Quotes of the day

When President Barack Obama turned the battle over a planned New York Islamic center into a national debate over religious freedom, he unwittingly allied himself and his party with an ill-planned, long-shot development project described by one of its most prominent allies as “amateur hour.”

The efforts to launch the $100 million Cordoba House (now dubbed Park51) two blocks north of the World Trade Center site have been an uphill battle from the start, and not just because of controversy. And even as the “Ground Zero Mosque” emerges as a hotly debated national symbol, New York government officials and real estate insiders are privately questioning whether the project has much chance of coming to fruition

“They could have obviously done a lot better in explaining who they are if they really wanted to get approval,” said publicist Ken Sunshine, a veteran of New York’s development wars. “There’s a real question as to whether there’s money behind this.”

As Dean explained, the purpose of the Ground Zero mosque — which is, in essence, to promote cross-cultural reconciliation — became irrevocably compromised once the controversy began bubbling around the project. This is no fault of the planners behind the Cordoba House, Dean acknowledged. But that didn’t nullify the argument that they would be better served to sit down with city and state officials to find an alternate site less objectionable the critics…

“I’ve seen a lot of the comments about this and a lot of it is silly that I’m agreeing with Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich,” Dean said in response to the criticism. “That’s just silly. I don’t believe in race baiting…”

“The battle lines have been drawn so firmly on every issue that when the right says ‘X’ the left has to take the opposite position,” he added. “This seems like one issue where if you have a congregation that wants to make things work and want to bring America back together again then why don’t you do that.”

But the mosque fiasco hasn’t only exposed the pretensions of the GOP. It’s exposed the pretensions of the Democrats as well. In important ways, it has revealed that the Obama administration, too, is a false dawn. After all, what did Obama promise liberals when he ran against Hillary Clinton? He promised that if he won, Democrats would no longer consult polls to decide what they believed. That’s what made Obama’s 2002 Iraq War speech so significant: when Washington Democrats were ducking for cover, taking positions that they manifestly did not believe, he did what he thought was right…

So let’s stop sneering when Dick Morris comes on TV. The behavior of today’s Democratic pols must have made him proud. And it’s time for New Yorkers to stop talking haughtily about the prejudices of flyover country. According to Fox, 30 percent of Americans support building the mosque near Ground Zero. In New York City, according to Marist, it’s 34 percent. That, evidently, is the margin of blue state decency. Turns out that when push comes to shove, folks in the Big Apple are about as concerned about the rights of Muslims as folks in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Who says we’re a nation divided, that we can’t find common ground? Almost a decade later, we’ve finally done it: The memory of September 11 has brought us together again.

Indeed, listening to all of this talk about “crowd” politics from liberals these days, you get the distinct impression that there are a lot of 20-something liberal bloggers, MSNBC talk-show hosts, and newspaper editorial writers who honestly believe that they are not only better than the American public but that they are in fact the duly anointed conscience of this, our embarrassingly backward and bigoted nation. They must stand ever vigilant, lest America’s deep reservoirs of hatred and bigotry burst their levees and spill out through the sluices of the Republican Party.

How does this river of hate manifest itself? The supposedly anti-Muslim 70 percent of Americans who don’t like the idea of building the Cordoba House near Ground Zero mostly also believe the owners have the right to do it if they can’t be persuaded otherwise. Wow, that’s some crackdown on Muslims.

In any decent society, tolerance must work both ways. If the majority is expected to show respect for a minority, the minority must also show some tolerance for the values of the majority.

The mosque should be built precisely because we don’t like the idea very much. We don’t need constitutional protections to be agreeable, after all.

This point surpasses even all the obvious reasons for allowing the mosque, principally that there’s no law against it. Precluding any such law, we let people worship when and where they please. That it hurts some people’s feelings is, well, irrelevant in a nation of laws. And, really, don’t we want to keep it that way?