- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2010

Republicans on Sunday criticized President Obama for comments about a proposed mosque near New York’s ground zero, suggesting that the matter will escalate into a significant campaign issue leading into the November midterm elections.

The president made his remarks at a Friday Ramadan service, but he quickly clarified them Saturday, undermining backers of the project who had cheered what they thought was White House support and prompting Republican accusations that Mr. Obama is prone to bad judgment.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Obama’s comments show that he “seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of America” and “that’s one of the reasons people are so frustrated.”

Democrats on Sunday defended the president and the mosque project by invoking typically Republican themes: freedom of religion, local control and the sanctity of property rights.

“Government has no right and no business to comment one way or the other on whether a church or a synagogue or a mosque should be anywhere, so long as they meet the legal requirements,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, said on the same show that it was wrong for national lawmakers to politicize a local New York City issue.

“It’s up to the people of New York. … They are obviously the folks who are right there at the site of the attack of 9/11,” said Mr. Van Hollen, who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats’ fundraising arm.

Mr. Cornyn, who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the fundraising arm of Senate Republicans, denied that the controversy about building a mosque close to ground zero is about freedom of religion.

“We all respect the right of anyone to worship according to the dictates of their conscience,” he said. “But I do think it’s unwise … to build a mosque at the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of a terrorist attack.”

Mr. Cornyn added that while the issue “is going to be a local decision,” the “American people will render their verdict.”

The Texan also suggested that the gap between the populace - which overwhelmingly opposes the mosque project - and the support it gets from Washington Democrats will play into a theme that the nation’s coastal elites look down on and lecture the population.

“Whether you’re listening [to the people] or whether you’re lecturing to them, I think this is sort of the dichotomy that people sense - that they’re being lectured to, not listened to. And I think that’s the reason why a lot of people are very upset with Washington,” he said.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, called the proposed mosque an “overriding issue” heading into the November congressional elections.

Mr. McCarthy, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, also questioned why the president is speaking publicly about a New York issue he has no power to control.

“Why isn’t the president spending the time debating about jobs, instead of moving into New York?” said Mr. McCarthy, the House Republican chief deputy whip. “Why is he so insensitive about this area?”

Story Continues →