Underneath Obama’s three contradictory mosque statements, his consistent pro-Muslim bottom line

James Taranto has an insightful analysis of the president’s three contradictory statements on the mosque. In Obama’s second (Saturday) statement, in which he said about his first (Friday night) statement that “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,”

… he managed to make an important point. It is not a “clever little dodge” but a principled position to say that while the mosque’s developers have a right to build it near Ground Zero, doing so is not the right thing to do. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from criticism….

Obama, however, made this point in a way that showed him to be small and weak, offering it not as a defense of the mosque’s critics but of himself against them. Imagine if on Friday he had not only pandered to his guests by defending their constitutional rights but also challenged them by saying forthrightly what he acknowledged evasively on Saturday: that building a mosque near Ground Zero may be unwise even though the law clearly allows it. That would have been presidential.

Instead we got what sounded like a strong endorsement, followed by a backpedaling denial that it was any such thing, followed in turn by a denial that the earlier denial was backpedaling. The president stands behind everything he said but denies that he said much of anything.

That is very good. I have been praising the mosque’s critics for distinguishing between the liberal question of the Muslims’ legal and constitutional right to build the mosque, and the substantive and moral question whether building the mosque is the right thing to do. Obama in his Saturday statement also made that distinction. But, unlike the critics, he didn’t go all the way and say that building the mosque is not the right thing to do. Rather, he simply said that he will not comment on whether it is the right thing to do. And then, in his (or rather his spokesman’s) third statement on the mosque later on Saturday, he ended up retracting even that quibble and returning to his original position of simply endorsing the mosque, when the White House, as Politico reported, insisted that Obama “wasn’t backing off [his] remarks Friday night.” Some would say that in his Friday statement he was only endorsing Muslims’ general right of religious liberty, but there is no question that the statement, read in its full context, was intended to be understood as an endorsement of the moque itself.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 17, 2010 07:51 AM | Send

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