Barack Obama himself has never had the guts to say it.
Indeed, while it is famously difficult to prove a negative, it seems apparent that few people in all of politics and media have had the guts to say it. Did John McCain ever say it? Did Rick Santorum or Bill O’Reilly?
So let us plant a little flag for, mark with a yellow highlighter, the thing Rep. Raul Labrador said Sunday on “Meet the Press”: that “it wouldn’t matter” if President Obama were a Muslim. And if it seems rather much to be handing out medals for such a modest statement of principle, well … the principle has been under fire for so long that even a modest statement feels momentous.
In recent years, public figures have made news for refuting (like McCain) or failing to refute (like Santorum) the canard that Obama is a follower of Islam. But outside of Colin Powell, who did so a few years back on “Meet the Press,” it is difficult to think of many — or any — who have dared to confront the notion implicit in the lie. Namely, that being a Muslim is incompatible with being an American.
This is taken by some as self-evident truth even as Muslim soldiers risk their lives on our battlefields, Muslim cops risk their lives on our streets, Muslim teachers teach our children, Muslim reporters report our news, Muslim politicians help to make our laws, and Muslim-Americans struggle against those who believe our sacred ideals cover other people, but not them.
Thus, a fleeting statement that should have been obvious to the point of mundanity feels instead like a water station in the Mojave.
Labrador is no fan of the president’s. His comment about Islam was made en route to a contention that Obama’s policies have “weakened” the nation. Labrador is a Republican and a conservative from a very Republican and conservative state, Idaho. It is his political and ideological kin who are most responsible for pushing — and believing — the Obama-as-Muslim narrative. All of which imbues his remark with a welcome patina of political courage and moral clarity.