Obama backs away from Ground Zero Mosque

Less than 24 hours after voicing his stout support for the Ground Zero Mosque project, President Obama took it all back.  His Friday evening talk at a White House dinner to mark the start of Ramadan, he  told reporters, shouldn't be construed  as an endorsement of locating a mosque near Ground Zero.

"I was not commenting on the wisdom of putting a mosque there," he remarked.

Rather, he added, he meant to defend the "right" of Muslims to build near Ground Zero after getting an OK from local planning authorities -- but not whether it's a wise move.  His speech, he said, was simply a call for religious tolerance.

But that's not how both sides in the controversy viewed it.  Nor obviously was it the way the White House press reported it.

By revisiting his Friday remarks, Obama didn't exactly show a profile in courage.  And he's bound to offend his Muslim guests who spoke glowingly about his support of having them build the mosque near Ground Zero.

The President's revised version actually meshes with the views of critics of the project, who all along have stipulated that Muslims have a legal, constitutional "right" to erect a mosque near the World Trade Center site, but that the wiser course, in view of the pain and sensibilities of 9/11 victims and survivors, would be to build it somewhere else.

On Friday evening at the White House Ramadan dinner, Obama basically sided with New York Mayor Bloomberg, a staunch supporter of building the mosque near Ground Zero.

On Saturday, the President -- by revisiting his earlier comments -- essentially endorsed the view of New York Governor Paterson, who also agreed that the project's sponsors have a "right" to build near hallowed ground, but offered to find them a state-owned or public site to build it somewhere else as the wiser course.

What happened between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon to get Obama to modify his position?  An easy guess:  His political advisers must have told him that, given strong public feelings and opposition, he was making it even more difficult for Democrats in the November mid-term elections.  Every 'Democratic candidate obviously would be asked whether he or she agreed with his endorsement of a Ground-Zero mosque.

So, Obama backtracked.  And rather clumsily.
Less than 24 hours after voicing his stout support for the Ground Zero Mosque project, President Obama took it all back.  His Friday evening talk at a White House dinner to mark the start of Ramadan, he  told reporters, shouldn't be construed  as an endorsement of locating a mosque near Ground Zero.

"I was not commenting on the wisdom of putting a mosque there," he remarked.

Rather, he added, he meant to defend the "right" of Muslims to build near Ground Zero after getting an OK from local planning authorities -- but not whether it's a wise move.  His speech, he said, was simply a call for religious tolerance.

But that's not how both sides in the controversy viewed it.  Nor obviously was it the way the White House press reported it.

By revisiting his Friday remarks, Obama didn't exactly show a profile in courage.  And he's bound to offend his Muslim guests who spoke glowingly about his support of having them build the mosque near Ground Zero.

The President's revised version actually meshes with the views of critics of the project, who all along have stipulated that Muslims have a legal, constitutional "right" to erect a mosque near the World Trade Center site, but that the wiser course, in view of the pain and sensibilities of 9/11 victims and survivors, would be to build it somewhere else.

On Friday evening at the White House Ramadan dinner, Obama basically sided with New York Mayor Bloomberg, a staunch supporter of building the mosque near Ground Zero.

On Saturday, the President -- by revisiting his earlier comments -- essentially endorsed the view of New York Governor Paterson, who also agreed that the project's sponsors have a "right" to build near hallowed ground, but offered to find them a state-owned or public site to build it somewhere else as the wiser course.

What happened between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon to get Obama to modify his position?  An easy guess:  His political advisers must have told him that, given strong public feelings and opposition, he was making it even more difficult for Democrats in the November mid-term elections.  Every 'Democratic candidate obviously would be asked whether he or she agreed with his endorsement of a Ground-Zero mosque.

So, Obama backtracked.  And rather clumsily.

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