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Tilting at Windmills

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August 4, 2010

SILENCE ISN'T ALWAYS GOLDEN.... When it comes to the high-profile Republican activists who are fighting against a proposed Muslim community center in Manhattan, it'd be heartening if we saw GOP grown-ups doing what NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) did yesterday: stand up for American ideals, defend religious liberty, stop playing by bin Laden's rules, and denounce bigotry.

And while we wait for Republican maturity that will likely never come, Greg Sargent raises a good point: Dems can step up, too.

I asked Chuck Schumer's office for his position on the Islamic center this morning. All his spokesman would say is that he "not opposed" to the plan. Asked for Schumer's views of the opposition, and asked if he actively supports the right of the center's builders to put it two blocks from Ground Zero, Schumer's spokesman declined to elaborate and said Schumer was declining an interview. [...]

That's not all. As I noted here yesterday, Dem Rep. Anthony Weiner, who's been widely hailed as a hero on the left for his supposed willingness to engage the opposition, is also refusing to say word boo about his position on the Islamic center.

Weiner wants to be mayor of New York. Last I checked, that city is home to a few Muslims, all of whom would become his constituents. Yet he can't bring himself to stand up for their right to worship two blocks from Ground Zero. The guy he wants to replace, Michael Bloomberg, had the guts to do this very eloquently yesterday. Where's Weiner?

I initially thought there's no real point in Democrats calling out Gingrich, Palin, et al, for their odious bigotry, because it's predictable. "Dems think Newt Gingrich is wrong" isn't exactly a big story.

But Greg's right -- this doesn't have to be about Democrats denouncing GOP nonsense, it can be nothing more than Democrats denouncing fear and intolerance, while touting the principles that makes America great.

To my mind, there are different expectations for different officials. Every time the White House weighs in on a local matter, it seems to bite the West Wing in the ass, so if the president and his spokespersons want to take a pass on commenting, that's hardly outrageous. But in the case of Schumer and Weiner, this is a local story, of growing significance to their own constituents. Why not have the courage to take a stance similar to the one Bloomberg took yesterday?

Some Dems have done the right thing here. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who represents Manhattan, has defended the Cordoba House project and condemned the GOP bigotry. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who has nothing to do with this story directly, was asked about it today, and said the right thing: "The sooner we separate the peaceful teaching of Islam from the behavior of terrorists, the better for all of us."

At this point, I wouldn't say the Gingrich/Palin crowd is winning the debate -- on the contrary, I think they're humiliating themselves -- but the discussion would be more constructive if leading Democrats lent their voice to a defense of our principles. Their silence make the bigots' voices seem louder, while making the Dems appear cowardly.

Steve Benen 3:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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The only reason Republicans are making such a noise about this mosque flap is because they think they can make political hay out of it, and, given the public mood over immigration, Afghanistan and Iraq, Ned fears they are right. It is pure political opportunism, but it might pay off.

Posted by: ned pepper on August 4, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: FriscoSF on August 4, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Benen: But in the case of Schumer and Weiner, this is a local story, of growing significance to their own constituents.

My understanding is that the developers have cleared government hurdles and have a go-ahead to proceed. If there is no opposition, other than some publicity-seeking idiots who really can't do anything significant, why would Shumer or Weiner want to comment?

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Nadler, who represents the people involved, supports it as does the Governor and Mayor. Weiner and Schumer are no more personally or professionally involved than any other random NY state resident, so they have nothing to say about this, and this is a problem? What is this bullshit that absolutely everybody HAS to have an opinion about absolutely everything, and they HAVE to make it public? Wingnuts from everywhere but NY, butting their unwanted opinions into NYC business is what's behind this tempest in a teapot in the first place.

Posted by: BillFromPA on August 4, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

At this point, I wouldn't say the Gingrich/Palin crowd is winning the debate...

Problem is, if you believe the polling on the issue, they ARE winning the debate, and handily.

Posted by: BrendanInBoston on August 4, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

@frisco

Once again, as every other time you hit the "post" button at this blog, you show your complete ignorance of fact and total vacuity of political acumen.

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

As to Schumer and Weiner, there's very little upside -- principled statesmanship is not exactly a vote-getter -- but there's significant downside, both among the stupids (among whom there are very many in New York State) and in parts of the Jewish community. Lierberman has already done the Full Pander, as you may have noticed. Bloomberg can afford to brush it off, and Nadler isn't running for anything but his current office.

Posted by: bleh on August 4, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

If there is no opposition, other than some publicity-seeking idiots who really can't do anything significant, why would Shumer or Weiner want to comment?

I would imagine it would be useful for their constituents to know where they stood on the issue of free expression of religion.

Posted by: Christopher on August 4, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats don't "appear cowardly." They are cowardly, but this is hardly news.

Posted by: H. C. Ricks on August 4, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

At this point, I wouldn't say the Gingrich/Palin crowd is winning the debate

Of course you wouldn't.

But they are winning this, and practically every other, debate because, as you have definitively shown, the other side has failed to show up.

Again. *sigh*.

I don't know which one is worse, the not showing up or the ostrich like "I wouldn't say [they're]winning the debate" blinders.

Posted by: Observer on August 4, 2010 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

brendan: Problem is, if you believe the polling on the issue, they ARE winning the debate, and handily.

There is NO debate. Those who were elected to make a decision on this issue voted unanimously, and rightly so, for the project to proceed.

Perhaps next we should poll whether or not people believe that the sun revolves around the earth or not. Then we could have a debate and bloggers could write that Obama should have a press conference and tell us what he believes.

Puh-leeze!

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Christopher: I would imagine it would be useful for their constituents to know where they stood on the issue of free expression of religion.

Do you have any reason to question their support for the first amendment? Other than the fact that they've closed their windows rather than listen to the screechy noise made by a bunch of idiots?

Benen, Sargent, most of the MSM are doing a great job of taking the bait layed out by these xenophobic fools. And you're playing right along as well.

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

cr,

First, I agree with you that there should be no debate on this, and at a very limited level, you are right that the actual governing on the issue is closed, with the right decision being reached.

But to say there is no debate, when the issue is being discussed on the internet (try doing a search for "mosque" over at Huffington Post), television, and in the real world is just wrong.

As Observer noted, this is another example of the cacophony of the right shaping beliefs, with no response from the left. Allowing bigotry and stupidity to go unchallenged is almost never the right move, and it happens all too often in our current political culture.

All I'm saying is, get loud. And that goes for elected officials and us lowly civilians.

Posted by: BrendanInBoston on August 4, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Bloomberg Defends Religious Freedom, Supports Group's Right To Build Islamic Center Near Ground Zero

But many national and New York politicians and the have come out in recent weeks against plans for the mosque, saying it disrespects the memory of Sept. 11 victims. This, even though the building is blocks from ground zero.

So misguided. It implies that Islam is responsible for 9/11 and, further, that our enemy is Islam, not the terrorists.

homer www.altara.blogspot.com

Posted by: altara on August 4, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Just for the record, Helen Thomas' seat went to the AP, and the AP's old seat went to Fox. This is not a White House decision. Press seating in the briefing room is determined by the White House Correspondents Association. Get a grip already.

Posted by: sam on August 4, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

What H.C. Ricks said. It's typical of Washington to see everything in terms of how it's "perceived." But sometimes the wheelbarrow is just red. The problem isn't that the Dems "appear" cowardly. It's that they're cowards.

Posted by: somethingblue on August 4, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

brendan: Allowing bigotry and stupidity to go unchallenged is almost never the right move

I know that calling a bigot a bigot makes you feel better. But it doesn't accomplish shit. Spend the same time teaching some kid why they shouldn't be a bigot; it'll pay off one hundred percent better.

Now, if some bigot ACTS on their bigotry, then I'll be right beside you to beat the crap out of them. But, until then, let the fools blow.

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Dems don't "appear " cowardly-- They ARE cowardly. It is a big reason why Republicans can get away with taking bonkers policy positions. Dems and BHO have a significant majority in both houses and are responsible for the final result of all legislation passed and not passed. . Make recess appointments. Break the filibuster with a majority vote. Repubs will do it the first time they need to.

Dems look inept because the act inept when it comes to exercising political power. To many voters, if they can't handle blowhard domestic opposition, how will they handle foreign opposition? The logic may not really transfer, the emotion does.

Posted by: gdb on August 4, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

cr: Spend the same time teaching some kid why they shouldn't be a bigot; it'll pay off one hundred percent better...But, until then, let the fools blow.

Let the fools blow? Sure, but they're not blowing in a vacuum (if that's even possible). Who do you think is hearing the foolish arguments against the Cordoba Center? It's those kids you're talking about, or more realistically, adults who have a vague sense that there's something wrong with a mosque at the WTC site, but don't have the time, interest, or education to get how unamerican those arguments are. How is it a good idea to allow those who argue for unconstitutional restrictions on free expression of religion go unchallenged?

Just because they're not going to win this one, doesn't mean they won't win the next one. (It goes like this: some conservative NYer is upset by the mosque being built, so he gets some cash together and runs for some local government position where he can stop the next "attack on America" from happening. So the next vote is 8-1. Maybe the next one is 6-3. Look what happened when conservatives took over local school boards in Texas, Kansas, etc.) The debate should always be joined.

Posted by: BrendanInBoston on August 4, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent points here. I was wondering why thre aren't at least some Republicans who wish to decline to get into this issue. "Its a land use issue in New York City, I'm not sure why I, as a Senator from _________, would want to get involved." That attitude alone would help diffuse some of the nonsense from the right. The way they keep calling it the "9/11 Isalmic Center" like they are building on some sort of holy national monument. Isn't like they are proposing to tear down the Old North Church and build this thing. But for New Yorkers, especially a guy like Weiner who wants to be mayor, they have no excuse to sit on their hands.

Posted by: do on August 4, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Do you have any reason to question their support for the first amendment?

I don't trust Chuck Schumer on anything, certainly not civil liberties. He's a good politician to have on your side, but he has his own agenda.

Posted by: Christopher on August 4, 2010 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Weiner and Schumer are no more personally or professionally involved than any other random NY state resident, so they have nothing to say about this,[...] -- Bill from PA, @15:51

I might cede you Weiner; he's a Representative and it's not his district. But Schumer is a Senator; he is supposed to represent all of the NY State, not just a single district in it. Whih reminds me... Has anyone asked Senator Gillibrand her opinion on the subject, or is it only Jews that are being questioned?

Posted by: exlibra on August 4, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

exlibra: or is it only Jews that are being questioned?

Good point.

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for being critical of Democrats who deserve criticism. It's what gives your writing credibility.

Posted by: tomb on August 4, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

brendan: Who do you think is hearing the foolish arguments against the Cordoba Center? It's those kids you're talking about, or more realistically, adults who have a vague sense that there's something wrong with a mosque at the WTC site, but don't have the time, interest, or education to get how unamerican those arguments are.

And if we spent our time building strong liberal institutions and organizations and teaching people right from wrong, instead of wasting time getting into "he said / she saids" every time some fool says something foolish, those kids and those folks would know what to think about this.

As it is, arguments between liberals and the crazies just become so much more noise and people still don't know what to think.

Case in point: I've wasted enough time on this, need to get ready for school board meeting.

Posted by: cr on August 4, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

["Weiner and Schumer are no more personally or professionally involved than any other random NY state resident, so they have nothing to say about this, and this is a problem?"]

Schumer is a Senator. He represents the whole state on Capitol Hill. That makes his opinions important. Likewise for Gillibrand.

Weiner is a candidate for NYC mayor. He hopes to lead the city in which this nontroversy is taking place, which, again, makes his opinions important.

Is it really such a foreign idea to you that we should care about politicians' stances on the issues of the day? Not to mention, people who wish to lead us should have the courage to *actually lead*.

Posted by: Shade Tail on August 4, 2010 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

["And if we spent our time building strong liberal institutions and organizations and teaching people right from wrong, instead of wasting time getting into "he said / she saids" every time some fool says something foolish, those kids and those folks would know what to think about this."]

Right, because everyone will automatically know that they should listen to the people and viewpoints that you personally approve of. There will certainly be no need to debunk opposing ideas.

*eyeroll*

Posted by: Shade Tail on August 4, 2010 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Schumer and Weimer are keeping their mouths shut because they're allowing Repubicans enough rope that they'll hang their own selves on this issue.

Posted by: pol on August 4, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't we start calling it a "Muslim Free Zone?"

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on August 4, 2010 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

. . . if leading Democrats lent their voice to a defense of our principles.

Yes, and if leading Democrats were capable of raising their voice in defense of our principles, we would have decent health care, with a public option at least, instead of a watered-down compromise. And we would have a decent energy bill, with cap and trade. And the Democrats wouldn't be in danger of losing one or both of their congressional majorities this fall. And John Kerry may well have won the election in 2004. And Gore in 2000.

Speaking out loudly and publicly in defense of 'our principles' isn't something Democrats are particularly good at.

Posted by: David Bailey on August 4, 2010 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

A correspondent from one of the networks took a video camera out on the street to show you have to go down two blocks from ground zero and then make a 90 degree right turn and go down another half a block to get to the proposed construction site.

The idea that this is a finger in the eye, let alone a knife to the heart, of ground zero is LAUGHABLE.

Posted by: Joe Friday on August 4, 2010 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Friday, @18:53,

It is, too, a finger in the eye (that's why they can't read a map any longer) and it's also a stab to the heart, through the back. In short, it's New Auschwitz:
http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/08/the_new_gop_anti-mosque_talking_point_ground_zero.php?ref=fpb

Posted by: exlibra on August 4, 2010 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that politicians actually have principles that they adhere to is preposterous. Elected and appointed officials of both parties do their best to stay in power and to exercise that power in ways that suit them.

The next thing we might expect to hear is that we should pay attention to party platforms or the promises of candidates for office.

Get real.

Posted by: Fredric Williams on August 4, 2010 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Anthony Weiner can't bring himself to stand up for their right to worship two blocks from Ground Zero. The guy he wants to replace, Michael Bloomberg, had the guts to do this very eloquently yesterday. Where's Weiner?

As much as I like Anthony Weiner, the answer should be obvious. His name is WEINER, for chrissake. He has a LOT more Jewish constituents who are sympathetic to Israel than he has Muslim constituents. The same thing applies to Chuck Shumer. They probably agree with Bloomberg, but don't have the courage to come out and say it. They don't want to start a war with AIPAC and the ADF.

Posted by: Yellow105 on August 5, 2010 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

For Weiner or Schumer to come out in favor of the American ideals of religious liberty would put them seriously at odds with the Israel Uber Alles crowd who forms their "base." To expect either to be other than members of the tribe in good standing is to believe the sun will rise in the west tomorrow.

Posted by: TCinLA on August 5, 2010 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Although it would be nice if Rep. Weiner openly stated his support for the Cordoba Center, he doesn't really need to. You may not already know that he married an American Muslim woman last month. Her name is Huma Abedin and she is a personal aide to Hillary Clinton. An American Jew marrying an American Muslim speaks volumes to me.

Posted by: Zemer on August 5, 2010 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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