Obama Defends Social Security And Freedom Of Religion-- Republicans Really Have The Country Off Balance If This Is The Battleground
Chris Van Hollen is the current chairman of the DCCC, although he's been making way for the next-- and much worse-- selection, Rahm Emanuel disciple and corporate shill, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The two of them decided, along with Steny Hoyer, to give John Boehner a pass on reelection. The DCCC will not go after him, will not try to defeat him and have been extremely hostile to Justin Coussoule's grassroots campaign which is being supported by the local Democratic Party in Ohio, the party organizations in Butler, Montgomery, Preble, Darke, Miami and Mercer counties and by all the Democratic constituency groups, from the AFL-CIO to VetPAC, the Veterans' Alliance for Security and Democracy. So when Boehner stumbles into a rank against Social Security or Medicare or says something that betrays his allegiance to his Wall Street masters, Van Hollen or Wasserman Schultz give us some weak, mealy-mouthed statement about what a bad fellow he is; naughty, naughty-- but you will never, ever under any circumstances hear them tie their fake outrage to the election in OH-08.
"Incredibly, the Republican Leader John Boehner disparagingly referred to those who teach our children, protect our homes, and keep our streets safe as ‘special interests.’ Washington Republicans are opposed to supporting our teachers, firefighters, and policemen at home in order to protect corporate tax loopholes that promote the export of American jobs."
That was Van Hollen. He's in charge of electing Democrats to the House. Anyone think that might have been a good moment to mention Justin Coussoule and talk about why he would make such a much better representative for folks living in southwestern Ohio? I mean, it's that his effin' job? Or is it only to reelect Blue Dogs who vote with Boehner to take away Choice from women or vote with Boehner to make gays second class citizens or vote with Boehner against healthcare reform or vote with Boehner against Wall Street regulations? That's the Van Hollen/Wasserman Schultz DCCC strategy for 2010. And when it proves catastrophic and the Democrats lose dozens of seats, each will move up in the hierarchy as a reward for a job well done-- well done from a certain perspective.
So I've been pretty happy, relatively, with the White House lately. Like those of us at Blue America and like Ed Schultz and MSNBC, the White House has come to realize that criticizing Boehner is more meaningful when it's tied to his own district than when it's tied to districts in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Tennessee. This is how Jared Bernstein, Vice President Biden's chief economic advisor, framed his criticism of Boehner's toxic outburst a couple of days ago:
“Though we’re sure he didn’t know it, the Congressman is advocating to kill the expansion of the Butler County Community Health Center and bring some of the 25 highway projects across the district to a grinding halt."
Maybe he should take over the DCCC from Van Hollen instead of Rahm-in-a-dress (D-FL). And bashing Boehner effectively isn't the only thing the White House has done right since the disastrous Gibbs incident this week. (As Robert Kuttner so well put it for the Boston Globe yesterday, Gibbs and the rest of Obama's inner circle just do not understand that the blow up is not about ideological purity-- it’s about Obama bungling a Roosevelt moment by failing to either deliver a recovery or demonstrate to regular people that he is trying his damnedest over Republican obstructionism. If he were doing that, all the lefty criticism over the particulars would fade. We're all glad he's promised to not privatize Social Security-- the Ryan roadmap (yes, the same Ryan he appointed to the Cat Food Commission), which has been the conservative goal for exactly 75 years). But he' still clinging to the Cat Food Commission, still not saying he won't back raising rates on normal working people or that he will raise the absurd FICA cap that guarantees the richest 100 families in America will never pay their fair share; still not promising he won't cut benefits or limit the cost of living adjustment (COLA, another Republican demand); still not promising not to go along with Boehner and Ryan when they insist the retirement age be lifted high enough so that millions of people die before ever getting back any of the money they invested in Social Security... Oops, this was supposed to be about something good the White House did and I got a little carried away. Let me start again. Obama had to have known the vicious bigots who control the GOP and Tea Party base would go insane over his defense of Freedom of Religion, something they hate and are eager to abolish. Here's what he had to say at the Ramadan dinner he hosted at the White House Friday:
Here at the White House, we have a tradition of hosting iftars that goes back several years, just as we host Christmas parties and seders and Diwali celebrations. And these events celebrate the role of faith in the lives of the American people. They remind us of the basic truth that we are all children of God, and we all draw strength and a sense of purpose from our beliefs.
These events are also an affirmation of who we are as Americans. Our Founders understood that the best way to honor the place of faith in the lives of our people was to protect their freedom to practice religion. In the Virginia Act of Establishing Religion Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.” The First Amendment of our Constitution established the freedom of religion as the law of the land. And that right has been upheld ever since.
Indeed, over the course of our history, religion has flourished within our borders precisely because Americans have had the right to worship as they choose-- including the right to believe in no religion at all. And it is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders that America remains deeply religious-- a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in stark contrast to the religious conflict that persists elsewhere around the globe.
Now, that's not to say that religion is without controversy. Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities-- particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.
But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. (Applause.) And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who led the response to that attack-- from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today. And let us also remember who we’re fighting against, and what we’re fighting for. Our enemies respect no religious freedom. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam-- it’s a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders-- they’re terrorists who murder innocent men and women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion-- and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.
So that's who we’re fighting against. And the reason that we will win this fight is not simply the strength of our arms-- it is the strength of our values. The democracy that we uphold. The freedoms that we cherish. The laws that we apply without regard to race, or religion, or wealth, or status. Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect towards those who are different from us-- and that way of life, that quintessentially American creed, stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.
In my inaugural address I said that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus-- and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and every culture, drawn from every end of this Earth. And that diversity can bring difficult debates. This is not unique to our time. Past eras have seen controversies about the construction of synagogues or Catholic churches. But time and again, the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues, and stay true to our core values, and emerge stronger for it. So it must be-- and will be-- today.
And tonight, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan-- making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.
Like so many other immigrants, generations of Muslims came to forge their future here. They became farmers and merchants, worked in mills and factories. They helped lay the railroads. They helped to build America. They founded the first Islamic center in New York City in the 1890s. They built America’s first mosque on the prairie of North Dakota. And perhaps the oldest surviving mosque in America-- still in use today-- is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Today, our nation is strengthened by millions of Muslim Americans. They excel in every walk of life. Muslim American communities-- including mosques in all 50 states-- also serve their neighbors. Muslim Americans protect our communities as police officers and firefighters and first responders. Muslim American clerics have spoken out against terror and extremism, reaffirming that Islam teaches that one must save human life, not take it. And Muslim Americans serve with honor in our military. At next week’s iftar at the Pentagon, tribute will be paid to three soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq and now rest among the heroes of Arlington National Cemetery.
These Muslim Americans died for the security that we depend on, and the freedoms that we cherish. They are part of an unbroken line of Americans that stretches back to our founding; Americans of all faiths who have served and sacrificed to extend the promise of America to new generations, and to ensure that what is exceptional about America is protected-- our commitment to stay true to our core values, and our ability slowly but surely to perfect our union.
For in the end, we remain “one nation, under God, indivisible.” And we can only achieve “liberty and justice for all” if we live by that one rule at the heart of every great religion, including Islam--- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
This was the Obama I voted for in 2008, not the one who appointed Paul Ryan to the Cat Food Commission. Anyone know if Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillbrand have chimed in on the Freedom of Religion thing yet? The local congressman, Jerry Nadler, has put out a statement, one that makes perfect sense-- and is therefore sure to engage Republicans and other hatemongers: "As the Member of Congress who represents Lower Manhattan and Ground Zero, I commend President Obama’s statement on the Cordoba House and his support of our First Amendment rights of freedom of religion and separation of church and state. As I previously stated, government has no business deciding whether there should or should not be a Muslim house of worship near Ground Zero. The United States was founded on the principle of religious liberty and tolerance, and it is equally important 234 years later that we uphold this principle. Hate should have no place in America."
UPDATE: Predictably, Boehner Disagrees WithThat Whole Freedom Of Religion Thingie
Obama, sensibly in some eyes and shabbily in others, explained that defending the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near ground zero in Lower Manhattan, he was “not commenting on the wisdom” of that project, but rather trying to uphold the broader principle that government should treat “everyone equal, regardless” of religion. That's not good enough for the GOP, eager to stir up some tension and hatred-- par for the course. Speaking of which, Boehner favors "Freedom of Religion" in principle; it's just when it comes to religions he hates or can demagogue that he feels troubled, He and a couple of other right wing haters, Newt Gingrich and Peter King, jumped out of their clown car and started screaming today in the hope that Islamaphobes would go on the warpath. Boehner: "The decision to build this mosque so close to the site of ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it." Suggestion: help Blue America and Justin Coussoule beat Boehner in November. This guy belongs in a retirement home where he can golf away the days and drink away the nights without screwing the rest of us up.