The September Presser, Synopsized
3:08 PM, Sep 10, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
In news of other things that turned out to be "hard" after Obama had assured us they'd be a breeze, a reporter asked why the civilian trial of KSM is stalled and why Guantanamo Bay is not closed, as the president had promised it would be.
Obama conceded his pledge was broken: "We have succeeded on delivering on a lot of campaign promises we've made. One where we've fallen short is Guantanamo."
He went on to blame his inability to close the facility on the "politics" of it, forgetting that the actual problem is the very real logistics of moving a bunch of dangerous criminals whom no one wants to take (including their home countries)— logistics which Obama blithely dismissed back when he was promising he'd have Gitmo closed by a year and a half ago.
As to those civilian trials of 9/11 conspirators near the very land on which they left a dusty scar and untold open psychic wounds, it's still very important than we have them in order to show the world our best face and our tough but fair transcendant values. Also, the hallmark of our justice system: guaranteed conviction.
There was, of course, a question about rising tensions in America about Islam. Reporters were careful not to mention the name of the crazy Koran-burning preacher they've spent the last two weeks talking about incessantly, finally realizing that perhaps the elevation of such a nut for the purpose of feeding the redneck Islamaphobia narrative had become a little more dangerous than they'd anticipated in that it ticked off conservatives, who yell at political meetings when they're offended, far less than it ticked off Muslim extremists who blow people up when they're offended.
Obama repeatedly questioned the wisdom of the "individual's" decision to burn Korans, invoking the safety of the troops as reason to cease and desist. There was some bipartisan agreement in the Twitter world that this was an insufficient and creepy justification for the President of the United States to ask private citizens not to engage in acts of free expression.
When it came to both the Islamaphobia and the Ground Zero Mosque questions, Obama's answers were far more skillfull than his hemming and hawing about health care. There were flashes of his virtually forgotten ability to uplift in a speech as he talked about respecting our Muslim neighbors as part of "us" as an American whole, honoring their service as part of the armed forces in Afghanistan, and painting the picture of American Muslims as normal folks who worry about jobs and their kids and their bills.
What started as a misidentification of the unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence went on to become a strong and emotional ending for the press conference, even if you disagree with it and wonder why he never offers any reassurance of a crazy pastor's right to free speech while questioning its wisdom (presumably just as sacred as the free practice of religion) while waxing poetic about the mosque.
And—stop the presses!—he praised President Bush at the beginning of one answer, saying, "One of the things I most admired about President Bush was, after 9/11, him being crystal clear about that we were not at war with Islam. We were at war with terrorist who pervert the faith of Islam."
But there was one people cruelly excluded from Obama's pluralism today. He declared us "one nation, under God" even if we "call that God by different names," not for an instant pausing to acknowledge our atheist brothers and sisters, who only refer to the man upstairs as "partially cloudy and 78 percent nitrogen."
For all his eloquence, Obama couldn't find his way out of this one: "Seriously, Mr. President, how come you won't just call the $50 billion stimulus a stimulus?" At which point, the president defended the first stimulus with this bit of eloquence: "It worked; it just hasn't done what we need it to do," said Obama.
He then declared it perfectly acceptable to use the verb form of "stimulus," just not the noun:
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