Remember Mayor Bloomberg's eloquent, impassioned defense of the planned Islamic center a few blocks from ground zero? For those in favor of allowing the complex to be built, it was an inspiring moment. (That number includes the majority of Manhattanites and a minority of everybody else.) But we're talking about Mayor Bloomberg here: He's usually better at handing out bitter jabs than soaring rhetoric, right? Surely someone else wrote that speech for him in its entirety.
Not so, reports Michael Barbaro in the Times today:
He asked his aides to draft a speech that would not only explain his position, but would also forcefully rebut the project’s critics and reframe the debate. On Aug. 3, a few hours before the speech was to be delivered, his top speechwriter, Francis Barry, showed the mayor the text. “It’s not nearly strong enough,” Mr. Bloomberg said, Mr. Barry recalled.
The mayor inserted his own language, citing the firefighters and police officers who marched into the trade center on Sept. 11: “In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’ ‘What beliefs do you hold?’” And he proposed what would become the speech’s defining lines: “We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights — and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.”
Jeez, Mr. Mayor. Where's that elegance the rest of the time?