Conservatives should denounce bigotry that hurts American troops

Regarding the president's comments about the Muslim center and mosque near the site of 9/11, let’s have some straight talk about exactly what is happening.

Obviously this latest example of the president's instinct to say whatever is on his mind, despite the damage it does to Democrats running for reelection, was damaging to Democrats.

But whether one believes the president was intrinsically right or wrong (I believe he was right) and politically smart or stupid (I believe it was stupid), the larger truth of this important matter is the open appeal to racism, bigotry and fear by a vocal minority of Republicans.

I call on all principled conservatives and Republicans to denounce the appeal to racism, bigotry and fear that is demonstrated in certain Republican circles, including a former Republican Speaker of the House and a former Republican candidate for the vice presidency.

As an American, I believe honorable and patriotic American Muslims have a right use their property for what they believe would be a project of reconciliation. As a born and bred New Yorker, I would prefer a site be found that is not on the doorstep of Ground Zero.

But in the end, this decision should be made by the local community without gratuitous opining by the president, without appeals to bigotry by Republicans who are not in the community, without the rancor and bitterness that does our nation no service, and without the promoting of bigotry or fear of Muslims that does real harm to American troops serving in combat in Muslim nations.

In this matter we are not talking about a few hateful nuts who hold posters at rallies that compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler.

We are talking about national Republican leaders, including a former Republican Speaker of the House and a former Republican nominee for vice president of the nation, who fan and foment flames of racial and religious intolerance against patriotic American Muslims for no reason except the fact that they are Muslim.

This is sickening. This is un-American. This does real, material and imminent damage to American troops serving in Muslim lands. It does real, material and imminent damage to America's security in the world, and America's ability to compete in the battle of ideas in which the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world abhor murder, terrorism and killing of innocent people.

For all of his imperfections, I give former President George W. Bush great credit for this: He understood that most Muslims abhor terrorism and violence. He understood that American Muslims who are as red, white and blue patriotic as American Christians, American Jews, Americans who believe in the Church of Latter Day Saints, and Americans of all diverse faiths are part of our national community and part of our national battle against those who murdered our brothers and sisters in September of 2001.

We now have the sad, sorry and sickening spectacle of certain Republicans attacking Muslims simply because they are Muslims.

Through attack and innuendo they suggest that even patriotic American Muslims should be feared and ostracized with the slander that they are not fully Americans, with the innuendo that that they are not fully loyal to our country, and with the lie that they may be secretly friendly to terrorism because their faith happens to be Muslim.

This is the Big Lie, and the answer to the Big Lie is the Big Truth: that this kind of politics of bigotry and fear is un-American to the core. It violates the cardinal rule of the great American community, that we are a land of disparate people who come together behind shared values and shared visions of a nation that rises above bigotry and fear of those of different races, religions, colors, creeds, accents and personal preferences.

Here is another Big Truth answering the Big Lie: When some would make patriotic American Muslims the object of bigotry, fear, ridicule, division and discrimination simply because they are Muslim, it does real damage to American troops serving in Muslim lands, working with America's Muslim friends and allies, in a great battle of ideas against the voices of terrorism who seek to corrupt and poison the spirit and faith of true Islam.

These voices of hate are not the voices of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater.

These voices of bigotry and fear are not the voices of William F. Buckley or George W. Bush.

These voices of fear and division are not the Republican voices of Abraham Lincoln, or Theodore Roosevelt, or Dwight David Eisenhower.

A majority of Republicans, and a majority of conservatives, agree with me that these un-American attacks on other Americans do great harm to our nation, our security, our interests and our troops.

Yes indeed, whether the president is right or wrong on the merits, he has done damage to some Democrats running for reelection.

But not every issue should be fodder for the radical and extreme partisanship that has infected and poisoned our democracy.

Serious and patriotic people in our good and great nation should never ask Americans to fear or despise other Americans. They should never divide our American house against itself.

Serious and patriotic people in this land we love should never create classes of Americans who should be feared or despised because of who they are, the color God gave them at birth, the faith they practice, or because they are a politically convenient object of slander by ambitious politicians campaigning for office who will do anything, including attacking the cardinal notion of the American community, to win a political campaign.

I call on all principled conservatives and Republicans, a majority of whom agree with what I write here, to stand with Reagan and Goldwater, with Buckley and Bush, with Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, and denounce this politics of appealing to hate and bigotry and fear.

We are a better nation than this. If there is one thing that should unite us, it is that this brand of politics has no place in the land of the free and the home of the brave.