In fact, he denied the propriety of asking such a question. It would have been one thing—a more defensible thing—if Bloomberg had argued that there was little that could be done legally to stop the mosque and that New Yorkers should therefore make the best of a bad situation. But that was not his message. Instead, Bloomberg came to the Statue of Liberty not simply to accept the mosque, but to praise it: “Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation—and in fact, their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. By doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our City even closer together. . . . I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire City.”
But have the real, existing organizers of the mosque shown much sensitivity to other New Yorkers? The answer is no—but if you’re a contemporary liberal, you don’t get into the actual, existing facts in order to make a judgment. You govern on the basis of what the organizers’ “plan” nominally “envisions,” you appeal to a hope and expectation that even Bloomberg can’t really believe in. But it allows him to avoid coming to grips with what is really happening and what lies behind the popular sentiment of disgust, even revulsion.