At his August 13 Ramadan dinner speech, Obama stated his support for a new Mosque to be build at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. Less than a day later, he was walking back the support in one of those off-teleprompter moments. He has since been silent, letting his minions and mouthpieces address media questions while the controversy storms across America. Most polls show that a solid majority think building the mosque at Ground Zero is a bad idea, even though the same polls show Americans believe Imam Rauf and his supporters have a First Amendment right to do so.
As President of the United States, Obama serves all of the American people. Not a favored constituency or a misunderstood minority. All of us. At issue are some very heated emotions that threaten to divide Americans, rather than unite them. He has a political, if not moral responsibility to resolve the matter one way or the other. Whether he has people do the dealing behind the scenes or he take a high profile stab at mediating a relocation of the construction site. But he shows absolutely no signs of willing to spend the political capital to do so.
Meanwhile, down in rural Florida just outside of Gainesville, a fundamentalist Christian pastor is scheduling a Quran burning on the anniversary of 9/11, in protest of the Muslims who used its teachings to attack the United States. Again, no red-blooded American would dispute his right to hold such a holy barbecue, but neither would they agree that such an outright insult to Muslims is provocative and unnecessarily incites division. Again, Obama weighs in, explaining that it’s a bad idea. The Holy Book Barbecue pastor says he’d reconsider his protest if the White House asked him to, but just like the GZM controversy, Obama seems unwilling to step in and get involved. Why?
Isn’t this what leaders are supposed to do? Isn’t a leader supposed to resolve matters that divide those he leads? Of course he is. George W. Bush, in resolving the stem cell research issue, took the time to consult advisers (spiritual, medical and political) and decided on a course of action. That action didn’t satisfy everybody, but in light of the current President’s inability to provide any leadership or guidance, Bush’s stem cell XO seems Solomonesque in its wisdom and discretion.
Obama has had two opportunities this summer to show that kind of leadership courage and reasonableness, and has whiffed—badly—both times. He needs to speak directly with Imam Rauf and Pastor Terry Jones and ask them both to stop trying to divide the people of this great Nation. As a famous man once said, just having the right to do something doesn’t make doing it right, and neither of these men are doing the right thing. Obama needs to do the right thing, too. He needs to grow a pair of balls and resolve these matters before someone takes the issues far too seriously and starts hurting people.