Skip to main content

Sarah Palin, the Ground Zero mosque and the American presidency

More than most American leaders who might run for president someday, Sarah Palin has made a career of dividing "us" and "them." Most famously, she spent parts of the 2008 dismissing her opponents and their allies as residing somewhere outside the "real America" -- and while she apologized for it, her constant grievance-mongering suggests she sees the world, and this country, mostly in terms of its divisions.

Don't get me wrong: Other leaders can be "divisive." Palin is different: The divisions animate her.

I mention all of this because of a recent posting to her Facebook page, which features this title: "An Intolerable Mistake on Hallowed Ground." She is, of course, talking about the proposed mosque to be located 600 feet or so from Ground Zero in New York.

I agree with the sister of one of the 9/11 victims (and a New York resident) who said: “This is a place which is 600 feet from where almost 3,000 people were torn to pieces by Islamic extremists. I think that it is incredibly insensitive and audacious really for them to build a mosque, not only on that site, but to do it specifically so that they could be in proximity to where that atrocity happened.”

Palin cites a specific person associated with the proposed mosque whose statements about 9/11, she judges, are insufficiently sympathetic to the victims. But her concerns aren't quite so nuanced or specific -- witness this Tweet which asked all "peace-seeking Muslims" to avoid the provocation.

But it wasn't "peace-seeking Muslims" who flew the planes into the World Trade Center. It was 19 extremists -- people whose ideology unfortunately has broader support than we'd like, but whose views do not represent the vast majority of American Muslims. The truth is that more Muslims died on 9/11 as victims of the attack than as the aggressors. By implicitly lumping them in with criminals and vile murderers, Sarah Palin is suggesting that American Muslims cannot be full citizens of this country -- that they should have the "decency" to accept a "lesser-than" status that denies them the right to practice their religion as fully as their Christian neighbors.

American Muslims, in this view, aren't part of the community of Americans who mourned 9/11 -- they are more closely related to and allied with the transgressors. Not to put too fine a point on it: This isn't dissimilar from the "blood libel" that anti-Semites use to smear all Jews as killers of Jesus Christ. All bear a measure of guilt, regardless of their actions.

This is why Sarah Palin should never be our president. She simply cannot be the president of all Americans. Maybe few presidents ever are -- but they at least have the good sense to attempt it. Even George W. Bush recognized his duty in this regard.

Palin's statements on the mosque issue also point to another reason she should never be president: She cannot distinguish America's friends from its enemies. Her divisiveness would make her a poor president; her inability to make the right kinds of distinctions would make her a dangerous one.

UPDATE: Via Conor Friedersdorf's Twitter feed, this is simply ugly and evil.


Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…