Yesterday, in the discussion thread of my diary, "Obama, man of anti-principle, strikes again--gives assist to mosque-haters and al Qaeda ", there was a vigorous debate about whether Obama had done the right thing in making his second statement about the Manhattan mosque. There was even a vigorous debate about whether he had said anything different in the second statement. There were very articulate arguments on both sides.
But then, at the end of the day came Harry Reid's announcement that he was joining Sharon Angle on the side of the haters, and Obama's leadership failure immediately became clear. Now, via wobbly's quick hit, we read that the mosque's proponents may be about to withdraw, in a vain attempt to appease the haters.
Newt Gingrich, Osama bin Laden and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are jumping for joy.
Obama's leadership failure has empowered them above all others.
One could argue endlessly about the rightness of Obama's position as a lecturer in constitutional law. He certainly would have made a perfectly adequate guest for a segment on an MSNBC program. But leadership is not just about what you do or say in an abstract, classroom-correct sort of way. It's about what you communicate to inspire the soul. Or to dispirit it.
Somehow, in the abstract, Obama realized perfectly well that this was all about us as Americans. But he utterly failed to get that very same message in his own gut.
At Media Matters, Joe Strupp reported on how two top former military men--one also Colin Powell's former top aid when he was Secretary of State--saw this as a disaster for us:
A retired general and a former Bush Administration official harshly criticized efforts to block the building of a mosque in lower Manhattan, contending such a position is unconstitutional and could harm U.S. relations overseas.
Major General Paul Eaton, a retired Army commander who oversaw the training of Iraqi troops following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, both slammed right-wing opposition to the Mosque.
"What we are seeing out of the Republican Party here is just appalling," Eaton told me Monday. "From a constitutional perspective, from a common sense perspective and from a military perspective."
Both men also pointed to a detrimental impact such opposition can have on U.S. relations overseas with Islamic countries, and even put U.S. military men and women at risk.
"It is like offering your opponent two or three whips with which to beat you," said Wilkerson. "The impact on our military people would be injurious if we say 'no.' It would put another instrument in the hands of those who want to exploit the fear that Americans are at war with Islam and not the radical elements within it."
Eaton echoed that view, noting: "It is a slap in the face to a great many people we wish to have as allies. We are trying to make allies of our colleagues in Iraq and Afghanistan and this is not helpful."
He also added, "This is unhelpful to the American fighting men and women and counter to the image we wish to portray in Afghanistan and Iraq."
It's now clear that we're looking at a failed presidency. Regardless of whatever else happens, even if he wins re-relection, Obama has utterly squandered the promise he held out for us all. He empowers the haters and evildoers of the world by only opposing them academically, while giving way to them in every practical sense.
And the longer we refuse to see this obvious fact, the more complicit we are in betraying his promise as well.