The White House stepped into a crater the size of ground zero when President Obama decided late last week to weigh in on the side of Islamic supporters who want to build a mosque two blocks away. White House aides spent much of Monday explaining that President Obama's comments on the so-called "ground zero mosque" were not politically motivated. This of course is not stopping Republicans from seizing on those remarks and trying to take political advantage.
Why the president waded into that cauldron is beyond me. There is no federal issue in this case. Building permits and architectural review are all a matter of city and state law. Already Obama is having to pull back. According to ABC News:
The president's statement on Friday that Muslims have a right to build an Islamic center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center attack that was carried out by Islamic militants immediately prompted outraged reactions. The next day, Obama appeared to soften his stance by saying that he questioned the wisdom of the building the center so close to Ground Zero.
Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said today that the presidential marks were not guided by politics. Burton said Obama "felt it was his obligation as president to address this." Obama ignored shouted questions today after a news conference on the economy in Wisconsin.
Oh, really? Was it merely a matter of conscience that drove him to hand the GOP a new, better, juicier, polarizing issue on which they may now campaign against Democrats this fall? Or is it his propensity, a year-and-a-half into his term, to continue his not-ready-for-prime-time antics? We've not witnessed a president this prone to pratfalls since Chevy Chase rose to Saturday Night Live fame imitating Gerald Ford.
I guess the president doesn't think his fellow partisans have it tough enough this year. They already have to explain away the tottering economy, a country where unemployment is high and jobs are scarce, a towering deficit and more debt to come as Mr. Obama's healthcare reform law phases in. Plus, it's an off-year election and the party in power historically loses seats in Congress under these circumstances.
On second thought, I guess now I agree that the president should have made that statement whether he had jurisdiction over the matter or not. Democrats could benefit from having to jump one more hurdle.