Yesterday President Obama endorsed
building the Cordoba House, an Islamic mosque and cultural center, in lower Manhattan, two blocks from where the World Trade Center towers stood, and fell. The Washington Post's
Greg Sargent called
the speech "one of the finest moments of Obama's presidency." Sargent contrasts Obama's "forceful" and "powerful" argument with the "clever little dodge" employed by many opponents of Cordoba House: "They say they don't question the group's legal right to build it under
the Constitution. Rather, they say, they're merely criticizing the
to do so, on the grounds that it's insensitive to 9/11 families and will undercut the project's goal of reconciliation." By contrast, Obama made a sweeping rather than a narrow endorsement of Cordoba House because he understands, in Sargent's words, that the controversy "goes to the core of our running argument about pluralism and minority rights and to the core of who we are."
The thing about moments, even finest moments, is that they don't last very long. The New York Times
headline on the story covering the president's speech at yesterday's White House dinner marking the start of Ramadan was "Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site." The headline on the story
about the president's remarks today during a visit to the Gulf Coast is "Obama Says Mosque Remarks Were Not Endorsement." According to the more recent story, Mr. Obama said that in yesterday's speech he "was 'not commenting on the wisdom' of [building the Cordoba House so close to the World Trade Center site], but rather trying to
uphold the broader principle that government should treat 'everyone
equal, regardless' of religion."
What do you think, Mr. Sargent? Does that qualify as a "clever little dodge"?