It really is not petty.
In its wide-ranging poll (PDF), CNN worded its question (#41) about the "Ground Zero mosque" as
As you may know, a group of Muslims in the U.S. plan to build a mosque two blocks from the site in New York City where the World Trade Center used to stand. Do you favor or oppose this plan?
There are a couple of problems with this question which found, not surprisingly, 68% of individuals against. The plan is not to build a "mosque," but rather a community center with a prayer room. The issue, presumably, is not whether one would "favor or oppose" this action. It's hard to imagine a majority of Americans thinking it's just dandy for a Muslim religious institution to be built in the shadow (but not actually in the shadow) of Ground Zero. Rather, the issue is whether there should be active opposition, or instead tolerance, toward a prayer center near the site.
Or is it? The remarks of the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, John Cornyn of Texas, are telling- and consistent with those of fellow Republicans. Asked on Fox News Sunday whether he "will be telling your candidates to make sure what the Democratic opponents -- how they stand on this particular issue," Cornyn responded
Well, I think it does speak to the lack of connection between the administration and Washington and folks inside the Beltway and mainstream America. And I think this is what aggravates people so much.
I agree with Jack, this is going to be a local decision. I'd like to hear what other elected officials in New York -- the two United States senators and other local officials -- think about this. And the American people will render their verdict.
Asked whether it "becomes an election issue," the Texas senator commented
I think -- I think whether you're connected with people, whether you're listening 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. So I think in that -- to that extent, yes.
Ahem. Senator Cornyn never said that he is opposed to the construction, much less that he believes it should be stopped. Quite the contrary- referring to his fellow guest, Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island, he stated "I agree with Jack. This is going to be a local decision." (Reed had said President Obama "emphasized appropriately and, again, not without, I think, a uniform position we have in the United States, that religious tolerance is what makes this country different than a lot of countries, particularly some of the countries that are sponsoring these terrorists.")
Appearing on Fox News, former House Speaker Newt
Gingrich then went on to claim that “we would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.”
“There is no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center,” he said.
On August 14, likely GOP presidential candidate Sarah Palin had tweeted:
Mr. President, why are they so set on marking an area w/ mosque steps from what you described, in agreement with many, as "hallowed ground”?
7:06 PM Aug 14th via web .Mr. President, did you encourage the mosque dvlprs to accept Gov. Paterson’s offer of land if they move away from hallowed ground @ GZero?
7:04 PM Aug 14th via web .Mr. President, should they or shouldn't they build a Muslim mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3000 people?Your position?
7:04 PM Aug 14th via web
And my favorite from the proud Alaskan:
7:05 PM Aug 14th via web .We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they? This is not above your pay grade.
Did you notice? Right-wing heroine Sarah Palin asserts "we all know that they have the right to do it."
Similarly, Representative Peter King (R-NY), and outspoken "opponent" of the project, on Monday told GOP TV
Everyone says as far as I know that the Muslim community has the right to build a mosque. The whole question is whether they should or not. So for the president to raise it in the way he did on Friday was clearly giving the impression that he was endorsing it or supporting it -- or tacitly supporting it.
"Everyone says as far as I know that the Muslim community has the right to build a mosque." What to make of Gingrich (as with other Republicans) failing to say that he believes Cordoba House should be blocked (though he got close to it); Cornyn and Palin strongly implying that they believe that construction of the "mosque" should not be stopped; and Peter King flat-out saying it should be approved?
Conservative voters put a premium on getting the right feeling from their leaders- the sense that those opinion leaders have the same emotions they themselves have. For all the Republicans who were angry at Bush 41 when he broke his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge, most were completely unrepentant about voting for him. The assertive, definitive, and macho pledge verified, they believed, that he felt the same way they did. It's in the gut, not in the head.
This instinct is demonstrated by a segment (beginning at approximately 3:35) of this video of Mike Huckabee on his Fox News program interviewing former (and, two weeks shy of turning 70, current) bombshell Racquel Welch. Welch's statement, followed by Huckabee's response:
"I'm ashamed of the fact that I've been married four times and never gotten it right but uh...."
"But you wanted to get it right."
Welch need not be ashamed that she has been divorced/separated four times but.... you wanted to get it right?" Such is an example of the conservative mindset- the individual has defied traditional family values, but she expresses conservative sentiments (such as believing development of the pill harmed women), and so what matters is she "wanted to get it right."
And so it is that Republicans will not say that Cordoba House must not get built, and have steered completely away from suggesting a strategy to block its construction. But they scream, stamp their feet, and express moral outrage, confident that will assure their constituency they're on the same side.
Which means, of course, that GOP opposition to the proposal to build near the site at which stood the World Trade Center is without principle. As it is.
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