Ken Maguire of the Times (no relation, probably) tells us about the First Tolerator's problem with visiting a Sikh temple in India:
WASHINGTON — Sikhs in the United States expressed their frustration Thursday that President Obama would skip a tentatively planned visit to their holiest site in India, while advocacy groups called on the White House to reconsider.
Mr. Obama was expected to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, next month, but there were questions about how he would cover his head. Sikh tradition requires that men tie a piece of cloth on their heads before entering the spiritual center. The president, who is Christian, has fought the perception that he is Muslim. Sikhs are regularly mistaken for Muslims.
“There’s a xenophobic trend in this country, where some people are calling him Muslim,” said Jasjit Singh, associate director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a Washington-based civil rights group. “If he gives in to this trend then effectively he’s emboldening them.”
Wow. For the benefit of the few, the proud, the remaining Obama supporters, let's flash back to that glorious summer of 2008:
When Mr. Wenner [for a Rolling Stone interview] asked how Mr. Obama might respond to harsh attacks from Republicans, suggesting that Democrats have “cowered” in the past, Mr. Obama replied, “Yeah, I don’t do cowering.”
Well, he's cowering now. My suggestion - Obama ought to cover his head by fashioning a hat out of his birth certificate.
The temple looks spectacular, by the way. The television people must be gnashing their teeth over the lost visuals.
SOONER AND BETTER: Tunku Varadarajan of the Daily Beast was excellent yesterday:
Above all, what does this decision to avoid Amritsar tell us about how this White House feels about Americans? Does it feel that ordinary Americans will pillory their president for having associated himself with "ragheads" in Amritsar? Is this a variant of that elite condescension for ordinary folks who are "bitter," and who "cling to guns and religion"?
That Obama can't find a way to explain the symbolism of a little square of cloth on his head—placed there by enthusiastic, welcoming Indian hosts who wish him and America well—suggests that he has lost confidence in his own intellect, his own charisma, his own eloquence. A man once celebrated for his promise of change now allows a state visit to be shaped by his fear of the blogosphere—and by his fear of abuse that might come at him from an ignorant subset of the American population. Let's just call it the pygmification of a president, and lament the gutlessness of this White House.
I object. In fact, I strenuously object. It is not that Obama is gripped by fear; it is that we are too gripped by fear to appreciate his genius.
Obama needs to sack up and Sikh up.
LOWER THE BAR: Could Obama look this bad? No way!