July 18, 2010, By SARAH WHEATON
“Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real,” she said in a Twitter message. (Actually, that wasn’t the original message, but more on that later.)
An hour later, she added: “Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.”
She is referring to Cordoba House, a planned Muslim community center that supporters called a monument to tolerance near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks. The issue – which came before the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission this week – has become a cause célèbre for the Tea Party movement, which opposes the plans.
Ms. Palin did not delve into local politics, but it’s worth noting that the Cordoba House has become a vehicle for Rick Lazio, the front-running Republican candidate for New York governor, to attack the heavily favored Democratic nominee, Andrew M. Cuomo. Mr. Lazio is calling on Mr. Cuomo, who is currently the state’s attorney general, to investigate the center’s financing.
As Jeff Zeleny noted, Ms. Palin’s involvement in local races reflects an effort not to cross the Republican Governors Association.
Side Note 1: Sarah Palin had originally called on “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the mosque plans in a message that was later deleted. She brushed off derision on Twitter:
“Refudiate,” “misunderestimate,” “wee-wee’d up.” English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!
In addition to the Bard, Ms. Palin was comparing her diction to that of President Obama and his immediate predecessor.
Side Note 2: Ms. Palin was also subject of some derision that wasn’t attached to a Twitter handle this week. In an interview with Time’s Mark Halperin that appeared on Thursday, one aide to Mitt Romney anonymously said, “She’s not a serious human being,” and another added: “If she’s standing up there in a debate and the answers are more than 15 seconds long, she’s in trouble.”
Thus sprouted the nameless back-and-forth we observed in the days after the 2008 election, but this time, it wasn’t Senator John McCain’s staff doing the sniping, but that of the former Massachusetts governor. By Friday morning, a Palin aide struck back, saying to Andy Barr of Politico: “For Washington consultants to sit around and personally disparage the governor anonymously to reporters is unfortunate and counterproductive and frankly immature.”
Mr. Romney, knowing better than to anger those Mama Grizzlies, took to Twitter to defuse the situation: “TIME says unnamed advisors disparaged @SarahPalinUSA. Anonymous numbskulls. She’s proven her smarts; they’ve disproven theirs.”
Palin Criticizes ‘Ground Zero Mosque,’ Coins New Word
How do you take an already controversial issue and spice it up even more? Easy: just add Palin. Over the weekend, the former vice presidential candidate weighed in on a proposed mosque and Muslim community center to be located in lower Manhattan, not far from Ground Zero. Opponents say it’s a provocation, given that the 9/11 attacks were conducted by radical Muslim terrorists. Defenders of the project respond that it’s sponsored by a moderate group and isn’t really all that close to Ground Zero. Palin weighed in via Twitter this weekend, writing, “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.” Her sentiments, as well as her neologism (“refudiate”), have elicited a predictable flurry of commentary. Here’s the best of it.
Charles Johnson, whose blog Little Green Footballs has drifted leftward from the right in recent months, furiously attacks Palin, saying she’s joining forces with bigots. It’s not like the site is that close to Ground Zero–but even if it were, why does it matter?
Suppose the community center was five blocks away instead of two blocks away. Would that be OK? How about if it was in midtown? Far enough? Maybe it needs to be in Queens? If you want a special exception to America’s religious tolerance, where are you going to draw the line?
Charles Johnson, Little Green Footballs
It’s worth discussing what constitutes racism and bigotry in this case, concedes Chris Good of The Atlantic. But the fact that Palin is willing to speak so forcefully in such a sensitive case speaks to her strong political will and self-confidence.
While most politicians would approach with extreme caution something so hot-buttoned and charged with religion, anger, and fear, Palin dives right in without trepidation, on Twitter no less, not carefully calibrating her words, but just taking a side and expressing a stance, controversy be damned. It’s the style on which she prides herself, and on this matter of controversy in New York, she gives us no less.
Chris Good, The Atlantic
Chris Good is off base, counters Michael Tomasky, an American liberal who writes for the British Guardian. He says that while Palin’s sentiments themselves are not outrageous, she is on the hook for not using her considerable influence to advance the conversation.
One might posit that actual leaders–people who are trying to lead the whole varied polity and not just speak for a segment of it–ought to be the ones who point out that the construction of a religious institution is really not at all the same thing as an endorsement of the attacks.
Michael Tomasky, The Guardian/Comment Is Free
Palin’s tweet betrays a woefully uninformed view of Islam, says historian and blogger Juan Cole. But that shouldn’t matter, he says: quoting from the Founding Fathers, Cole argues that not only did they call for religious tolerance, they specifically extended it to Muslims.
Forbidding the building of a mosque in New York is inconsistent with the ideals of the Founding Generation of the United States of America, who explicitly mentioned Islam among the cases when they spoke of religious freedom . . . The Founding Generation had already made a key distinction between religious practice and political loyalty, and had granted freedom of religion to non-Tory Anglicans. Refudiate, Sarah. Refudiate.
Juan Cole, Blogger
Heterodox right-winger and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum nods at the giggles over Palin’s “refudiate.” While he doesn’t expect that coinage to survive, Frum notes that Palin has caused a serious shift in the meaning of at least one word.
I have heard more and more politicians and even non-politicians use “verbiage” in the same way as Palin, sometimes even pronounced the same way as Palin pronounced it. It seems a real trend. Thanks to Palin, a word that used to mean the cynical use of language to evade, conceal and deceive now more and more just means “language.” It seems somehow an appropriate accomplishment.
David Frum, FrumForum