Down the rabbit hole we go: After speaking forcefully about the right of developers to build a mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site on Friday, President Obama qualified his remarks. Speaking in Panama City, Florida, while visiting Gulf Coast region, he said, "My intention was simply to let people know what I thought, which was that in this country, we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion. I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about."
In other words, his words are not an endorsement! The Washington Post offers some quotes from critics: Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "The decision to build this mosque so close to Ground Zero is deeply troubling, as is the president's decision to endorse it. is not an issue of law, whether religious freedom or local zoning. This is a basic issue of respect for a tragic moment in our history," while Sarah Palin Tweeted, "We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they? This is not above your pay grade."
Palin also compared the proposed Park 51 project to "building the facility to building a Serbian church on the Srebrenica killing fields" (her Tweet here) and has more questions for Obama on her Facebook page, like, "Mr. President, why aren't you encouraging the mosque developers to accept Governor Paterson's generous offer of assistance in finding a new location for the mosque on state land if they move it away from Ground Zero?" (Maybe because it could be unconstitutional?) The Park 51 project is proposed to be built in a building that housed a Burlington Coat Factory at 45-47 Park Place.
The NY Times also looks at the politics of Obama's words—a Republican consultant says, "For people who already fear the worst from Obama, this only confirms their fears. This is not a unifying decision on his part; he chose a side. I understand why he did this, but politically I think it’s a blunder." The Daily News columnist Michael Daly, though, writes, "I cannot help feeling that if we block this mosque we will not only be doing what Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh want, we will also be doing exactly what Osama Bin Laden wants." And Politico's Maggie Haberman has a statement from a different 9/11 victims' families group (of which there are many): "We applaud President Obama for his leadership on this issue. Simply put: we lost our family members on 9/11/2001, but will not lose our nation, too. America, the concept and the people and the land thrive when we chose to trust in our principles rather than cave to our basest fears."