Saturday, Jul. 30, 2016    Login | Register        

Look whom Obama cites now

Dr. Paul Kengor's picture

The blogosphere is burning red, consumed with fury over President Obama’s announcement — made at the end of the news cycle, with talk-radio on weekend break — that he supports the construction of a mosque near the downed World Trade Center buildings.

While much is being said, there’s one thing that really struck me about Obama’s announcement: In a 1,200-word statement, which named the Constitution once, Thomas Jefferson twice, and the Founders three times — odd for Obama, who invokes the Founders far less than previous presidents — Obama began with backing from George W. Bush and ended with backing from Jesus Christ. At the same time, he didn’t name Bush or Christ.

First, consider the Bush reference. It came in Obama’s opening:

“Here at the White House, we have a tradition of hosting iftars that goes back several years, just as we host Christmas parties and Seders and Diwali celebrations. And these events celebrate the role of faith in the lives of the American people. They remind us of the basic truth that we are all children of God, and we all draw strength and a sense of purpose from our beliefs.”

The line about “we are all children of God” is hardly unique — to Obama or Bush; numerous Americans and presidents have used it. That said, more than any president in history, Bush applied that line specifically to Muslims. He did so to insist that Americans not only respect Muslims but understand that Muslims, too, are born with fundamental, unalienable rights and dignity, and, moreover, are capable of establishing democratic governments in places like the Middle East.

Yet, where Obama directly, uniquely invoked Bush was in the very first line of his statement: “Here at the White House, we have a tradition of hosting iftars that goes back several years.”

Americans might wonder when that “tradition” began. Well, not long ago — too recent, in fact, to be called a tradition. As President Obama himself said, this so-called tradition is only “several years” old. The hosting of iftars, consistently, goes back to President Bush.

Ironically, Obama and the angry left blasted Bush (with Obama, the digs have been more subtle) for his alleged callousness and insensitivity to Muslims. Nothing could be further from the truth. In researching a book on the faith of George W. Bush, I encountered innumerable glowing appraisals of Islam, so flattering and exaggerated — to the point of error — that Bush could have been mistaken for a Muslim.

Really, it was fundamentalist Christians who were most perplexed by Bush, especially as Bush repeatedly, over two terms as president, told multiple interviewers that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Obviously, that’s a problematic assessment, given that Christians worship Jesus Christ as God. Muslims do not believe that Jesus was God.

The point here is that Obama’s supporters hammered Bush relentlessly for his supposed intolerance of Muslims. And now, alas, we have the spectacle of Obama, in an extremely controversial statement calling for toleration — more than that, endorsement — of a mosque near the 9/11 site, launching his case by referencing the iftar dinners begun by Bush.

Will Obama’s angrily secular supporters know that the dreaded Bush was behind this “tradition?” Of course not.

For that matter, will they recognize the source of Obama’s concluding thought? Obama finished his case for the mosque with this wrap-up:

“And we can only achieve ‘liberty and justice for all’ if we live by that one rule at the heart of every great religion, including Islam — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”

I’m happy to argue that this is a universal principle. As St. Augustine said, there’s a God-shaped vacuum in all human hearts that God alone can fill. We know, in heart and soul, as products of God, designed by God, made in God’s image, through faith and reason, that such abiding principles are true.

In other words, being merely a creature — a creation of God, whether you know it or not — you nod in assent when you hear this statement. To borrow from Jefferson, such are the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.

That said, any Christian immediately recognizes that Obama’s final words are Christ’s words: the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12).

Here, too, though, Obama didn’t cite his source. Why not? Is it because the principle is so universal that no source is needed? Or could it be that Obama, ironically, is bending over backwards not to offend Muslims in a statement calling upon Christians (and other non-Muslims) not to be offended by the mosque?

As often with President Obama, when it comes to matters of faith, he has left us with more questions than answers.

[Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City (Penn.) College ( His books include “God and George W. Bush” and the forthcoming “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”]


Cal : I tried with much dint of effort to simply send you an e-mail. Alas, your website is rather a potpourri of conflicting instructions on e-mailing your departments. In any event, I just wanted to comment on Paul Kengor's use of who/whom and his (and yours) habit of over-working, and incorrectly so, the hyphen. The hyphen is usually used to maker a sharper point than that of, say, a comma. It should not be used so much as to indicate that the writer is unsure of the correct punctuation and uses the hyphen as a crutch. It should always be two un-paired dashes.

The article by Mr. Kengor, "Look WHOM Obama cites now." Obviously, WHOM should have been WHO. The rule is: The subject is always WHO. The object is always WHOM. I assume from the syntax of the title that WHOM is the subject of the title and not Obama.

I took the liberty of counting all the hyphens in some of your's and Mr. Kengor's articles, but soon tired of the task and lost count. And, Cal and Mr. Kengor, please know that I really do mean this gentle grammar correction in the most sincere way.


James Studdard, Atty and columnist for the Fayette County , News and other publications.

I can't wait for the dint of words you will get!

"some of your's," indeed!"maker a sharper point," indeed!
"two un-paired dashes."
Object of what?

"Fayette County, News." (is that the same as Fayette County News?)
Them what abide in cristol shacks shood remaine stil!

And I have ignored who and whom for many years--it is lak air ye goin for are you going.

It's an en dash or em dash, not a hyphen. A hyphen is used to connect two words that are related in some way, as in a ticked-off reader. The uses of the em dash in this column were correct -- to set off descriptive phrases that added information to the sentences.

PTC Observer's picture

Usually, but not always people who correct people on grammar and punctuation are attempting to deflect from points made by an opponent.

This makes "progressive" elitists feel good and superior to their opponents, but it does nothing to change reality. Luckily they did not have spell and grammar check by grammar police when they created the Founding Documents.

Cal Beverly's picture

James, I agree that writers these days make too liberal (oops) a use of the dash, a handy piece of punctuation that traditionally indicates within a sentence a sharp break in the sense of the sentence. And I also agree with you that a judicious use of correctly placed commas — and if necessary, parentheses (note that dash, correctly used) — would mollify most strict grammarians.

(By the way, an online dictionary has this to say:

parenthesis |pəˈrenθəsis|
noun ( pl. -ses |-ˌsēz|)
a word, clause, or sentence inserted as an explanation or afterthought into a passage that is grammatically complete without it, in writing usually marked off by curved brackets, dashes, or commas.
• (usu. parentheses) one or both of a pair of marks ( ) used to include such a word, clause, or sentence.
• an interlude or interval : the three months of coalition government were a lamentable political parenthesis.
in parenthesis as a digression or afterthought.)

My penchant, however, is to let writers have their say, so long as the meaning and intent of their writing is not obscured or impeded by their use (correct or incorrect) of common punctuation. So, I plead guilty, with good intent. If you were a judge, you might not be swayed by my good intentions, but as a good defense lawyer, you might give me the benefit of the doubt.

As to "whom," we had a lively discussion among my writers and me. I prevailed.

My case is built on the now almost extinct skill of sentence diagramming, demonstrated herewith:

"Look whom Obama cites now."

Look — the imperative form of an intransitive verb. The subject "you" is understood. Likewise the following adverb "at" is also understood. So, thus far we have "(You) Look (at)" and we await what comes next.

And what we have next is an adverbial clause: "whom Obama cites now."

Within that clause, we have a subject, “Obama,” and a transitive verb (meaning it takes an object), “cites,” and the objective case of the nominative pronoun, “who” — in this case, “whom.”

An explanation: “Cites” takes both a subject and an object (“James cites a book as his authority,” “I cite you as my source.”). Since “Obama” is the subject doing the citing, “whom” is the object being cited. Since “whom” is the objective case of the relative pronoun, “who” (with its “relation” being to the so-far unnamed persons or sources that Obama is citing), the sentence is correct as stands.

And I appreciate your quest for good grammar, even if, in this case, you incorrectly diagrammed the sentence.

(I now look forward to the grammarians who will cite "at" as a preposition; the difficulty with that is that prepositions take objects, either a word or a phrase. I have sought to find a "prepositional clause" and have found no citations. But this is the World Wide Web ....)

Cal Beverly
The Citizen
Fayetteville, Ga. 30214

English teachers applaud you! I often cringe when I read some of my 'missives'. (But I must admit - I do enjoy novels that sometimes crucify the English language.) Thanks for allowing us to express ourselves - even though many times we are grammatically incorrect!

Ad space area 4 internal