Barack Obama’s clarification of his “let me be clear” statement on the Ground Zero mosque (and subsequent clarification of his clarification) is reminiscent of his 2008 “let me be clear” statement on Jerusalem — when he told 7,000 people at AIPAC that the city “must remain undivided” and then repeatedly clarified his “poor phrasing,” finally endorsing a divided Jerusalem while claiming he had not backtracked from his initial statement.
Students of foreign policy may be bemused and somewhat alarmed to see this happening again. In both cases, Obama’s statements were prepared remarks on an important issue with foreign-policy implications, followed by retreats in the face of criticism, followed by denials that they were retreats, amid widespread recognition that they were, in fact, retreats. It was not an attractive quality in a candidate, and it is a dangerous one in a president.
Sarah Palin noted on her Facebook page that we “all know they have the right to do it [build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people], but should they?” She suggested the president endorse the New York governor’s offer of assistance for finding an alternative location. The New York Sun editorialized that she had made a practical proposal while speaking more forthrightly than the famously eloquent president, raising this question:
How did one of the most intellectual presidents in history, a constitutional law professor with a government-provided staff of legal experts and policy geniuses and an ability, rarely if ever matched, to speak in lofty tones, manage to get himself in a position where he will end up following the lead of an ex-governor who has been constantly set down by the left as but a one-time beauty queen without brains and who has been watching the whole fracas from a lake-side camp at Alaska?
Possibly one of them was overrated and the other underrated back in 2008, particularly in light of the respective offices for which they were running. It may have had something to do with a media organizing itself to push a misleading narrative. I want to go on record as supporting the constitutional right to build the Ground Zero mosque while clarifying that I do not necessarily mean it is a wise use of rights. Is there an award for courageous blogging?