TPM: Pouring Gas on the Fire

TPM Editor’s Blog

This is quite something. Politico just sent out a breaking news alert claiming that President Obama is now ‘backing off’ his support for building an Islamic Center near Ground Zero.

With criticism mounting of his support for the construction of an Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan, President Barack Obama on Saturday defended his decision to wade into the controversy the night before, but backed off from his previous stance. “In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion,” Obama said when asked about his remarks at a White House dinner Friday marking the start of Ramadan. He did, however, emphasize that he was not endorsing the project, just the organizers’ right to build it.

And yet what did the president say just last night? Word for word …

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. 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.

Perhaps anticipating a response to this effort to create a false controversy, they write in their current front page feature

But his comments Friday night were widely interpreted as an endorsement of plans to build a mosque a few blocks away from where nearly 3,000 Americans perished at the hands of Islamic terrorists on 9/11 – an interpretation the White House hadn’t disputed, up until Obama’s comments in Florida.

This was in response to the president himself clearly making this distinction. He’s not getting into the identity of the builders or whether he agrees on the exact placement. They have the right to build on private property. We’re Americans. We’d don’t discriminate on the basis of religion. Even the AP, more accurately, refers to the president “expanding” on his statement, though perhaps better to say ‘countering willful distortion.’ The CBS version of the AP story says he “expounded” on the issue. (ABC was a bit in Politico’s direction, though nearly as egregious.) Even with the aim of selling copy and appealing to its core readership’s biases, this stands out as a troubling example of organized lying on the part of Politico’s editors. It will be interesting to see who else follows their line.

Late Update: Notably, whereas Politico writes that the White House had made no effort to suggest that the president’s original statement referred to a[n] equal right to build rather than support for this particular effort, the Times says that had indeed done just that. What stands out here is that there is nothing surprising about Obama’s stance since I believe this is the stance of most people who take a 1st Amendment stance on this. Who the people behind the project are is beside the point. Getting drawn into the design of the building is irrelevant. We don’t discriminate on the basis of religion. Call it the American values position.

Obama Emphasizes: Not Commenting and Will NOT Comment on the ‘Wisdom’ of Cordoba House

As usual, the right-wing noise machine see’s the statement that the president made today, which simply underscoring his intent for the speech he made last night, as a “walk-back” or “clarification” of that speech.

Little Green Footballs has more to say on that issue:

President Obama was asked by reporters today if he had an opinion on the “wisdom” of building the Cordoba House two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center, and replied:

I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding,” Obama told reporters Saturday after delivering remarks in Panama City Beach, Fla. “That’s what our country is about.”

So, of course, now right wing bloggers are crowing that Obama is “walking back” his earlier statement; but I don’t see that at all. Obama is emphasizing that his remarks were meant to support the Constitution — which should be enough for anyone. The idea that it’s somehow “unwise” to build this project is a concept promoted by opponents, and it’s irrelevant to the Constitutional issue; it would have been neither appropriate nor productive for Obama to wade into that poisoned debate.

Cenk Uygur: If the Democrats Have Any Sense They’ll Make Social Security a Defining Issue for 2010

Crooks & Liars

Cenk filled in for Dylan Ratigan again and wrapped up Friday’s show with a spot praising the Democrats for finally looking like they’re striking the right chord with their latest political ad going after Republicans for their views on privatizing Social Security and handing the funds over to Wall Street with a few very huge qualifiers following that praise that I could not agree with more.

The Plum Line: One of the finest moments of Obama’s presidency

The Plum Line – Greg Sargent

A few quick thoughts about Obama’s forceful speech yesterday expressing strong support for Cordoba House, which will go down as one of the finest moments of his presidency.

Obama didn’t just stand up for the legal right of the group to build the Islamic center. He voiced powerful support for their moral right to do so as well, casting it as central to American identity. This is a critical point, and it goes to the the essence of why his speech was so commendable.

Many opponents of the project have been employing a clever little dodge. 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 group’s decision to do so, on the grounds that it’s insensitive to 9/11 families and will undercut the project’s goal of reconciliation. The group has the right to build the center, runs this argument, but they are wrong to exercise it. In response, Obama could have merely cast this dispute as a Constitutional issue, talked about how important it is to hew to that hallowed document, and moved on.

But Obama went much further than that. He asserted that we must “welcome” and “respect” those of other faiths, suggesting that the group behind the center deserves the same, and said flat out that anything less is un-American:

As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. 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.

Obama’s core declaration here is as simple and clear a statement about what’s really at stake in this fight as one could have asked for. Obama argued that an “unshakable” devotion to the notion that all faiths are “welcome” is “essential to who we are,” thus casting this as a larger argument over the bedrock moral principles that are the foundation of American identity.

Obama issued this statement in the full knowledge that his opponents have been itching for him to wade into this battle. The right is engaged in a concerted effort to make it politically toxic to stand up for the rights of Muslims — and to simultaneously insinuate that Obama is on “their” side, and not on ours. This dispute fits the bill perfectly. It’s the stuff of Liz Cheney’s dreams. Polls show overwhelming opposition to the project, and as Glenn Greenwald notes, there would have been no political downside to sidestepping this morass.

Continue reading…

Fox Hosts Agree With Obama’s Defense Of Mosque: ‘He Has To Stand Up For Our Constitution’

As I recall President Obama’s oath of office, and the same for all 43 presidents that preceded him, the following words define the primary objective for serving as the President of the United States of America:

I, ______,  do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

It’s a simple yet very powerful affirmation that as the President of the United States, preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution is priority one.  It’s a clear and concise mandate that all people residing in this country expect their leader to follow.  Having said that…

Think Progress

Reacting to President Obama’s forceful defense of Muslims’ rights to build a new Islamic community center near Ground Zero, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) — who believes there are “too many mosques in this country” — said, “It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero.” King’s statement underscores one of the least understood facts of the new project: there is already a mosque near Ground Zero.

Today, the New York Times reports on Masjid Manhattan (located four blocks from Ground Zero) and Masjid al-Farah (located 12 blocks from Ground Zero):

But what the two mosques have in common — besides the sense of celebration and camaraderie that comes at the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, in which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown, give alms and focus on self-improvement — is that both have existed for decades, largely unnoticed, blocks from the World Trade Center site.


Obama’s defense of the mosque has found some support on the right. Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said Obama’s comments were “ultimately the right thing to do,” adding, “Obama is correct that the way to marginalize radicalism is to respect the best traditions of Islam and protect the religious liberty of Muslim Americans.”

Even on Fox News this morning, the Fox & Friends weekend hosts all agreed that Obama is performing the job that’s required of him. “Obama has to stand up for religious freedom,” said co-host Alisyn Camerota. “He has to stand up for our Constitution,” co-host Dave Briggs offered, to which co-host Clayton Morris added, “That’s the job he gets…defend the Constitution.” Watch it:

The right-wing race-baiting revue: Schlessinger’s rant is just the latest act

Media Matters

 Schlessinger “articulated the ‘n’ word all the way out.” On the August 10 edition of her radio show, Schlessinger repeatedly — in her own words — “articulated the ‘n’ word all the way out — more than one time.” Among other things, Schlessinger also told an African-American caller that she had a “chip on [her] shoulder.” The full transcript of her remarks can be found here.

Beck suggested Obama doesn’t believe all men are created equal. On his August 3 Fox News show, after claiming that President Obama “knows” that Arizona police “will act stupidly” and “be racist,” Glenn Beck asked, “Does he believe that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights?”

Levin accused Obama administration, Sen. Menendez of “race-baiting.” On the July 28 edition of his radio show, Mark Levin said, “Then there’s Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, a race-baiter. That’s right, I said it. Write it down, and you’ll hear it. I think these people who pander to specific ethnic groups are race-baiters. This administration is race-baiting”.

Beck: “[R]acist” is “too small of a word” to describe “those in power.” On July 26, Beck said that “I have learned a lot. We don’t need to call people names. We don’t have to. Their words are evidence enough. They cannot make the argument in the open. They know no man of any color would choose to be enslaved, so they have to lie, they have to cheat. I don’t think that those in power and those who seek even more power are racists, as I have come to understand that ‘racist’ is too small of a word. I believe these people will enslave any man — it doesn’t matter what color they are.

Limbaugh called Obama “the most-racial president” During the July 22 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said, “So, we’re supposed to have a post-racial president. Instead, Barack Obama is the most-racial president.”.

Limbaugh accused Eric Holder, DOJ of racism. During the July 21 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh discussed the “amazing story of Shirley Sherrod,” asking, “If we’re going to fire Shirley Sherrod on the basis of racism, then why the hell does Eric Holder still have a job?” Limbaugh later falsely claimed that Holder “has ignored the voting and civil rights of white people in Philadelphia, all because the perpetrators of the voter intimidation, the New Black Panther Party, were black”.

Quinn: Members of the civil rights community are “race-baiting poverty pimps.” During the July 6 broadcast of Clear Channel’s The War Room with Quinn & Rose, Jim Quinn said he calls the “so-called civil rights community” “the race-baiting poverty pimps”:

Continue reading much more on Media Matters.

Politco: This Week In One Liners


“Must be hard to be that angry all the time about everything.”  Former White House press secretary Dana Perino, reacting to a column by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd

 “Well, I guess I just don’t have the same salon that he has perhaps.”    House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, explaining why his skin is pale in comparison to Rep. John Boehner.

 “But I will categorically deny that I ever kidnapped anyone or forced anybody to use drugs.”  Kentucky U.S. Senate hopeful Rand Paul, brushing away details in a GQ article about his past.

 “I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested.”  White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, taking on the “professional left”.

“Admit it. Between Snooki and Levi Johnston, you’re starting to miss me.” —”The Hill”‘s Spencer Pratt, Twittering his thoughts about the thorn in the Palin’s side.

 “There’s a large part of me that’s four years old. I wake up in the morning and I know that somewhere there’s a cookie. I don’t know where it is but I know it’s mine and I have to go find it.” — Newt Gingrich, explaining in an Esquire profile how his “life is amazingly filled with fun.”

 “I would have loved to be there. I’m from D.C., and I never had a chance to go the White House. It would have been cool. But there’s always next year. Hopefully, they’ll do it again and I’ll be invited.” — Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant, upset about having not been invited to Obama’s “Dream Team” basketball game at Fort McNair.

 “No, I haven’t.” — Former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, on whether she saw the first episode of “Real Housewives of D.C.,” which feature the couple that gave Rogers no shortness of complications at a 2009 State Dinner: The Salahis.

“We hope Snooki’s going to be OK.” — Sen. John McCain, when asked for his reaction to the “Jersey Shore” star’s recent arrest for disorderly conduct.

 “They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens on the House floor stays on the House floor.” — Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), refusing to discuss his lively and lengthy House floor address this week.

Time Magazine: Top 10 Political Gaffes of 2009

  1. Joe Biden’s Swine Flu Hysteria
  2. Barack Obama’s Bowling Blooper
  3. Joe Wilson’s Unwanted Outburst
  4. Hillary Clinton Gets Lost in Translation
  5. Michael Steele’s Abortion Aberration
  6. Larry Summers’ White House Sleepover
  7. Barack Obama Opens the Floodgates
  8. Joe Biden’s Stimulus Stumble
  9. Sarah Palin’s Coin Conspiracy
  10. Michelle Obama’s Buckingham Brush with Etiquette

Read more…

Time Magazine: Top 10 Things That Never Happened In A Campaign Before

  • A Former First Couple Switches Roles
  • Superdelegates Finally Have a Say
  • Wrong Track Sky-High
  • Outsiders In
  • Selling History
  • An African American but Not Just an African American
  • Best. Reality Show. Ever.
  • Internet Fund-Raising Comes of Age
  • Mooseburgers, Snow Machines And Serious Politics
  • An October Surprise (in September)
  • Read more…

    Time Magazine – Top 10 Weird Government Secrets