More than once in his short tenure as president, Barack Obama has been accused of insensitivity and arrogance toward the citizens (read voters) of the nation he was elected to lead. Pundits and politicians, as well as ordinary citizens have commented on his aloofness and his seeming condescension for many Americans, in particular for those who disagree with his governance, such as the Tea Party partisans, and of course, Republicans.
On Friday, August 13th Obama hosted an iftar, a ceremonial dinner in celebration of the breaking of the daily Ramadan fast, to which the White House invited a number of prominent American and foreign dignitaries, most of whom are Muslims. In his speech that evening, Obama justifiably stressed the positive contributions of Muslim-Americans throughout our history and paid tribute to what he called the “patchwork heritage” of the American people as being a principal strength of our country.
At one point in the speech, however, referring to the controversial so-called Ground Zero mosque, Obama intoned,
Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities — particularly 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. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And 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 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.
Understandably enough, these words were perceived by Obama’s opponents (and not a few supporters) as controversially supporting the planned construction of the mosque in relatively close proximity to Ground Zero. The furor over his remarks was instantaneous and considerable, prompting Obama to fumble about in an insulting attempt to ameliorate the import of his ill-considered remarks on Friday night. On Saturday, in an interview with CNN’s Ed Henry, Obama disingenuously allowed as how he
was not commenting on and will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country’s about and I think it’s very important that as difficult as some of these issues are, we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.
In these two declarations we have an interesting case study of Obama’s contempt for the American people. It is nothing short of arrogance that, from one day to the next he can make such a transparent, inept and ham-handed attempt to deny what is still fresh in the minds of everyone and expect us to believe him. It is also insulting.