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Barack Obama on Friday:


"As a citizen, and as president," Mr. Obama said then, "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."

Barack Obama on Saturday:

"I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there," Mr. Obama said. "I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about."

I understand that this isn't a direct contradiction. I understand that Barack Obama is in a sensitive political position. I understand that commenting on the proposed mosque in lower Manhattan could compromise a broader agenda. I don't expect Barack Obama to be Cornel West, or even Michael Bloomberg.

But man, if you're going to speak--speak. Otherwise, fall back. Don't spit fire and sarcasm on Gatesgate, if you know you that you were hired to convene a beer summit. Don't step up to Ground Zero, if your only really prepared to say "Hey the First Amendment, is important."

From Digby:

It was a nice gesture for the president of the United States to unequivocally recognize the constitutional right to religious freedom. It's probably too much to expect that he might unequivocally stand up for religious tolerance too.

It probably is. But it's not too much to expect the president to play his position.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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