We’ve seen the dynamic before. A year ago Eric Holder was lecturing us that we'd be betraying the rule of law by trying alleged 9/11 terrorists anywhere but in a civilian court sitting in lower Manhattan. Most of us liberals nodded our heads in absent-minded agreement. Then a few entrepreneurial Republican politicians started pushing back and the cable channels and the right wing blogs picked up the story. That was enough to reveal that Holder was spectacularly unequipped to hold his ideological ground and very few Democratic politicians of stature were eager to back him up. The game was over when New York politicians like Michael Bloomberg and Chuck Schumer got cold feet. Suddenly you didn’t hear much liberal talk about how trying alleged terrorists before military commissions is a betrayal of American values.
The Ground Zero mosque dispute looks like it’s playing out the same way. First there were stray remarks about a provocation at Ground Zero from people like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. Soon their views were amplified and elaborated by the conservative media. Liberal pundits and the odd politician like Bloomberg thought they could put out the fire only to discover that their disdainful rhetoric was not only ineffective but inflammatory. Obama stood tall as a friend of mosque on Friday only to beat an abject retreat by Saturday afternoon. Suddenly, omnipresent New York Democrats like Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are nowhere to be seen. And Howard Dean, of all people, is sounding a lot like Sarah Palin.
Does this sort of thing keep happening to liberals because of a defect of will or a defect of deliberation?