In comments before the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama made the valid point that many bad things have been done over many centuries in the name of religion. What the president said about matters ranging from the Crusades to the Spanish Inquisition was historically accurate. But one thing I learned when I was a young man was that not everything we think should be said every time we think it.


It is true — and it should be said — that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are patriotic Americans and the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world are good and decent people who hate terrorism and terrorists as all decent people do. It is also true that many bad things have been done in the name of religion, including Christianity. I lived in London in the 1980s, when Catholics and Protestants were killing each other over Ireland.

The problem with what the president said at the prayer breakfast was that he left the impression, in my view incorrectly, that he was somehow conflating the mass-murdering terrorists today who abuse true Islam with Catholics, Protestants and Christians generally in darker days. Whether Obama was right or wrong, Obama is the president, not the pope, not a radio talk show host, not a college professor and not a columnist. He is the president.

And to make matters worse, considering our mission is to unite all decent people to kill terrorists in the Middle East, it was not the wisest moment to bring up the Crusades, which remains a loaded phrase in the Mideast today.

Sometimes Obama has a habit of opining about the extraneous, saying these that people may or may not agree with, but which take attention off the main mission. Since my own personal faith would fall somewhere between liberal Catholic and liberal Protestant, I am well aware of the imperfections of behavior of various religions at various times in history.

I also understand why some people might be unsettled or offended by what the president said, though I am not — but I wish he had not said it, because President Obama needs to focus on being the commander in chief and not the lecturer in chief.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at