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Will voices of 'better angels' prevail?

Mark Mardell | 18:42 UK time, Thursday, 9 September 2010

President Obama has spoken out against the planned Koran burning, joining those who say it is un American and will put US troops at risk.

"I just hope he understands that what he's proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans. That this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance. And as a very practical matter, as commander of chief of the armed forces of the United States, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan."

The president hasn't exactly been in the vanguard of those condemning the burning. From the White House's point of view it is understandable that they wanted plenty of cover, so the president's intervention would add pressure on the preacher, rather than adding flames to another fire. They wouldn't want the president's serious words used as "evidence" supporting absurd urban myths about his own beliefs and sympathies.

So he waited for cover from those who conservatives would respect. Not only the unimpeachable military view of General Petraeus, but the avatar of the Tea Party right herself, Sarah Palin.

The president said he hoped the incendiary Pastor would listen to his "better angels". Those beings do appear to have been remarkably busy, encouraging the most bipartisan moment I can think of, since arriving here just over a year ago.

A random check on some of the most rabidly anti-Islamic internet sites indicates that they don't want to get involved, either reporting factually or skirting the subject. As far as I can see no one anywhere near the mainstream has supported the planned burning. But Sarah Palin's latest tweet does suggest there should be a balance in condemnation: "Book burning=bad;Cleric running 4 Afghan Parliament calling 4 murder of US children n response 2 scorched Korans=worse. Where's media focus?"

The moment of bipartisan agreement will be fleeting. Being an angel must be hard work.


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