A day after Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino further politicized the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero by discussing the secret meaning of "Cordoba" and comparing the designs to the World Trade Center, Paladino made an appearance at the Park 51 site yesterday, giving an impassioned plea for others not to politicize the issue. Or, um, not in the way he doesn't want it to be politicized? It's probably as confusing for him as it to us: "This attempt to create an affront, a symbol of conquest, a symbol of triumph over the American people will never happen... It's easy to come up and say, 'aww its freedom of religion.' That's what some of our leaders are saying. Because they want to politicize it. It's not political. It's a right. It's a right of the American people. We will not be apologists to anybody."
If there is one thing Carl isn't confused about, it's the (semi-uncontrollable) power of a good controversy. The fact that Paladino is kicking up dust around this issue less than a week before the gubernatorial election, in which he trails Andrew Cuomo by something between 20 and 32 points, is probably not a coincidence. He told reporters, "I can assure that on January 1, 2011, I will put in motion whatever legal powers I have to stop this project." After his speech, he was asked which legal powers a governor would have to stop the project, but declined to get more specific. Asked about the issue earlier this week, gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich said, "Not an issue for the governor. I respect NYC's right to decide local matters." But we already know Paladino doesn't have much respect for a bunch of catatonic zombies.