GOP keeps mosque flap aliveAug 15th, 2010 | By politicsnews | Category: Politics
Republicans jumped Sunday on President Barack Obama’s defense of a proposed mosque near where the World Trade Center stood before the Sept. 11 attacks, seeking to make his comments a campaign issue for Democrats come November.
Democrats meanwhile sought to change the subject. Many appeared uncomfortable with both the timing and the content of the president’s statements.
Obama’s comments Friday placed him in the middle of the controversy over a Muslim group’s plans for a mosque near the site of the 2001 attack — and in turn, transformed an emotion-laden local dispute in New York into a nationwide debate overnight. But Saturday Obama returned to the issue to clarify his remarks as Democrats remained mostly quiet, hoping the controversy would blow over. It didn’t.
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday”, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) disputed Obama’s contention that the mosque controversy was about religious freedom, and predicted it would be an election-year issue.
“It demonstrates that Washington, the White House, the administration, the president himself seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of America. And I think that’s one of the reasons people are so frustrated,” said Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “This is the dichotomy that people sense — that they’re being lectured to, not listened to.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the recruitment chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, suggested the GOP might seek to capitalize on Obama’s decision to weigh in on the proposed ground zero mosque.
Adamant that voters will care more about the persistently high unemployment rate in the midterm elections than anything else, the rising Republican star sought to frame the president’s comments as evidence that he’s out of touch with voters.
“It’s going to be about jobs,” McCarthy said. “But this is just another example: Why isn’t the president spending the time debating about jobs instead of moving into New York? And why is he so unsensitive about this area as well, to engage in a local issue that’s causing a problem throughout the nation when the nation shows a sensitivity, and a deep sensitivity, to this exact location?”
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell used a similar argument to deflate speculation that the mosque comments would become an election issue for Democrats in the fall, but would not say whether the president’s words would help or hurt vulnerable Democrats.
“I don’t know if it’s good or bad politics, but I can’t imagine that any American, given the challenges facing this country, is going to vote based on what [Obama] said about the mosque,” Rendell said.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) insisted that Obama did no more than assert a general constitutional “principle” and defer to the judgment of New Yorkers, on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
“I think it’s up to the people of New York,” he added, when prodded about his personal opinion. “They are obviously the folks who are right there at the site of the attack of 9/11, and it’s a question for them.”