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Aug 07 2010

Punting the Pundits

Fareed Zakaria: Build the Ground Zero Mosque

I believe we should promote Muslim moderates right here in America. And why I’m returning an award to the ADL.

Ever since 9/11, liberals and conservatives have agreed that the lasting solution to the problem of Islamic terror is to prevail in the battle of ideas and to discredit radical Islam, the ideology that motivates young men to kill and be killed. Victory in the war on terror will be won when a moderate, mainstream version of Islam-one that is compatible with modernity-fully triumphs over the world view of Osama bin Laden.

As the conservative Middle Eastern expert Daniel Pipes put it, “The U.S. role [in this struggle] is less to offer its own views than to help those Muslims with compatible views, especially on such issues as relations with non-Muslims, modernization, and the rights of women and minorities.” To that end, early in its tenure the Bush administration began a serious effort to seek out and support moderate Islam. Since then, Washington has funded mosques, schools, institutes, and community centers that are trying to modernize Islam around the world. Except, apparently, in New York City.

Fareed Zakaria’s Letter to the ADL

Five years ago, the ADL honored me with its Hubert Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. I was delighted and moved to have been chosen for it in good measure because of the high esteem in which I hold the ADL. I have always been impressed by the fact that your mission is broad – “to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens” – and you have interpreted it broadly over the decades. You have fought discrimination against all religions, races, and creeds and have built a well-deserved reputation.

That is why I was stunned at your decision to publicly side with those urging the relocation of the planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan. You are choosing to use your immense prestige to take a side that is utterly opposed to the animating purpose of your organization. Your own statements subsequently, asserting that we must honor the feelings of victims even if irrational or bigoted, made matters worse.

Bob Herbert: Putting Our Brains on Hold

The world leadership qualities of the United States, once so prevalent, are fading faster than the polar ice caps.

We once set the standard for industrial might, for the advanced state of our physical infrastructure, and for the quality of our citizens’ lives. All are experiencing significant decline.

The latest dismal news on the leadership front comes from the College Board, which tells us that the U.S., once the world’s leader in the percentage of young people with college degrees, has fallen to 12th among 36 developed nations.

Charles M. Blow: Haiti’s (Would Be) Hip-Hop President

Wyclef Jean will be gone until November, if not longer. The hip-hop star officially announced in Port-au-Prince on Thursday that he’s running for president of Haiti. The election is scheduled for Nov. 28.

It is a fascinating bit of celebrity news. But it’s also a very serious pursuit by an utterly untested and unqualified candidate who has a strong chance of actually becoming the president of that crippled nation.

Jean, a Haitian citizen who grew up in Brooklyn and New Jersey and who many simply call Clef, enters a crowded field. It includes his own uncle, Raymond Joseph, the distinguished silver-haired Haitian ambassador to the United States, whom Jean himself had encouraged to run.

But Jean has been catapulted to the front of that field because celebrity trumps solemnity. If he can prove that he meets the residency requirements, which some doubt, he has a serious chance.

So we must take his candidacy seriously. The question for Wyclef becomes: “Why, Clef?”

Gail Collins: Yankee Doodle Daffy

Connecticut used to be the kind of place where you could predict election results by betting on the least-exciting outcome possible. But no more.

Tuesday is Primary Day in Connecticut. Here are some of the big issues:

If someone employs a large number of people to spend their lives hitting each other over the head with chairs and the occasional sledgehammer, should we hold it against her if she doesn’t provide health insurance?

If an unemployed millworker is asked to describe her multimillionaire former boss, do you think she’d be more negative if the interviewer plied her with a sandwich?

What is it about home improvements that politicians find so irresistible?

Fred Kaplan: Over the Top

Charging the WikiLeaks leaker with treason would be absurd.

Should Pvt. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst charged with leaking troves of classified documents to WikiLeaks, be tried for treason?

And what about Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks: Should he be locked up for something?

Treason is a capital crime, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, says the death penalty is what Manning deserves. “He put soldiers at risk who are out there fighting for their country,” Rogers told a talk-radio host this week. “And he put people who are cooperating with the United States government clearly at risk.”

As for Assange, U.S. government lawyers are reportedly looking into whether it might be possible to charge him with espionage

David Weigel: Black Tea

African-American conservatives explain that the only racists are those who worry about race-based prejudice.

When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People introduced a resolution calling on the Tea Party movement to “condemn extremist elements,” I wondered  what possible good it would do. How might it help liberals who felt frustrated, increasingly, that their attacks on “racism” in the new conservative movement were never taken seriously?

The resolution didn’t do much for the NAACP, but it did plenty for liberals. Three weeks later, after the Shirley Sherrod mess, and after the implosion of Mark Williams, spokesman for the Sacramento-based Tea Party Express, conservatives are still bristling at the charge of Tea Party “racism.” On Wednesday morning, Williams’ old organization organized a two-and-a-half-hour event at the National Press Club in order to rebut the charge the best way it knew how-with a chorus line of black conservatives attacking anyone who dared call the Tea Party racist.

“The left has wielded racism like a dirty nuclear weapon, destroying whole cities and the hopes and dreams of many Americans, not just black Americans,” said Kevin Jackson, a self-published author and blogger who calls himself “a leader in the consulting industry in America” and frequently appears on talk radio. “It’s time that reign of terror ended.”

David Weigel: Five myths about the ‘tea party’

The grass-roots conservative activists who march under the “Don’t tread on me” Gadsden flag and the “tea party” label have put a new twist on Gandhi’s maxim: First they were ignored; then they were ridiculed; then they began to fight. They battled health-care reform and then the Republican establishment, which became angry about the less-than-seasoned candidates it was suddenly saddled with.

In short order, a movement that few people took seriously has become the most obsessed-over and overanalyzed political backlash since the 1960s. And as long as both parties are grappling with it and publishers are putting out tea party books every month, it’s worth busting a few myths about the movement.

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