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Towards Zero

August 5, 2010

So Ground Zero is now a local issue? This, at least, is Robert Gibbs’ excuse for the White House’s lack of cojones (to borrow a phrase from Mme Palin) to voice an opinion on the plans for a gigantic mosque in the no-more-existing shadow of the no-more-existing world trade towers.

Note to President Obama: Ground Zero is as “local” as the oil spill.

What to make of this refusal to reveal Obama’s thoughts on this?

If Obama thinks that the mosque is a swell idea then what should keep him from saying so, considering that he has proven to have no problem with, not only opinionating, but also acting, against majority opinion. Think of Obamacare, the stimulus bills, the attacks against Arizona’s immigration law, etc. All those are cases in which the Obama administration didn’t allow the demos to deter it from its path.

And in case that Obama believes that the plans for Cordoba House should be scrapped, why not say it out loud? It would gain him brownie points with a constituency he will need in the upcoming elections. The risk is, obviously, to step on the toes of various lefties, including (Independent) Mayor Bloomberg. On the bright side, Obama might actually put enough weight on things to prevent the building which — in this scenario — would be a desirable goal of his.

Obama’s voting ‘present’ is, of course, a simple way to avoid getting involved into the controversy which is giving signs of heating up rather than cooling down, now that formal obstacles to the creation of Cordoba House have been eliminated.

Yet, after impressively much experience in voting ‘present’, Obama should’ve learned by now that claiming to be neutral doesn’t always let you off the hook. In this case, neutrality is probably less forgivable than the wrong opinion. The importance of the 9/11 attacks can hardly be overstated. The consequences of that day are lived by Americans and people around the globe on a daily basis.

As a symbol for a horrific attack of the past, Ground Zero is important enough. But as a symbol for a war that is still being fought by the free world against its enemies, it is even of strategic significance. For Americans and for America’s friends, the erection of Cordoba House is not a local issue. Neither is it for America’s and the entire West’s enemies. The mega mosque shouldn’t be built on those grounds, for emotional as well as for practical reasons.

Obama’s feigning of indifference on the matter lets down Americans who feel very strongly about this completely unnecessary provocation (be it by intent or not, a provocation it is). And since the majority of Americans opposes the plans for the building, Obama should at least give an explanation as to why he doesn’t feel the need to speak out for them. With his said-to-be-legendary oratory skills and his expressive desire to bring the US closer to “the Muslim world”, Obama should realise what a wonderful opportunity to advance his mission he has here.

But his stated lack of interest in the question signals the worst. Opponents of the mosque must believe Obama to secretly side with the proponents. Those in favour of the building must think that Obama isn’t really that serious about his desire to reach out to Muslims. In his attempt to duck, Obama has won time at best. If he doesn’t come out on either side of the issue, the mega mosque will do his already anemic approval ratings additional harm.

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