Should Obama Get Involved in Cordoba House Controversy?

The politics of religious freedom

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Nearly everyone in America has weighed in on the Cordoba House, a YMCA-like Islamic community center planned for two block away from the former World Trade Center in New York. But there's one person who hasn't voiced their opinion: President Obama. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, "This is rightly a matter for New York City and the local community to decide." Should Obama step in? Or is he right to remain uninvolved?

  • Classic Obama 'Teachable Moment'  Politico's Ben Smith writes, "The summer controversy over a mosque two blocks from ground zero has prompted half a dozen readers, mostly Obama supporters, to e-mail me with a prediction that the president will weigh in. It is, said one, a classic 'teachable moment.' Another reader notes that Friday's Iftar would be nice timing for a presidential comment on religious freedom and toleration. This is, clearly, classic Obama turf: He can understand the pain and anger of both sides, offer something that sounds like a synthesis but winds up roughly where Mike Bloomberg stands."
  • Obama Must Condemn  The Weekly Standard's William Kristol writes, "we at THE WEEKLY STANDARD are also awaiting a response from the White House to our question, posed to the press office earlier today, as to whether the president is willing to say something about the mosque at Ground Zero. After all, this site is significant to all Americans, not just New Yorkers. Surely President Obama won't remain timidly silent as the Ground Zero mosque project--so destructive to civic harmony and well-being--goes ahead?"
  • Test of Character for Obama  The Washington Post's Greg Sargent writes, "The worse the polling gets on this, the more urgent it becomes for politicans and others to stand up against the mob and support the project. This controversy is a test of whether our public officials have the guts to defend people's rights when it's difficult to do so -- that is, when an organized faction, for transparent political reasons, is trying to make the political cost of doing so too high."
  • 3 Reasons To Stay Out  Time's Adam Sorensen suspects, "There are a few possible explanations for his silence. Maybe he's sitting this one out because he knows that despite some -- OK, many -- people saying they're offended, there's this little snippet of our constitution that makes it mighty unlikely anyone is actually going to prevent Americans from worshipping however they please on their own property. No harm, no foul. Or maybe he's passing on the Cordoba House debate because it's just too hot an issue at a sensitive political moment. After all, Democrats are bracing for a rough November. Maybe he's just hoping not to reignite that whole 'Barack Hussein Obama is an Undercover Imam' thing."
  • Obama Implicitly Supporting Center?  Commentary's Jennifer Rubin notes, "A sharp-eyed reader e-mails me, observing that, in a way, Obama has already 'spoken' on the Ground Zero mosque. She writes that Obama's 'decision to send Imam Rauf on a mission to explain the U.S. to the world is Obama’s comment.' Indeed." Politics Daily's David Gibson adds, "As opinion polls registered strong opposition to plans for an Islamic center near Ground Zero, President Obama on Wednesday issued a statement marking the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, calling the holiday 'a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country.'"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.