Silence isn’t always golden

SILENCE ISN’T ALWAYS GOLDEN…. When it comes to the high-profile Republican activists who are fighting against a proposed Muslim community center in Manhattan, it’d be heartening if we saw GOP grown-ups doing what NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) did yesterday: stand up for American ideals, defend religious liberty, stop playing by bin Laden’s rules, and denounce bigotry.

And while we wait for Republican maturity that will likely never come, Greg Sargent raises a good point: Dems can step up, too.

I asked Chuck Schumer’s office for his position on the Islamic center this morning. All his spokesman would say is that he “not opposed” to the plan. Asked for Schumer’s views of the opposition, and asked if he actively supports the right of the center’s builders to put it two blocks from Ground Zero, Schumer’s spokesman declined to elaborate and said Schumer was declining an interview. […]

That’s not all. As I noted here yesterday, Dem Rep. Anthony Weiner, who’s been widely hailed as a hero on the left for his supposed willingness to engage the opposition, is also refusing to say word boo about his position on the Islamic center.

Weiner wants to be mayor of New York. Last I checked, that city is home to a few Muslims, all of whom would become his constituents. Yet he can’t bring himself to stand up for their right to worship two blocks from Ground Zero. The guy he wants to replace, Michael Bloomberg, had the guts to do this very eloquently yesterday. Where’s Weiner?

I initially thought there’s no real point in Democrats calling out Gingrich, Palin, et al, for their odious bigotry, because it’s predictable. “Dems think Newt Gingrich is wrong” isn’t exactly a big story.

But Greg’s right — this doesn’t have to be about Democrats denouncing GOP nonsense, it can be nothing more than Democrats denouncing fear and intolerance, while touting the principles that makes America great.

To my mind, there are different expectations for different officials. Every time the White House weighs in on a local matter, it seems to bite the West Wing in the ass, so if the president and his spokespersons want to take a pass on commenting, that’s hardly outrageous. But in the case of Schumer and Weiner, this is a local story, of growing significance to their own constituents. Why not have the courage to take a stance similar to the one Bloomberg took yesterday?

Some Dems have done the right thing here. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who represents Manhattan, has defended the Cordoba House project and condemned the GOP bigotry. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who has nothing to do with this story directly, was asked about it today, and said the right thing: “The sooner we separate the peaceful teaching of Islam from the behavior of terrorists, the better for all of us.”

At this point, I wouldn’t say the Gingrich/Palin crowd is winning the debate — on the contrary, I think they’re humiliating themselves — but the discussion would be more constructive if leading Democrats lent their voice to a defense of our principles. Their silence make the bigots’ voices seem louder, while making the Dems appear cowardly.