08/16/2010 09:37 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Principle and Politics Meet at the Mosque

Nothing is more indicative of our current political climate than the reaction to President Obama's speech regarding the proposed mosque in New York City near (not at) Ground Zero (and really a community center, not a mosque). The Obama speech, which should have been considered a no-brainer since he merely reiterated the Constitutional mandate of freedom of religion, has been criticized not only by opponents of the center, but by members of his own party. According to the Washington Post: fellow Democrats "would have preferred that he not embroil himself***"; "It's going to play poorly for many Democrats and will be used as a political club by those Republicans willing to exploit it': and "could further alienate swing voters".

Here is the President of the United States speaking out on one of our most cherished values and principles, and the Republicans are rubbing their hands together figuring out how they can use it against him at election time, and the Democrats, at the same time, are fearing that they will do so. He had better stay away from apple pie and motherhood, because some people don't like apple pie and some hate their mothers and praising them could give an opening to the Republicans.

This discussion is not about the mosque. There are understandable reasons for opposition, but not for prohibition. It can be persuaded but not compelled to move elsewhere. I have discussed this in a previous post: But my criticism is about this overwhelming impulse to be elected or re-elected to the detriment of all else in the public interest. The Republicans have voted against the extension of unemployment benefits, aid to states to retain teachers, police officers and firefighters and aid to injured first responders on 9/11 (warranting the justifiable rant by Rep. Anthony Weiner). They have fought efforts to address the recession and the economic crisis, health care, regulation of banks and Wall Street, climate change, reliance on foreign oil, reduction of tax cuts for the very wealthy and endless other proposals of the Obama administration to address the crises facing the country.

I could respect their opposition tactic if they had some worthwhile plan to offer instead. They do have a plan, but it is not a worthwhile one. They wish to oppose any proposal that might make this administration look successful. They want the Democrats to look bad and lose and the Republicans to win, and the public plays little role in that equation or that goal. Do the Republicans truly believe that continuing the Bush tax cuts and aiding 2% of the population is really good for the country, or rather does it serve to provide a ready and continuing source of financial contributions to benefit their candidacies? How they can talk about retaining the cuts and reducing the deficit in the same breath is a miracle to behold!

Now they see the controversy over the New York Muslim center as another wedge (like Mrs. Obama's trip to Spain). Until both parties recognize that getting elected or re-elected is not their most important function, the nation will continue to crumble. Members of both parties are constantly quoting our Forefathers and their great debates on matters of principle. Rather than the esteemed and thoughtful Congress they envisioned as young adults, I fear they would find the kindergarten they experienced as children. Stop being mean little selfish kids. Wipe your noses and save the country!