Harry ReidI feel somewhat compelled to mention this, since I live in Nevada now and Harry Reid recently remarked (sort of) about this mosque that’s slated to be erected in the vicinity of Ground Zero in New York City. His statement was fairly mild, but it feels like a bit of needless politicking, regardless. Give your supporters a little more credit for not being so easily whipped up into emotional hysteria over an issue for which the precedent is clearly spelled out in the United States Constitution.

I like you, Harry, and even if you weren’t running against the maniacal Sharron Angle, I’d still vote for you. But this ain’t your business.

I really haven’t got a lot to say on this except that I agree completely with President Obama: the “debate”, such as it is, pretty much begins and ends with “separation of church and state”. It isn’t the place of politicians to decide where it’s appropriate for practitioners of a legitimate religion–to which millions of peaceful human beings belong–to set up shop. (By the way, I’m from Long Island, and my dad was in New York City on 9/11, so believe me, I understand why this is an emotionally-charged issue.)

Like Obama, however, I question the wisdom of the plan. Jon Stewart is unkind to Obama here, I think, when he accuses Obama of backpedaling; I don’t agree that he did. As a private citizen, he’s allowed to have an opinion, but as a public political figure, it’s his responsibility not to bring the force of his office to bear upon the issue. And that’s exactly what he has not done (odd construction there–I mean to say he hasn’t brought the force of his office to bear, but I’m too lazy to rephrase it).

It’s the same as that old chestnut: “I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it.”

I don’t know…I think Obama is probably the most cerebral president in recent history, and unfortunately, we collectively have difficulty mentally reconciling statements that appear at the surface to be at odds–it requires an appreciation of subtlety that is rare in United States political culture. For that reason, I suppose I agree with Jon Stewart–after Obama made himself clear, he probably should have refrained from clouding the issue. But I don’t think by any means either that Obama is being in the least bit hypocritical, nor do I feel he’s trying to have it both ways politically.

That said, I really like the angle from which Jon Stewart has assailed the media coverage around this issue. To summarize: the media have completely ignored the underlying legal issues in favor of focusing upon the political ramifications. This is almost more akin to gossip than to news.

The entire discussion is fairly insane to my mind, especially when you have so-called informed party spokespersons like Newt Gingrich collectively placing Muslims into the same category as Nazis. How a nitwit like that has survived in politics as long as he has is really a sad indictment of U.S. culture.

The Daily Show clip linked above is worth watching just for the brilliant debate between Jon Stewart and John Oliver. What Oliver says about religions being held responsible for their biggest assholes is right on the money.

Look, I’m a rationalist–all religion is bizarre to me. But I do know the difference between Muslims and Nazis, and I do know that this issue is about as clear as it gets in politics.