The majority leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, has weighed in on the Great Mosque Debate of 2010, becoming the highest-profile Democrat to call for the so-called Ground Zero Mosque to move to a new location at an unspecified distance away from ground zero. “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion,” Reid’s spokesman, Jim Manley, wrote in an e-mail today after Reid’s Republican challenger, Sharron Angle, called on him to take a position. “Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.” Reid’s office did not elaborate on why Reid feels this way, or on how large the mosque-free (or, Islamic-community-center-free) zone surrounding ground zero should be.
Though Reid was more explicit, it’s interesting to note that he doesn’t necessarily break with President Obama with this statement — like Reid, Obama also supports the right for the Corboda Initiative to build an Islamic community center two blocks from ground zero, but he refuses to say whether he supports the “wisdom” of the project. And, in fact, Reid is taking the same position as Sarah Palin (as well as a majority of Americans, who oppose the mosque while admitting its legality).
Reid isn’t the only other political figure to weigh in on the mosque today. Mayor Bloomberg reiterated his support, saying, “If we shut down a mosque two blocks away from where freedom was attacked, I think it would be a sad day for America.” Newt Gingrich, making an offensive and logically faulty comparison, said that “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the holocaust museum in Washington.” In Florida, a Republican candidate for governor, Rick Scott, released an ad that rebutted Obama’s position on the mosque without ever mentioning either of his opponents in the race or even the word “Florida.” In case it wasn’t already clear, the “mosque” is now a full-blown national issue on which nearly every candidate in every race will have to pick sides.
Update: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has added his two cents, and the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder says “this one guy seems to get this issue just right“:
My principles on this are two-fold. One, that we have to acknowledge, respect and give some measure of deference to the feelings of the family members who lost their loved ones there that day. But it would be wrong to so overreact to that, that we paint Islam with a brush of radical Muslim extremists that just want to kill Americans because we are Americans. But beyond that … I am not going to get into it, because I would be guilty of candidly what I think some Republicans are guilty of, and the president is now, the president is guilty of, of playing politics with this issue, and I simply am not going to do it.