For centuries, theological seminaries minted trained and licensed ministers of their respective religious traditions. They took seriously their creedal and confessional commitments to their respective faiths and denominations. While comparative theology may have been taught, it was with a view to understand and critically evaluate them as rival truth claims, not equally valid truthful claims. But those dark, backwards days may be behind us if Claremont School of Theology successfully paves the way.
Dias's 10-paragraph-long August 22 article portrayed Claremont president Jerry Campbell as a "classic American" entrepreneur who took a novel approach to the school's "low enrollment and in-the-red" balance sheet: "end isolated clerical training" by "bring[ing] toegether Claremont, the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) and the Academy for Jewish Religion California."
Of course, religious training deals in matters of eternal verities, not marketplace commodities, so that sort of approach is unwise, religious conservatives would argue. Yet Dias excluded any dissent from her examination into the newly inclusive Methodist seminary.
Time magazine's Joe Klein yesterday did what he does best: take one paragraph from a neoconservative's column and blow it out of proportion and out of context in order to go on an extended screed bashing conservatives in general and neocons in particular.
Writing for his magazine's Swampland blog yesterday, Klein addressed Bill Kristol's editorial for the August 30 Weekly Standard print edition entitled, "He's No Muslim, He's a Progressive."
Klein started off with a backhanded compliment:
Well, it's good to learn that there are limits to Bill Kristol's tactical skeevery. He clearly states here that Barack Obama is not a Muslim. No winks, no nods, no gratuitous McConnellesque "If he says he's not, that's okay with me."
With that out of the way, Klein dove into his screed:
Mowjood? As Alana Goodman of the Business and Media Institute reported earlier this month, Sharaf Mowjood is a former lobbyist for the Council on American Islamic Relations, an interest group that strongly supports the mosque. Mowjood coauthored a glowing Dec. 9, 2009 article on the mosque with reporter Ralph Blumenthal and also contributed to a sympathetic story by Barnard August 11 about public relations missteps by the mosque sponsors.
Barnard began with an anecdote about a Rauf lecture in Cairo where the imam (with a voice the Times describes as "soft, almost New Agey") was accused by radical Islamists of being an American agent (a story which of course bolsters Rauf's moderate credentials). Barnard seemingly took it as her mission to rebut charges of extremism against Rauf.
In his absence -- he is now on another Middle East speaking tour sponsored by the State Department -- a host of allegations have been floated: that he supports terrorism; that his father, who worked at the behest of the Egyptian government, was a militant; that his publicly expressed views mask stealth extremism. Some charges, the available record suggests, are unsupported. Some are simplifications of his ideas. In any case, calling him a jihadist appears even less credible than calling him a United States agent.
[Updated] Good Morning America co-host Bianna Golodryga on Saturday chided the Reverend Franklin Graham, complaining that "one of the country's leading evangelicals is adding to the confusion" over Barack Obama's religion.
Reporter Jake Tapper then played a clip of Graham being interviewed on CNN: "He was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father. He's renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ."
Yet, the New York Times struck a very similar tone in a May 12, 2008 op-ed. Contributor Edward Luttwak wrote, "As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant."
Those familiar with the Washington Post know that the paper is a staunch defender of a very liberal vision of the separation of church and state. For example, the paper's editorial board was heavily critical of the Supreme Court's Mojave cross ruling.
But when it comes to the supposed dearth of Muslim chaplains at Virginia prisons, Sunday's Metro section went into full hand-wringing mode. "Inadequate Funds for Chaplains," complained a subheader for the page B1 story by staffer Kevin Sieff.
Of course, it wasn't until paragraph 27 that Sieff noted that "[n]either Catholic nor Jewish chaplains have sought funding from corrections officials." As Sieff explained early in his article, "a 200-year-old interpretation of the state constitution... bars Virginia from doing any faith-based hiring" and "is the only state where prison chaplains are contractors, not state employees." Sure, "Muslim chaplains could visit correctional facilities to minister to Virginia's 32,000 inmates," Sieff explained, "but they received no funds from the state" until a $25,000 grant was given to Muslim Chaplain Services of Virginia last July.
Bob Schieffer on Sunday blamed the internet for the growing number of Americans that think Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Namelessly referring to last week's Pew Research Center poll finding that eighteen percent now believe this, the "Face the Nation" host concluded Sunday's program saying that "in the internet age, ignorance travels as rapidly as great ideas."
He continued, "Now, not only great minds can find one another and compare notes, so too can the nuts and the perverts and those who are simply looking to validate their prejudices."
And continued, "So despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, a new poll tells us a growing number of Americans, most of them on the right, believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. No doubt, due in part to the fact that stories to that effect have gone viral on the internet" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
On Sunday’s Reliable Sources on CNN, during a discussion of the Ground Zero mosque controversy, after Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson recommended that the mosque be moved as a compromise, NPR’s Michel Martin – formerly of ABC News – compared relocating the mosque to similarly treating a Catholic church after the Oklahoma City bombing.
Even though McVeigh -- who described himself as "agnostic" despite his Catholic parents -- timed the bombing to coincide with the second anniversary of the Waco disaster to signal that he was motivated by revenge, Martin ridiculously responded: "Did anybody move a Catholic church? Did anybody move a Christian church after Timothy McVeigh – who adhered to a cultic, white supremacist cultic version of Christianity – bombed the Murrah building in Oklahoma?"
Below is a transcript of the relevant exchange from the Sunday, August 22, Reliable Sources on CNN:
"Is President Obama good for the Jews?" asked New York Times columnist Charles Blow Saturday.
His answer was quite surprising: "For more and more Jewish-Americans, the answer is no."
In his piece marvelously titled "Oy Vey, Obama," Blow referred to Thursday's Pew Research Center report finding "33% of Jewish voters identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, up from 20% in 2008."
From there, Blow went where a liberal columnist for the New York Times typically dares not:
CNN's T. J. Holmes brought back Time's Bobby Ghosh on Friday's Newsroom for more promotion of his "Islamophobia" cover story, and added two Muslim guests who largely agreed with his thesis that anti-Islamic sentiment was "coming into the mainstream," and how this was apparently a "reason for alarm." Holmes asked softball questions, and no one with an opposing viewpoint appeared during the segment.
The anchor had the three on for a panel discussion at the bottom of the 10 am Eastern hour about Ghosh's "Is America Islamophobic?" article, as well the controversy over the planned mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. Before introducing his guests, Holmes held up two examples of apparent "Islamophobia" in the country and seemed to sympathize with the apparent plight of Muslims in the U.S.:
HOLMES: Two-and-a-half million Muslims live, work and pray in America- not always easy. Case in point: protests in California- check that out- marching against a proposed mosque in their area, holding signs with slogans such as, 'Muslims danced for joy on 9/11'- or how about the planned Islamic center and mosque near New York's Ground Zero? More than 60 percent of Americans are opposed to that center being built. But the scope is bigger than that, according to a Time magazine poll. More than 3 in 10 Americans would say no to a mosque in their neighborhood. Then there are statements like this one from evangelical leader Franklin Graham.
During the 10 a.m. ET hour on MSNBC, anchor Chris Jansing spoke with Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf Hanson about the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, who proclaimed: "I think there's a lot of fear....there has been a concerted effort by a certain segment. It's a very small minority, but their powerful and vocal, to demonize the Muslim community."
Yusuf was on to discuss his founding of Zaytuna College in California, the nation's first Islamic higher education school. However, Jansing introduced the segment by placing the college in this context: "...the [mosque] controversy prompted Time magazine to ask, Is America – if America is Islamophobic. A Time poll found that 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against nonbelievers. And a small college in Berkeley, California, may become the new battleground in America's uneasy relationship with Islam."
After briefly discussing the college, Jansing turned to the mosque: "Do you understand the unease among many Americans, and we are seeing a lot of it come out with this mosque controversy?" After denouncing opponents of the project, Hanson defended the imam involved: "Feisal Abdul Rauf, who's the imam there, is an extremely gentle person and to frame him as an extremist means that the whole community is mad...these are people that have spent their life in interfaith dialogue..." Rauf claimed the United States was an "accessory" to the September 11th attacks during a September 2001 60 Minutes interview on CBS.
Thus reads the page A2 headline for Michael Shear's August 20 Washington Post story that reads like an extended Obama White House campaign press release.
Shear opens with a story about how Obama prayed with "three Christian pastors" over the phone as he flew to Chicago to celebrate his 49th birthday. "As he celebrated his birthday, he was in a reflective mood," Shear cooed. "He told them he wanted to pray about the year that had passed, what's really important in life and the challenges ahead," the Post staffer added before cuing up Joel Hunter, "an evangelical pastor who ws on the call and who is part of a small circle of spiritual advisers who frequently talk to Obama by phone."
Hunter served up the argument of Shear's article, that because Obama is private about his Christian faith, it's no wonder polls show a growing number of people unsure of his faith, with some even thinking he's a Muslim. "You know what happens with a vacuum?" Hunter asked, before answering his own question, "It gets filled."
On Thursday's Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty questioned the motives of the planners behind the proposed New York City mosque near Ground Zero: "The developer... has said the proximity of the planned mosque and center is not an issue. Really?...It's simply unrealistic to think you can build a Muslim house of worship two blocks from where this awful thing happened, and not get a negative reaction."
Cafferty raised the mosque controversy during his 5 pm Eastern hour commentary: "Sometimes no answer can be an answer. When asked if a portion of the $100 million needed to build the mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero here in New York City might come from either Saudi Arabia or Iran, the developers refused to comment. This only adds to the already heated controversy surrounding this project."
The CNN personality, after noting that "15 of the 19 hijackers responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, and the destruction of the World Trade Center on September the 11th, came from Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. considers Iran to be a sponsor of terrorism," applauded New York Governor David Paterson's effort to find a compromise over the planned mosque's site, labeling him "one of the few rational voices in the conversation."
CNN's American Morning and Newsroom programs on Thursday brought on Time magazine's Bobby Ghosh to highlight his "Is America Islamophobic?" article and help promote his accusation that "hate speech" and "bigotry" have "come out into the mainstream" during the course of the debate over the proposed New York City mosque near Ground Zero.
During his American Morning appearance, anchor Kiran Chetry hailed Ghosh's article, which is the cover story of the upcoming August 30th issue of Time, as "a very thoughtful piece." Anchor Ali Velshi, who conducted the second interview of the Time deputy international editor, went further than his colleague: "Okay, you're American- Time magazine is required reading....Bobby Ghosh...wrote the Islamophobia piece that I think everybody is going to have to read because if you are in this country, it's part of the dialogue that we are involved in at this point."
But only days earlier, in an August 3 Time.com article about the imam behind the mosque, Ghosh stated that the "last legal hurdle to the proposed Islamic center near the site of the World Trade Center has been removed, but ignorance, bigotry and politics are more formidable obstacles....Criticism [of the mosque] spans the gamut, from the ill-informed anguish of those who mistakenly view Islam as the malevolent force that brought down the towers to the ill-considered opportunism of right-wing politicians who see Islam as an easy target." So the "thoughtful" Time editor whose latest is "required reading" even had the gall to criticize the families and the friends of those who died on 9/11, or who are generally emotionally-touched by the carnage of the attack.
Speaking to conservative commentator Ann Coulter on Thursday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Erica Hill seemed to hope the Ground Zero mosque controversy had run its course: "Does it go away or does this continue through November?"
Hill's question to Coulter followed fellow guest, Democratic strategist Tanya Acker, ranting: "...the notion that in the United States of America we would deny people the right to have a religious edifice is simply – like, that's just not – it's unconscionable....I think that smart Republicans, fair Republicans, fair people of all political persuasions need to look – are looking at this really as a constitutional issue and really as a freedom issue. It should not be this political question that it's become." Picking up on Acker's argument, Hill turned to Coulter: "So, it shouldn't be a political issue. Though is it going to continue to be one as we head to November?"
In her response, Coulter fired back at Acker: "I will say Tanya's absolutely giving the Democratic position. America, you want a mosque at Ground Zero, you vote for the Democrats." Acker angrily replied: "No. No, I'm giving – I'm giving the American position, Ann. I'm giving the American position because my constitution says that-" Hill then interrupted, notifying both guests that they were out of time.
[Update; Thursday, 7:10 pm Eastern: Simmons admitted his error about the '93 World Trade Center bombing on his Twitter account: "Made critical error on CNN last nite. Was thinking of last major terrorist attack on US soil in OKC by McVeigh & mispoke"]
Russell Simmons, founder of the hip-hop label Def Jam, bizarrely and inaccurately claimed during an interview on Wednesday's Larry King Live on CNN that the perpetrators behind the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 were Christians: "If you're blaming Muslims for the attack on 9/11, then you need to change your mind. We didn't- did we blame Christians at the first World Trade attack? We didn't" [audio clip available here].
Host Larry King brought on Simmons to discuss the controversy over the New York City mosque near Ground Zero. He appeared immediately after an interview of New York Governor David Paterson, who attempted to negotiate with the planners behind the mosque in order to get its site moved. King first asked the entrepreneur to respond to the governor's efforts. He unequivocally supported the proposed worship space: "We should make every effort not to move it. I think it's critical that we recognize that we built this country on religious tolerance and on religious freedom. And so, if we want to penalize the two billion Muslims because of the actions of a few, then we have to examine the way we look at each other and all religions. So I think it would be a terrible idea to move the mosque."
The number of Americans from all kinds of demographics who are unsure that President Obama is a Christian have grown since he's been in office. For instance, "fewer than half of Democrats (46%) know Obama is a Christian, down from 55% in March 2009. Barely four-in-ten African-Americans say he's a Christian, down from 56% last year," an exasperated Amy Sullivan noted in an August 19 Swampland blog post at Time.com.
So who's fault is that? Conservatives, of course, the religion reporter insisted:
It would also be foolish and naive to pretend that conservatives who call Obama a Muslim are doing it in a neutral way and that their intention is anything other than to raise questions about his "otherness."
Sullivan failed to name which prominent conservatives in particular she felt were responsible for moving public opinion on the president's religious loyalties. But in her zeal to vigorously defend Obama as a follower of Christ, Sullivan concluded by asserting that the White House has to take care to "offset those perceptions [that Obama is secretly a Muslim] with a little more openness about the president's real Christian faith." Perhaps Sullivan was being extremely charitable and wished to avoid rank cynicism, but not once did it occur to her that President Obama might be an agnostic who, like many Americans, nominally associates with the Christian faith because it's a proper thing to do.
CNN's Ali Velshi engaged in moral relativism on Wednesday's Newsroom as he editorialized on the controversial planned mosque near Ground Zero. Velshi worried about the precedent that might be set if a government "assisted" in moving its site: "Timothy McVeigh was raised Catholic. Do we then entertain petitions of moving Catholic churches away from the Oklahoma bombing site?"
Appearing in the 2:00PM ET hour on MSNBC, New York Daily News reporter Samuel Goldsmith cited a poll featured on the paper's website, about opposition to the Ground Zero mosque: "[it] shows that 70% of New Yorkers say that they think the opposition is out of hatred and religious intolerance."
Unfortunately, Goldsmith forgot to mention that it was a completely unscientific poll that only appeared within articles on the topic and allowed people to potentially vote numerous times. The slanted poll question read: "Is opposition to the building of a mosque near Ground Zero intolerant?" The three responses offered were: "Yes, it's pure religious bigotry against Muslims; No, you can be against because it dishonors victims of Sept. 11; Maybe, but the sensitive thing to do is to move it further from the WTC site."
Goldsmith touted the Daily News poll after anchor Jeff Rossen cited a scientific poll on the issue: "A new Siena College poll suggests – and we actually have the results right here – that 63% of New Yorkers oppose this Islamic center. Only 23% support it." After promoting the unreliable online poll, Goldsmith argued: "...there's a lot of voices coming out....It's hard to really get a grasp of what the public opinion is, I think."
[Update, 8:10 pm EDT: The original version of this article identified Roland Martin as a "black talk radio host." He no longer has his own radio talk show. He is still a CNN contributor, columnist syndicated by Creators Syndicate, and analyst for for the Tom Joyner Morning Show, according to his own website.]
On Tuesday's Anderson Cooper 360, CNN contributor Roland Martin strongly pushed for the Democrats to "stand up and protect the Constitution" by defending the planned New York City mosque near Ground Zero: "Democrats should get some spine and say, 'You know what? I am sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution.'...Stay strong- say it's about the Constitution."
Substitute anchor John Roberts brought on Martin, along with Republican strategist Ed Rollins and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, to discuss the continuing controversy surrounding the mosque project. The anchor first turned to the former black talk radio host and asked, "Roland, is this the sort of thing that Democrats want to be talking about right now, at a point where many people form their opinions of who they're going to vote for in November?" Martin didn't begin with his "constitutional" argument, but instead emphasized that Democratic candidates needed to focus on local issues: "Frankly, if I'm a Democrat and somebody comes to me with that question...I say, 'Hey, go talk to...the folks representing New York. I'm here talking about my district.'"
On December 8 of last year, at some point before hitting the "print" button, someone at the New York Times decided that a story about what has since become known as the Ground Zero Mosque needed to be reworked.
Earlier that day, the Times published an online powder-puff piece by reporters Ralph Blumenthal and Sharaf Mowjood about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's GZM plans. The pair's story was revised before it went to print, and the online version was changed ("Muslim Prayers and Renewal Near Ground Zero," with a web page title bar that reads "Muslim Prayers Fuel Spiritual Rebuilding Project Near Ground Zero") to mirror it. It's even puffier.
Several bloggers posted about the pair's online original when it appeared. A few, including Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs and Ben Muessig at The Gothamist, excerpted some or all of the key paragraphs shown on the left below (bold in the third paragraph is mine). On the right is how that segment went to print on December 9 (link is to hard-to-read enlarged scan of that day's front page, where the story's opening paragraphs appeared near its bottom right), and how it currently appears online:
Grossman explained that the comparison stems from conservatives who pointed out an incident in the early 1990s when Pope John Paul II halted a planned convent near the Auschwitz concentration camp. The nuns had every right to build the convent, but it was unwise and insensitive to do so, leading the pontiff to scrap the plan. By way of analogy, Muslims have every right to build a mosque near Ground Zero, but the insensitivity of doing so blocks from the site of the deadliest radical Islamic terror attack in U.S. history should lead Muslim leaders to call for the project to be scrapped.
But Grossman then went on to quote two liberals who reject the Auschwitz analogy as invalid before she conflated the Ground Zero mosque issue with isolated incidents across the country where other folks are raising NIMBY objections to mosques in their hometowns (emphasis Grossman's):
So last night on the show, Andy Levy pointed out that the person representing the Ground Zero mosque on Twitter made a few jabs at the Amish.
This is what the Tweeter tweeted:
Amish saying stop Muslims?1. What are you doing on the computer? 2. That's not very Amish 3. Shouldn't you be making butter?
Later, that tweet was deleted.
Which is a shame, because it didn't have to go. See, the Mosque folks don't understand that here in America you can make fun of any religion - yes, even the Amish - and angry followers won't throw acid in your face or behead you in front of a tripod. And, as primitive as the Amish are, they won't even stone you to death for adultery. But the tweeting Park51 can be forgiven: maybe they thought the Amish might head out from Lancaster County and fly a buggy straight into their building. Don't worry, "Parky:" they wouldn't get the horses through the Lincoln Tunnel.
The director of Al-Arabiya TV, a popular Arab-language news station, wrote that "Muslims never asked for" the proposed mosque at Ground Zero, and "do not care about its construction," in a column for London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on Aug. 16.
“I can't imagine that Muslims [actually] want a mosque at this particular location, because it will become an arena for the promoters of hatred, and a monument to those who committed the crime,” wrote Al-Arabiya director Abd Al-Rahman al-Rashid in the column, which was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “Moreover, there are no practicing Muslims in the area who need a place to worship, because it is a commercial district. Is there anyone who is [really] eager [to build] this mosque?”
Al-Rashid said that President Barack Obama’s support of the mosque was similar to the administration’s previous decision to close Guantanamo Bay and try suspected terrorists as civilians. “"Muslims do not [really] yearn [to build] a mosque near the 9/11 cemetery, nor do they care whether bin Laden's cook is tried in a civilian court [or a military one],” said al-Rashid, noting that “tens of thousands of Muslims, likewise accused of extremism, are imprisoned in [even] worse conditions in the Muslim countries.”
While teasing an upcoming report on President Obama campaigning for Democrats on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Chris Wragge touted: "...plunging poll numbers haven't stopped the President from raking in millions at fund raisers across the country."
Later, White House correspondent Chip Reid observed: "You know, the President's approval rating is only 44%, but he is still quite popular with the party's base and he's using that clout to raise millions of dollars for fellow Democrats." Reid went on to declare: "President Obama and the Democratic Party are managing to raise big bucks in the hope of retaining control of Congress. The Democratic National Committee is committing $50 million to help candidates in 2010, $20 million in cash, and $30 million to get out the vote."
A campaign sound bite was played of the President attacking Republicans: "We do not fear the future. We shape the future. That's part of what this election's about. The other side wants you to be afraid of the future." Reid concluded: "President Obama is doing six fund-raisers over three days in five states. By week's end, he'll have raised over $56 million this campaign season."
Only at the end of his report did Reid briefly notice the money raised by the GOP: "Now, Republicans are also raking in the cash this campaign season. The Republican Governors Association, for example, has brought in $58 million since President Obama came into office."
There is a new media meme rearing its ugly head in the many discussions of the Ground Zero Mosque. A number of journalists seem to be suggesting that if critics oppose the construction of the Mosque, they should also be incensed by the presence of strip clubs, bars, and an off-track betting location in the area.
"Just How 'Hallowed' is the Ground Near Ground Zero?" asks Time Magazine's Madison Gray. "New York Doll's Gentleman's Club, and the Pussycat Lounge are two strip clubs that sit within a block of Ground Zero, but are not seen as a threat to the land's hallowed nature," Gray added. "So it seems to some, freedom of religion might be a problem, but a $10 lap dance is not."
Gee, could it have anything to do with the fact that pole dancers didn't fly planes into the twin towers? For some, the right to build a mosque and the move's moral implications are two distinct issues, and $10 lap dances have exactly nothing to do with either.
Yesterday, organizers of the Ground Zero mosque project took to Twitter to slam Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, after the paper incorrectly reportedthat plans for the controversial Islamic prayer center were being abandoned.
But some say the mosque's organizers went too far by mocking Ha'aretz with references to Jewish culture.
"On a side note, if Haaretz likes publishing fables, perhaps they could go back to the Yiddish ones with parables #welikethosebetter," Tweeted Park51, which calls itself the "official Twitter account" of the Ground Zero mosque project. Yiddish is a language that originated with and was used primarily by the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Eastern Europe.
On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann delivered a "Special Comment" in which he invoked Nazi Germany and suggested that blocking construction of a mosque near Ground Zero could be the first of a "thousand steps" toward another holocaust. He also hinted at a moral equivalence between the Islamic Empire’s conquests and America’s expansion into the lands of Native Americans as he attempted to discredit former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s concerns about the choice of "Cordoba House" as the original name planned for the mosque as being intentionally symbolic of a Muslim victory at Ground Zero.
After starting his "Special Comment" by quoting Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous words about the Holocaust of World War II, he at first tried to make his rant sound more moderate as he contended that, "I make no direct comparison between the attempts to suppress the building of a Muslim religious center in downtown Manhattan and the unimaginable nightmare of the Holocaust." He added: "Such a comparison is ludicrous – at least, it is now."
But the Countdown host was still alarmist enough to fear the mosque controversy could lead in that horrific direction. Olbermann: "Niemoller was not warning of the Holocaust. He was warning of the thousand steps before a holocaust became inevitable. If we are at merely the first of those steps again today, it is one step too close."
As President Obama struggled to step back from what the New York Times called a “strong defense” of the Ground Zero Mosque proposal, Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg felt the president’s pain in a Sunday "Political Memo" article, arguing that his shifting stands on the issue betray that this debate “is riskier for him than for his predecessors.” Stolberg wrote this is because his enemies want to live in a white, Christian-dominated country:
From the moment he took the oath of office, using his entire name, Barack Hussein Obama, as he swore to protect and defend the Constitution, Mr. Obama has personified the hopes of many Americans about tolerance and inclusion. He has devoted himself to reaching out to the Muslim world, vowing, as he did in Cairo last year, "a new beginning."
But his "new beginning" has aroused nervousness in some, especially those who disagree with his counterterrorism policies, or those more comfortable with a vision of America as a white and largely Christian nation, and not the pluralistic melting pot Mr. Obama represents.
On Monday's Morning Joe, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski went out of their way to defend President Obama's Friday statement defending the planned mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. Brzezinski cooed that the President "did the right thing by saying what he said." Scarborough labeled the remark "non-controversial," and later stated the controversy over the mosque was a "wedge issue" [audio clip available here].
As NewsBusters' Noel Shepard reported, the former Florida congressman turned MSNBC anchor blasted Newt Gingrich for his barrage against the President for his defense of the mosque. Earlier in the broadcast, just after the top of the 7 am Eastern hour, Brzezinski related her personal anecdote about discussing the issue over her recent vacation, and went right into her "right thing" defense of the President's stance.
Scarborough replied to this by berating Gingrich, in an early preview of his later attack: