–updated–

To add on this fine Saturday (8.14.10), the Ground Zero mosque debate exploded after Pres. Obama’s statement last night.

So, today he hedged last night’s remarks by offering a caveat that makes him look foolish. It certainly separates him from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s leadership on the issue.

“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,” he said.Obama narrows mosque defense

Pres. Obama made it clear to reporters today that last night’s statement wasn’t an endorsement of the Ground Zero mosque project, but that they have the right to build it.  Further saying “In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion.”

Now, last night when he offered up his gracious Iftar dinner statement, I gladly took it at face value, letting pass the feeling I had that it was political opportunism that he waited so long before weighing in, while also timing the statement with the dinner for maximum impact.  However, after today’s walk back that’s the other side of this political coin. Pres. Obama is trying to appease the right, while making a lame attempt at parroting the founders who weren’t nearly as conservative as he is. I guess Rahm got pissed.

As an aside, this is an example of why I’m taking a wait and see on Pres. Obama’s current Social Security statement. There’s a lot of wiggle room there, with the Debt Commission put in place in the first place to give the President cover. I’m not sure all is as it appears. With Pres. Obama it seldom is.

—–original post is below—-

I put this post up earlier for a couple of reasons, but one was anticipating remarks from Pres. Obama at the Iftar dinner tonight that would state unequivocally, as well as reaffirm, what we stand for in this country. It’s about religious freedom. It’s also about the right for any religious group who is following the law and protocol to be able to build a place of worship where they choose on public property.

It’s a sad state of national affairs that this simple acknowledgment from Pres. Obama will be controversial. But that’s where we are today.

It should be obvious to any American who knows anything about our founders and our Constitution that the mosque near Ground Zero is in line with the very core of American principles.

The LA Times has Pres. Obama’s full remarks at the Iftar dinner tonight, an excerpt of which is below:

[…] These events are also an affirmation of who we are as Americans. Our Founders understood that the best way to honor the place of faith in the lives of our people was to protect their freedom to practice religion. In the….

…Virginia Act for Establishing Religion Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.” The First Amendment of our Constitution established the freedom of religion as the law of the land. And that right has been upheld ever since.
Indeed, over the course of our history, religion has flourished within our borders precisely because Americans have had the right to worship as they choose — including the right to believe in no religion at all. And it is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders that America remains deeply religious — a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in contrast to the religious conflict that persists around the globe.

That is not to say that religion is without controversy. Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities — particularly in 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. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. 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 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. 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 will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who have led our response to that attack — from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today. And let us always remember who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for. Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders — these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion — and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.

That is who we are fighting against. And the reason that we will win this fight is not simply the strength of our arms — it is the strength of our values. The democracy that we uphold. The freedoms that we cherish. The laws that we apply without regard to race or religion; wealth or status. Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us — a way of life that stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today. […]

This should be a simple act all Americans can agree on. That it is not shows you the dire straights of our politics today.