The all-stupefying hand of the Near Ground Zero Mosque dustup was destined to reach the highest office in the land at some point, and President Obama is now charged with being disdainful of the American people and insensitive to the victims of the 9/11 attacks. He's also accused of flipflopping on this vexed issue.
In comments at a Ramadan event Friday, Obama voiced his view that the Islamic center going up on the former Burlington Coat Factory site should be allowed on First Amendment grounds. Over the weekend he clarified that, which may or may not have looked like backpedaling. AP reports:
Speaking to a gathering at the White House Friday evening to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Obama said that he believes "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country."
"That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances," he said. "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."
Asked Saturday about the issue during his trip to Florida, Obama said: "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding."
Obama said that "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."
With the caveat that Barack Obama is history's greatest monster, I don't see any contradiction in the president's position. You may think building the Islamic center is provocative, disrespectful to the dead and likely to cause joy in the hearts of Islamic radicals everywhere (I think it is all of those things), but that has no bearing on whether the developer has a right to build it.
It might have been wiser to say in the first place: "The president does not make land-use policy for the Boroughs of New York, and so my opinion on this issue is of no interest to anybody." But presidents never say that, even though they should. So while it serves Obama right for seeking cheap political points at the Friday event, his position is consistent.