- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama, like all flimflam men, is a master of words. But unlike the best of the flimflam men, he can’t keep his stories straight.

Here he was on Friday night last, speaking about the ground zero mosque to a dinner at the White House celebrating Ramadan: “Let me be clear: As a citizen and as president I believe that Muslims have the same right … to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan. … This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

Who argues with that? But here he was the next day, when reporters accompanying him to his dip in the Gulf of Mexico asked him about his Ramadan remarks: “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there.”

Here’s the White House later in the day insisting that the president was not backing off the original remarks, or even backing off from his backing off: “The president is not backing off in any way from the comments he made [Friday night].”

We’re glad we finally got that straight. If the president wanted to throw red meat (beef or lamb, not pork) into the arena, he certainly succeeded. Mr. Obama is either the clumsiest politician on the scene, stumbling over and over into remarks that couldn’t be more calculated to irritate and outrage the America he just can’t understand, or else he just can’t resist throwing (non-alcoholic) wine and roses at Muslims and rotten eggs at Americans who cling to the Judeo-Christian God and guns. Most Americans neither share nor understand his obsession with repeatedly apologizing to Muslims for the sins and shortcomings of America, his bowing to the corrupt Saudi king, his hostility to Israel, his inability to stand up to the Muslim nuclear bomb proceeding apace in Iran. His remarks about the mosque are of a piece with the rest.

If the president had been looking for a teachable Ramadan moment, he could have said something like this: “To our Muslim friends and fellow citizens, I have both greeting and caution: Our religious traditions are different from yours, but we each owe respect to the other. We respect your right to practice your faith as we respect all faiths. But you will succeed as American citizens if you respect our traditions, and one of those is a decent regard for the feelings of others. Islam in America is entitled to the same respect accorded Judaism, Christianity and other faiths, but no more than that. You have the right to build your mosque wherever you want, subject to local zoning ordinances, but you will get along better with your neighbors if you show them the respect that you demand for yourselves. Building this mosque near ground zero is regarded by most Americans as offensive to the memory of 3,000 Americans killed, however wrongly, in the name of Islam.”

Tough stuff, but that’s the message that Muslims who want to assimilate, like all previous immigrant groups have, must hear, and from a president. Nothing less will suffice.

Rebuke and scolding from this president or any other — and George W. Bush was guilty of pandering to Muslim entitlement, too — will not dissolve public wrath. The plain, skeptical unhyphenated Americans (the “little people” in the Obama formulation) recognize tripe and moonshine, particularly from the mouth of the president.

Mr. Obama and his fellow travelers — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, the fearful editorialists and pundits of the “mainstream” press, the granny preachers to empty pews who are always eager to water their own professed faith to appease alien doctrines — have tried to frame the issue as freedom of religion versus the bigot brigade. They tried to make criticism of the radical Obama agenda as the criticism of nativists, fanatics and bigots. They failed then, and they will this time, too.

Mr. Obama is no doubt sincere in his admiration of the Muslims eager to erect their mosque as a tribute to their faith in the shadow of the towers brought down by villains in the name of Islam. The president once described the Muslim call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.” Those are pretty sentiments. Mr. Obama is entitled to say them and believe them. But he’s a fool if he thinks many Americans share them.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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