Yesterday, Obama came down strongly in favor of the mosque at Ground Zero.
Today, he is backtracking, pretending that he said something else.
One day after President Obama defended the freedom of Muslims to build an Islamic complex near New York’s Ground Zero, he offered a less forceful version of that position on Saturday: Yes, Muslims have that right, Obama said — but that doesn’t mean he believes it is the right thing for them to do.
Speaking to reporters during a family vacation visit to Panama City, Fla., Obama reiterated the stand he took Friday night at a White House dinner observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion,” Obama said.
But he went on to explain that he was not endorsing the construction of the Islamic center. “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” he said. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.”
Obama’s speech Friday brought down an avalanche of criticism from the right — as the White House surely expected it would.
“The decision to build this mosque so close to Ground Zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). “This is not an issue of law, whether religious freedom or local zoning. This is a basic issue of respect for a tragic moment in our history.”
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin mocked Obama from her Twitter feed Saturday, saying: “We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they? This is not above your pay grade.” She also compared building the facility to building a Serbian church on the Srebrenica killing fields.
But here are his words. He is plainly endorsing the idea of building the mosque; he is saying that although some might object to it, they should go ahead and build the mosque anyway, because they have the right to do so. He implies that anyone who disagrees with that result wants to take away their rights. The critical word is the BUT in the second paragraph:
Now, that’s not to say that religion is without controversy. Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities -– particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.
But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
He can’t lie his way out of this one.