Sunday, August 15, 2010


When you put together President Obama's two statements on Cordoba House -- the soaring defense of the builders' rights delivered Friday night and the walkback yesterday, it actually adds up to a valid, comprehensible point of view -- it may disappoint nearly everybody, but it's internally consistent. Here's what he said yesterday:

"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.

OK, fine -- as Greg Sargent notes, what he said on Friday was that the builders have a right to build, and that right is important. What he's saying now is that their judgment may be wrong. Well, First Amendment defenders say all the time that people have a right to be wrong.

The problem isn't the totality of what Obama believes. The problem is the dishonesty of the way he split his weighing-in into a two-parter.

Too in love with his own reputation as an inspiring speechmaker, he didn't have the guts to work the "wisdom" qualification into Friday's speech. He wanted brownie points from us for courage. He wasn't going to mess that up.

And now he wants brownie points for nuance and complexity of thought. He wants brownie points for having a belief system that's an eclectic mix of the liberal, the moderate, and the conservative.

All he's going to get is blame from all sides for muddying the waters, and for seeming to shrink from controversy yesterday.

That's one criticism that might be unfair. Yesterday's statement doesn't appear to be a reaction to the reaction. It doesn't seem as if he put himself on the line and got cold feet -- it seems as if he had a pre-planned walkback.

So even his moment of apparent courage wasn't courageous.

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