word “able to be questioned” not in the implied negative sense.

    Obama would not have said “I won’t comment on the wisdom of the placement” if he felt the placement decision was ideal. That seems quite obvious to me. Th placement is far from ideal no matter which side your on. The vitriol of the debate makes it quite manifest that the location is controversial. The controversy is real.

    Goof for President Obama for understanding that there are plenty of Americans who are not bigots or racists but are still troubled by placing a muslim center 2 blocks from the site of the most infamous act of islamic extremism in modern history. President Obama has a clue, which is a good thing for a President to have,

    Justin, you keep hammering away at minimizing the location of the muslim center. That it’s “two blocks away” and “on a side street.”

    In what world is this not, oh, I dunno, “in close proximity?” Presuming that the new building is a tall one, then “two blocks away” could even literally be “in the shadow of” the building unless the new center is south of ground zero. Close is close.

  • Agnostick

    Sounds to me like mw is channeling Rush… specifically “Freewill”

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  • Justin Gardner


    People don’t have the facts on it, so since it has been labelled a “Ground Zero Mosque,” which is incorrect, I feel the need to clarify and do it strongly.

    Here’s what the AP has to say about it…

    From the AP:

    No mosque is going up at ground zero. The center would be established at 45-51 Park Place, just over two blocks from the northern edge of the sprawling, 16-acre World Trade Center site. Its location is roughly half a dozen normal lower Manhattan blocks from the site of the North Tower, the nearer of the two destroyed in the attacks.

    Also, what everybody fails to realize about this is that a worship center is there already.

    The center’s location, in a former Burlington Coat Factory store, is already used by the cleric for worship, drawing a spillover from the imam’s former main place for prayers, the al-Farah mosque. That mosque, at 245 West Broadway, is about a dozen blocks north of the World Trade Center grounds.

    Another, the Manhattan Mosque, stands five blocks from the northeast corner of the World Trade Center site.

    To be sure, the center’s association with 9/11 is intentional and its location is no geographic coincidence. The building was damaged in the Sept. 11 attacks and the center’s planners say they want the center to stand as a statement against terrorism.

    Agnostick, that’s right…you’ve decided to be neutral. :-)

  • the Word

    You said MW seems to be the only one who thinks its possible to read between the lines when someone says “no comment” or “I will not comment.” Doing such a thing always calls for some speculation on the part of the listener or reader, but it’s not an inherently unreasonable thing to do.

    What makes it inherently unreasonable is that he has all Republicans as people he agrees with and all Democrats as those he thinks are wrong (except for Obama who) he uses on the positive side so he can “read between the lines” to put on the negative side. Meanwhile he has not found it possible to say how irresponsible the people who put torch to the tinder are. That’s what I find unreasonable and objectionable. To be quite honest, I’d find it more credible coming from you.

    If I were to “read between the lines” I’d say that mw’s pronouncement of being in the middle and balanced was dishonest.

  • Jacob

    MW: You added the word “explicit” correct?

    That sealed the deal for me.

    I don’t always agree with MW but I almost always find his arguments and writing thoughtful and reasonable.

    This whole thread is the “Mosque” debate’s Mini-me …MW may not have been right inserting his little dig at the President, but he certainly has the right to do it …

    Perhaps his meaning was unclear in the first draft – his clarification (and correction) fixed that. Moving on.

    I agree with the Tea Party folk on several key issues.

    1. We’re at a crossroads in American history
    2. We need to get our s*&% together
    3. The American political process is disserviced by the mainstream media.

    Media Reform should be a core principal of the Donklephant Party.

  • mw


    At first I thought you meant I was channeling Rush Limbaugh. That pissed me off and I was halfway through a high dudgeon comment before I clicked on the link and figured it out.

    I tried to like Rush, but could never quite get there. Their lyrics were truly great, but the music itself did nothing for me and the lead singer was like nails on a chalkboard. The one exception was “The Trees” which I loved. Of course, that song is all about the lyrics.

  • mw

    You win! The new word is “explicity”. Superfluous, but perhaps sharpens the clarity of the sentence. Thanks for the kind words.

    Um…. nevermind.

    Look – I understand perfectly that in your partisan world view, Democrats are angels and Republicans are the spawn of satan. I further understand that from your perspective – the only acceptable political commentary is one laced with ad hominem invective directed at Republicans, you know – like every one of your comments or the comments of your soul mate “F”. I appreciate how distressing it must be for you that there are important high profile Republican voices who are on the right side of this argument when at the same time some of the most important Democratic leadership is on the wrong side. You have my sympathy as the cognitive dissonance must be very difficult for you. I can’t imagine what you are going through. I suggest you spend more time in a GOP bashing echo chamber like Kos, where your world view will be reinforced and your psychological equilibrium restored.

    A helpful reminder – The name of this site is not “Donk”

  • mw

    I think we are on the same page, even if we disagree. In my mind this is not an issue for nuance, or finding a middle path, or something where I see any shades of gray. This is a black or white question with one right answer.

    Exactly. Obama wants it both ways – He wants credit for making a strong principled stand on an unpopular issue, but does not want to pay the political price. He actually seems genuinely annoyed that he can’t get away with it.

    What I find interesting in the reactions is that I first stated that I stood firmly in agreement with Obama8-13-10 – and I still do. If he had kept his mouth shut on Saturday morning, I would have stuck a different gutless (to use Word’s word) Democrat in the second group and made a similar point. But my agreement with Obama is ignored in the comments. I attribute that to a strain of Obama sycophantery that is a recurring theme here. If Obama is criticized, that becomes the sole point of focus even if it is incidental to the point of the post.

  • mw

    I feel like I still need to respond to your last and then I’ll drop this. I don’t know what you are referring to with a blogger “smell” test. You said I needed to make it clear that this was my opinion. My point was that political blogging is always opinion and everyone knows this. That was all I was saying. There is nothing to smell there.

    Regarding the “grouping” I don’t know what to say. You are just wrong. There is nothing misleading in what I wrote. That sentence is absolutely factually correct and true, until and unless Obama makes a statement in support of the Cordoba House being built at that location. If he does, I’ll update the post then.

    Look, I like posting here, and I am not going to turn into a diva and go storming off if you pull the post. It had a good run with a fun comment thread for a couple of days. If you feel you need to, I’ve got a copy of it and I’ll swap this version out on my blog with a few additional smart ass comments for the record. Not a big deal. It’s your blog, you are perfectly within your rights to do what you want. Maybe you’ll like the next one better. Maybe not.

    But I am not going to make any more changes to this post.

  • theWord

    Thanks for the snarky reply oblivious of the facts. (We agree on this more than you think.) To point out what should be obvious. I am the ONLY one of the two of us who unequivocally called out those on BOTH sides. I am likely the only one who called people on both sides to say I agreed with or was against their position. I think that is what it will take for us to move beyond this being used as a tactic.

    If anyone is perpetuating the partisanship here it is you and your blinders to the “reality” that you see through your red tinted lenses. Even now you can’t bring yourself to condemn the actual people who are ginning up this debate. It is rather pathetic and insecusable. You say you don’t even agree with them. Or should we read between the lines?

    I’ll admit that I am more liberal than conservative also unlike you I think I am more honest and didn’t go on a transparent partisan witch hunt like you did. There is a lot to like about Obama and there is also disappointment. The meme that everyone is a sycophant for him is clueless. If anything, I think he has a lot of principled complaints from those you say it about. I do it when there is an actual reason not just a manufactured excuse. He’s also held to the same standard not given a pass. You have steadfastly refused in the most partisan way to not acknowledge who started the fire and I called you on it. If that is partisan, it is because you are clueless.

    I want one standard. I also want it to be real not one where you heap complaints equally to appear balanced. Get over yourself.

  • kranky kritter

    Justin thanks for the detailed information about the site of the muslim center. I do value the specific cetails, and think they deserve to be considered. But don’t you find it at all fussy to complain that the site is not “at ground zero” when it was so close to the WTC to have been damaged by the attacks? Do you think of ground zero as a single point or as the entire damaged region?

    I’m all for folks being familiar with the actual details. And as your details do make clear, the center isn’t precisely at the center of things, and as we know it wasn’t the actual target of the attacks. The damage it incurred was collateral.

    Here’s the thing. I don’t see a whole lot being gained in the debate by making a big deal about insisting, as you did, that the “Ground Zero mosque” is not “at ground zero.” Nor on insisting, as Gerry did, that “it’s not actually a mosque.” The way that these argument come across is that they feel like attempts to invalidate legitimate feelings by pointing out small and largely inconsequential errors in precision.

    The new muslim center’s proposed location is IMO sufficient for it to be called “ground zero” for the sake of brevity. Is it a mosque, per se? I’ll leave it to parsers to fight over the specific details of that, As you say, it’s currently used at least in part for such purposes right now.,And it will presumedly have an expanded functional scope if and when it goes forward.


    I didn’t really do any partisan scorekeeping like you did, assigning sides to the opinions, and so on. I don’t feel that those details are germane to the question of whether or not one can read between the lines about Obama’s latter comment.

    In this case, I think you can. And I think most folks can do so independently of the opinions of either party’s flacks.

  • theWord

    Sorry that my frustration was so transparent in the last post. Unrelated computer problems.

  • theWord

    First of all, I think (on this one) we are in agreement
    The reason I thought mw’s point was transparent is that he agreed with all people from one side and disagreed with all people on the other. He then said I was the partisan. I think there is a right and a wrong here. I think we all even agree. My problem is that even when we are in agreement we have this “moral equvalency” that says some will get a pass and it will never end. If Gingrich’s comments and Obama’s are out there and only Obama is called to account for his role, IMO it isn’t close to reality or non-partisanship. As I have said before, I think it is what makes it possible.

    On another note, are the CAPTCHA messages flaky for everyone lately?

  • gerryf

    Word, frustration aside, your criticism is valid. Some cowardly Dems may indeed have jumped on the anti-“mosque” bandwagon, but that does not excuse Mike’s blatantly partisan whitewashing of the issue that it is the rightwingers who have taken this issue to the extreme for purely political purposes.

    And Kranky, insisting “it’s not actually a mosque” is not an attempt to invalidate legitimate feelings by pointing out small and largely inconsequential errors in precision.

    Framing the community center as a mosque is intentionally choosing a prayer area to mislead people into seeing this facility as something it is not for the purpose of getting people upset.

    Within 20 minutes of my house is a Jewish Community Center, they have a prayer area. Is it s synagogue? Thirty minutes from my house is a Catholic Retreat Center with a chapel. Is this a church?

    Devout folowers of Islam pray 5 times a day; a community center without prayer area would not be a useful community center. Calling it a mosque is intended only to inflame people. Frame it as a community center with a prayer area and you would not have this uproar.

  • Jim Satterfield

    Kathy Gill at The Moderate Voice looks at the sacred ground of the Ground Zero vicinity that so many are worried about.

  • Chris
  • Chris

    Jim, republicans don’t let facts get in the way of their political will.

  • kranky kritter

    If by “flaky”you mean extraordinarily difficult to read, and requiring clicking through 5 or 10 before you find one you are sure you can get right, then yes. Flaky. I’d have gone with “increasingly irritating.”

    As to who gets call to account, I think we all need to accept that the President is always held to a higher standard than everyone else when it comes to speaking clearly, correctly, and quickly to any issue deemed to be of an importance.

    That’s not fair, and it’s not my standard, but it’s the de facto standard for public discourse in the modern communications era. The President is routinely expected to have a perfect and well-considered take for any given issue available at his fingertips on a moment’s notice.

  • theWord

    Realizing that we may both be fighting caricatures, I decided to go back and check deeper into your article. I may owe you an apology on part of it if you misunderstood me. I at no time said there were no decent Republican voices. I called to thank one of them,

    I checked your links and frankly don’t know how they actually exist coherently. I’m left wondering how much I do or don’t agree with you. You said “Let me make my position on this perfectly clear” You then found people to praise that were supportive or indifferent. That to me seems like a huge difference. Especially when you condemned Obama for something that could have fit both Friday and Saturday in the first group

    Realizing that we may still not see eye to eye. I’ll give my assessment. (I used your links only so if they have said anything further I didn’t take it into account) TO my comprehension there is a huge sliding scale based on what you’d expect and how much courage or principle it took to take the position. Bloomberg, Christie and Obama are the only ones who had a political consideration with their opinion. Obama and Bloomberg, to my ears were the most forceful voices for the Islamic Center and why they supported the Muslim’s right to be there. Christie IMO suffers from all of the complaints he got in the blog linked to. …All over the board, not coherent and seeking to make political points. I’d say he was better than most but definitely not a profile in courage.

    The others had nothing on the line. They aren’t running and can’t get kicked out. Of these, I’d have to say Scarborough is the most courageous (Of course he criticized these Republicans and said they were practicing sick and deplorable politics and that they were dishonest-the same thing completely dismissed as partisan when someone not a Republican says it) I’d say sometimes there should be things we should be able to agree on. My frustration comes from the equivalency crowd. Some things are not IMO equal. As Scarborough put it “until the party stands up to extremism…” (Mark McKinnon was also IMO courageous) Michael Gerson was to be commended and it was also consistent. I don’t know what there is to agree with with Norquist. I saw no statement in defense of principles, decency, the Constitution or his fellow Americans. His only statement is that it might not be good politics. His was clearly the most partisan, least principled out of all of them. I think it severely weakens any principled argument.

    The rest we’ve already discussed. I just ask all of the decent Republicans to listen to Scarborough. Gingrich and Palin are destroying their party and the country. Time to step up and stop it. I’ve tried to do my part but calling me partisan when I have praised Republicans and criticized them and done the same for Democrats to my eyes looks a little tenuous.

  • theWord

    We agree again :- 0 on the CAPTHCAs. Baby steps, baby steps

  • Justin Gardner


    The community center isn’t at Ground Zero. Sorry, it’s just not. We’ve had a lot of opinion substituting for fact in this thread and this debate and it’s troubling to say the least.


    I like you posting here too, but it’s intellectually dishonest to group those people together. Especially when Reid and Dean OPPOSE it being built there. In what world do people describe opposing something as “not explicitly supporting” it? But hey, you get a 9.8 for the verbal gymnastics. They’re spectacular.

    Also, don’t kid yourself. There’s more than one way to be a diva. :-)

    Moving on…

  • mw

    I appreciate your last comment about taking a second look, it has decidedly different tone than the ad hominems and knee-jerk GOP bashing that went before. If you want to know where my perception of you as a run of the mill partisan comes from – just go back and reread your comments over the last week or so. But – since I detect a note of sincerity now, I’ll try to keep my snark at bay and respond in kind.

    BTW -no apologies necessary – its a blog, par for the course. I don’t have the excuse of any technology frustrations for my earlier comments (or this one) – just late night blogging with a Red Label on the rocks in easy reach.

    The common thread for the first grouping seems obvious to me – they are Republicans who refused to jump on the “move the Cordoba Center – ground zero mosque” bandwagon/canard and have also taken the additional step of criticizing members of their own party for doing so. More quotes in support of that:


    “It’s not just about mosques. “The Forward” , “The Jewish Weekly” just pointed out that when this country started up in Manhattan it was illegal to have a synagogue under the British and the Dutch, they wouldn’t allow it. So New York has a history of telling people we don’t like certain religions and you’re not allowed to build something. We’re past that since we have the Constitution and the First Amendment and pastors and imams and rabbis can agree to disagree on how and where they pray. What they can’t disagree on is the right of everybody to pray where they want and how they want…


    “The Republican Party is on track to win a major victory in November based on the issue that Democrats are spending the country blind,” Norquist told me Tuesday evening. “There isn’t a single voter in the country that was planning on voting for the Ds, who says, ‘Oh, mosque issue, now I will vote for the Rs… “Tom Tancredo has done damage to the Republican Party in states he has never visited”


    “…what offends me the most about all this, is that it’s being used as a political football by both parties… it would be wrong to so overreact to that, that we paint Islam with a brush of radical Muslim extremists that just want to kill Americans because we are Americans. But beyond that … I am not going to get into it, because I would be guilty of candidly what I think some Republicans are guilty of, and the president is now, the president is guilty of, of playing politics with this issue, and I simply am not going to do it.”


    “Because I actually have read the First Amendment, and understand what the First Amendment means, and understand what freedom of religion means, and understand that if our government, our centralized state takes actions which chills people’s freedom of religion today, because they’re Muslims, and because they’re unpopular in lower Manhattan, then the next time with another administration, it could be a Pentecostal church that’s not allowed to build in San Francisco. And then it may be an Evangelical church or a conservative Catholic church or it may be, with anti-Semitism in this country and across Europe, it may be a conservative Jewish synagogue 20 years from now. I mean, you don’t take the first step down this path, it’s what, in law school, our professors always called the slippery slope…. I suggest this man read the Constitution of the United States of America, and that he reveres the Constitution of the United States of America, and he stops pandering to the lowest base of American politics, and instead embraces the genius of our Constitution. “


    “The argument that, somehow, Islam is fundamentally incompatible with American pluralism is a deeply dangerous argument. It’s divisive at home. It undermines, in my view I spent some time in the West Wing it undermines the war on terror, because you have to work with Muslim allies all across the world in order to conduct this war. So, the president of the United States, when he faces these issues, he’s not a commentator, you know, who says concerned about the funding of a mosque here or the zoning rules there. You know, he has a duty. He has a duty to Muslim citizens. He has a duty to our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan who are fighting radicals at our side. And he can’t tell them that your house of worship, your holy place is somehow a desecration of Lower Manhattan. I don’t think that is possible. “

    The outliers in the grouping and the reason I had to broaden the description were Bloomberg and Obama8-13-10, who are not Republican but both made strong impassioned speeches for the American values of tolerance and the meaning of 1st Amendment. I will note, however, that Obama has not indicated any willingness to criticize members of his own party who have jumped on the “move the ground-zero mosque” bandwagon.

    The Republican who has subsequently made the best case for supporting the Cordoba Center at that location is one that I did not include – Ron Paul:

    “The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.

    Instead, we hear lip service given to the property rights position while demanding that the need to be “sensitive” requires an all-out assault on the building of a mosque, several blocks from “ground zero.”… Many fellow conservatives say they understand the property rights and 1st Amendment issues and don’t want a legal ban on building the mosque. They just want everybody to be “sensitive” and force, through public pressure, cancellation of the mosque construction…

    It is repeatedly said that 64% of the people, after listening to the political demagogues, don’t want the mosque to be built. What would we do if 75% of the people insist that no more Catholic churches be built in New York City? The point being is that majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society—protecting liberty…

    We now have an epidemic of “sunshine patriots” on both the right and the left who are all for freedom, as long as there’s no controversy and nobody is offended.Political demagoguery rules when truth and liberty are ignored.”

    I hoipe that clears up your “grouping” question. One more comment – I find the whole “false equivalence” meme to be laughable. Strip away the pretension, and it is nothing more than an insistence that media criticize Republicans more than Democrats. You can put lipstick on it, but its still the same partisan pig – “Republicans are bad – Democrats are good.”

  • gerryf

    And yet your grouping does not include those people who got the whole “outrage at the mosque” going. You “stand in opposition to to Harry Reid, Howard Dean and Barack Obama (Saturday 8/14/10 version)”, but not to Newt Gingrich? Sarah Palin? John Boehner? Eric Cantor? To say nothing of the entire Fox News squawk box?

    By this omission, you have deliberately chosen to distort the issue.

    You’re absolutely right. You can put lipstick on it, but by trying to paint this as intolerant Dems when it is mainly a trumped up right wing issue is shameful.

    You have painted yourself in the past as a non-partisan adherent to a divided government philosophy; this post puts you firmly on the right. I have no problem with that, but the dishonesty is troubling.

  • theWord

    I did say that I had only seen the comments you linked to so I only saw the Norquist quotations in that context. He comes off slightly better. He still sounds as though politics is his major concern. Paul doesn’t surprise me. I think he’s more Libertrian than Republican. He’s in that party as his entry to the show. He criticized the Republicans. I criticized the Republicans (I also criticized the Democrats who deserved it). Only you steadfastly refuse to criticize the Republicans.

    Since you raised the issue, I find you to be a run of the mill partisan with the additional bothersome part of claiming not to be. All these posts and you still have not condemned the truly outrageous parts. I wasn’t any more strident than Joe Scarborough or Ron Paul and they were not condemned for their partisanship. Again, I remind you I hit them where I saw them on both sides. I don’t think you did the same. Your unwillingness to do so makes me wonder what you are looking at. MSNBC as a network seems to be commenting against the stopping of the Mosqe (even Pat Buchanan), Fox is fanning the flames. With partisan blinders you could say they are just playing a partisan role. Of course, then NO ONE can ever do the right thing because it will always be seen as partisan. Some on the Right even said Obama made it a political football by supporting the Constitution. I think that is his role. I don’t think saying build it here or not is.

    I would say the exact same thing if Obama were Gingrich or Palin. That you haven’t speaks volumes on partisnship to me and why the “I’m in the middle and so much better than you” attitude doesn’t pass the smell test for me.

    Discounting my ideas by calling them biased bothers me, sorry about that. I think I have more evidence that I am just being consistent here. I have yet to see any evidence on yours.

  • kranky kritter

    The community center isn’t at Ground Zero. Sorry, it’s just not. We’ve had a lot of opinion substituting for fact in this thread and this debate and it’s troubling to say the least.

    It’s always frustrating when I take the time to be careful and concise and ask questions looking for more detail about another’s views, only to be met with simplistic answers.

    The way your comments are repeatedly coming across is this : they feel like repeated attempts to invalidate legitimate feelings by pointing out small and largely inconsequential errors in precision. You are apparently unwilling to speak to that.

    So, for folks who want the long version of precision about the location, here goes:

    The new muslim center is proposed to be placed in the immediate neighborhood where the World Trade Center was destroyed by extremist muslim terrorists on 9/11/2001. This location is two blocks from the area currently defined as “ground zero.” At this proposed location, there is currently a building that was close enough to the epicenter of the attack to have been damaged by the WTC’s collapse.

    If anyone wants to call this “the ground zero mosque” for the sake of brevity, I’ll know what you’re talking about. If anyone is so troubled by the small imprecisions, feel free to say “proposed new muslim center two blocks from ground zero.” 9 words instead of 2. Let your consciences be your guides, folks.

    Once we get past this, we can presumedly discuss whether or not folks who are uneasy about the location of the proposed new muslim center two blocks from ground zero. are racists or bigots whose feelings deserve no consideration.

    Everyone here seems to agree that the muslims in question have the constitutionally protected right to build this center as a matter of freedom of religion. That settles the matter for some.

    Seems to me that what we are talking about is some number of Americans who would like this center built elsewhere and are hoping that the muslims in charge of this effort will chose a different location.

    As a matter of respect and sensitivity.

    Despite the fact that they can build it in the current spot if they want to insist on exercising their rights.

    For anyone interested, examining the ground zero mosque by way of analogy.

  • the Word

    Quite enjoyed the article on this subject here

    Perhaps one quotation in the article is something we can all agree on “The propagandist’s purpose,” Aldous Huxley said long ago, “is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”

    and @Kranky
    the Captchas are really getting annoying

  • Gnomey
  • WHQ

    Let’s assume that the proposed building is, in the strictest sense, a mosque. Let’s also assume that the proposed location is the closest piece of private property to what is, in the strictest sense, considered Ground Zero. We still have private property and the 1st Amendment. How does the argument on principle change? I say it doesn’t.

    I can understand making the argument that some people have chosen their language purposely to foment outrage. I don’t think that’s true of everyone who uses the phrase “Ground Zero Mosque.” But it is true of some, particularly the originators of the controversy.

    This thing had been in the works for months before any high-profile people got wind of it. And until that happened, there was not controversy. No one had to be sensitive to public sentiment because there was no public sentiment, until someone decided to create public sentiment by exploiting fear and bigotry. Yes, bigotry.

    First off, some people are, in fact, bigots. At least some of the people opposed to what is being called “the Ground Zero Mosque” are flat-out bigots. If you fail to differentiate among members of a large demographic group, such as all adherents of one of the world’s great religions, you are engaging in bigotry. Everyone does it sometimes. No one is perfect in this regard. It’s a matter of judgement whether a given instance of bigotry makes someone worthy of the label “bigot.” I’d say some of those opposed to “the Ground Zero Mosque” are bigots, and some are just not thinking it through.

    Either way, the principles are the same whether it’s a mosque or a community center with prayer space, and whether it’s at or just near Ground Zero. Either way, conflating the people who want to build their community center with members of Al Qaeda simply based on the fact that they’re muslim is bigotry. I’m sorry if my writing that bothers people…not.

  • mw

    “You have painted yourself in the past as a non-partisan adherent to a divided government philosophy; this post puts you firmly on the right.” – gerry

    I have a little pop-quiz for you Gerry.Given a Democratic President, a 60-40 filibuster proof Democratic majority in the Senate, and a 39 seat Democratic supermajority in the House of Representatives – exactly what is it that you think would have to happen to restore divided government?

    Well, at least I’m glad you recognize that my unequivocal advocacy in this post for building the Cordoba Center at the Park 51 location (unlike the President) is a right-of-center position.