Washington Post staff writer Anne Kornblut used her question at a White House press conference on Friday to worry that, despite Barack Obama making it a "priority," anti-Muslim "suspicion" still existed in America.
She queried the President, "Nine years after the September 11th attacks, why do you think it is that we are now seeing such an increase in suspicion and outright resentment of Islam, especially given that it has been one of your priorities to improve relations with the Muslim world?" [MP3 audio here.]
Obama's response seemed to echo his infamous 2008 comment about Americans being "bitter" and "clinging" to their guns. He proclaimed, "You know, I think that at a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then, you know, fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society. And, so, I think that plays a role in it."
On April 11, 2008, the then-Senator condescended, "It's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Of course, Kornblut had no follow-up and didn't challenge Obama on his latest assertion.
A transcript of the September 10 question and answer can be found below:
ANNE KORNBLUT: Thank you, Mr. President. Nine years after the September 11th attacks, why do you think it is that we are now seeing such an increase in suspicion and outright resentment of Islam, especially given that it has been one of your priorities to improve relations with the Muslim world?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, I think that at a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then, you know, fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society. And, so, I think that plays a role in it. One of the things that I most admired about President Bush was after 9/11, him being crystal clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam. We were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam, had stolen its banner to carry out its outrageous acts. I was so proud of the country rallying around that idea, that notion that we are not going to be divided by religion. We're not going to be divided by ethnicity.
We are all Americans and we stand together against those who would try to do us harm. And that's what we've done over the last nine years. We should take great pride in that. And I think it is absolutely important now for the overwhelming majority of the American people to hang on to that thing that is best in us, a belief in religious tolerance, clarity about who are enemies are. Our enemies are al Qaeda and their allies who are trying to kill us, but have killed more Muslims than just about anybody on Earth.
You know, we have to make sure that we don't start turning on each other and I will do everything that I can as long as I'm President of the United States to remind the American people that we are one nation under God and we may call that god different names. But we remain one nation and, you know, as somebody who, you know, relies heavily on my Christian faith in my job, I understand, you know, that the passions that religious faith can, can raise.
But I'm also respectful that people of different faiths can practice their religion, even if they don't subscribe to the exact same notions that I do. And that they are still good people and they are my neighbors and they are my friends and they are fighting alongside us in our battles. And, you know, I want to make sure that this country retains that sense of purpose. And I think tomorrow is a wonderful day for us to remind ourselves of that.