I haven’t hesitated to criticize Obama, so it’s only fair that I take note when he does something right. It was good to hear about his statements about the New York Muslim Cultural Center. Being sort of out of circulation, I heard about them somewhat belatedly, and by the time I find an internet connection to post this, his remarks will be several days old, but I can’t let the occasion pass, since it’s so refreshing to see a president defend the Constitution, particularly the good bits. They all seem eager to defend unwritten presidential prerogatives, but it’s always different when mere core constitutional values are at stake.
I read somewhere, can’t remember where, that any president would have had to take the same position that Obama did, since the constitutional question here isn’t even close. You would like to think that’s true, but recall what happened when the Supreme Court ruled that flag burning was protected speech. Bush Sr. led the charge for a constitutional amendment. What was scary about that, beyond the fact that the amendment almost passed the Senate, was the fact that a constitutional question that should not even have been close was decided on a 5 to 4 vote.
From what I gather, there has been some parsing of Obama’s statements because he defended the right of the Muslims to build their facility without taking a position on the advisability of their doing so. Apparently some folks can’t see the distinction. It’s not really his business to decide whether the exercise of a constitutional right is a good or bad thing under any particular set of circumstances; it is his business to defend the right of a person, or in this case a group, to exercise their rights no matter the circumstances. I share Obama’s position, albeit, I’m sure, for different reasons. I look forward to the day when churches, synagogues, temples and mosques throughout this land will close for lack of sufficient numbers of dupes to fill the pews. A forlorn hope, I know, in this land of dupes. But there is no inconsistency in my saying, at the same time, that every dupe should have equal rights with every other dupe, until the hoped for day of deliverance comes. Nor is it inconsistent for Obama to stick up for the Muslims in New York without taking a position favoring or disfavoring construction.
So good for Obama. It would be ever so nice if he would start making principled statements a habit, and even nicer if he would follow up with deeds. For instance, there’s that little matter of Guantanamo.