Today, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) appeared on radio network WABC-77 and fielded questions from a host about a variety of political issues. At one point, the host asked Dean what his position was “on the controversy surrounding the mosque at Ground Zero,” referring to the Park 51 Islamic community center and mosque. Dean responded by saying he favored some sort of “compromise” of the issue that involved using the proposed site for “people of all faiths.” He called the presence of the mosque an “affront to people who lost their lives, including Muslims.” He then went on to say that while the congregation building the mosque probably has good intentions, “there’s no point trying to do something good if it’s met with enormous resistance from a lot of folks“:
HOST: Governor, what is your position on the controversy surrounding the mosque at Ground Zero?
DEAN: I gotta believe there has to be a compromise here. This isn’t about the right for Muslims to have a worship center, or Jews or Christians or anybody else to have a place to worship, any place at Ground Zero. This is something we oughta be able to work out with people of good faith. And we have to understand that it is a real affront to people who lost their lives, including Muslims. That site doesn’t belong to any particular religion, it belongs to all people of all faiths. So I think a good reasonable compromise could be worked out without violating the principle people oughta be able to worship as they see fit.
HOST: You’re calling for a compromise, are you calling for the mosque to be moved?
DEAN: Well I think another site would be a better idear. Again, I would look to do that in collaboration with the people trying to build the mosque. I think the people who are trying to build the mosque are trying to do something good. But there’s no point in trying to do something good if it’s met with enormous resistance from a lot of folks. This is a very delicate, difficult religious and cultural issue. I think it’s great to have mosques in American cities. There’s a growing number of American Muslims. I think most of those Muslims are moderate. I hope they’ll have an impact on the world, because Islam is really back in the 12th century in some of these countries like in Iran and Afghanistan, where they’re stoning Muslims to death. And that can be fixed. And the way it can be fixed is not by pushing Muslims away, it’s by embracing them and having them become just like any other American, Americans who happen to be Muslim. So the way you do that is to integrate people into the fabric of the United States, which is what I think this congregation wants to do. But I do think we should work out a compromise so that everyone is accommodated by this.
Of course, if progressive movements throughout history had followed Dean’s advice, there’d be very little progress. During the health care debate, Howard Dean boldly said, “I’m going to fight for a public option until we get one. It really is that simple. … We will not stop because Democrats in Washington say it’s done. We will not wait 20 years — 10 years — we will not wait a single year — because we will not stop until every American has the option to voluntarily buy into a program like Medicare.” It appears that running into the “enormous resistance” of the U.S. Senate and political opposition from the insurance, drug, and medical-industrial industries did not stop Dean from fighting for a public option. One has to wonder why he feels like it would be enough to sacrifice the rights of American Muslims to peacefully worship where they please.
Selected passages from Howard Dean’s 2003 Winning Back America:
“Harry Truman was an authentic American hero. . . . Truman acted with clarity and firmness, and he was willing to make unpopular decisions if he knew they’d be good for the long-term future of the country.” pp. 84-85
“Civil rights remains the unfinished business of America.” p. 141
“We cannot allow politicians to try to divide us and turns us against them on the basis of their being immigrants or on the basis of race.” p. 142
“By being afraid to stand up to the Republicans and their radical agenda, the Democrats have actually empowered the radical right.” p. 177
“We have to be positive and lay out an agenda that challenges the mean-spiritedness and cruelty of the Republican right, which commands the three branches of government in America today. We’ve got to stand up for our human values, for our dignity, for our community, and for our respect for one another once again. Our vision of America is one based on hope and based on the responsibility we have for one another.” pp. 177-178