Posted by | August 20, 2010 16:35 | Filed under: Top Stories

By Yashwanth Manjunath

Like so many other progressives out there I was extremely disappointed and confused when Howard Dean came out and said that maybe it would be a good idea if the Park 51 community center was moved. Dean has always been a strong fighter for the right issues and an outstanding representative of the progressive movement, which is why this call for capitulation felt so out of place coming from him. Last night Dean went on Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC to explain his position in a lengthy two-part interview, part 1, part 2. For those who think Dean has betrayed progressives on this issue, please watch it before coming to any definitive conclusion.

One point that became very clear throughout the interview is that Dean is not on the side of the right-wing agents of hate who want to use this issue as part of a fear-mongering political strategy. Dean did not even argue that the center should be moved right away. What Dean calls for is a dialogue between Muslim-Americans like project founder Imam Rauf and (not the race-baiting extremists on the far-right), families of 9/11 victims with legitimate concerns over this issue who are willing to negotiate in good faith before any decision is made. Olbermann challenged Dean by pointing out that the far-right will claim victory on this issue regardless of where the center is moved, and that Ted Olson, former Solicitor General under George W. Bush, is in favor of the center despite the fact that his wife died on 9/11. Dean countered by pointing out that the far-right has done enough damage to this country with their politics of hate and that they should not be allowed to dictate public policy and that maybe Ted Olson should be in the room when this hypothetical discussion in good faith occurs.

I did not write this because I agree with Dean; I just want to make sure other liberals with their heart in the right place do not misunderstand his position. The type of dialogue that Dean suggests is tempting, because it could be a wonderful way to educate the American people about the difference between the Al Qaeda terrorists and Muslims like Imam Rauf. Imam Rauf and his wife have stated that they are trying to build this center to present a more moderate view of Islam and to bring people together. This is exactly what Dean is also trying to do. In this current political environment where issues that should be about Right versus Wrong invariably become Right versus Left it is a refreshing sentiment that deserves praise rather than condemnation. With politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin shamelessly using this issue to divide this country in order to advance their struggling political careers, it is wonderful to see someone like Dean who is trying to use this issue to bring people together and heal this country.

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