C’mon, did anyone expect differently? Would you have expected differently from Bush? He’s playing to a global audience so he took it as an opportunity to reiterate the “Islam vs. radical Islam” distinction. Domestic sensitivities are secondary. Besides, the left has invested so much energy over the past month patting itself on the back for its moral superiority that they’d have wigged out if he had sided against them here. He can deny them a public option, but god help him if he denies them a Teachable Moment at the wingnuts’ expense.

So what’s a poll-readin’ president to do? On the one hand, he’s at a Ramadan dinner and doesn’t want to alienate either the audience or his base. On the other hand, he’s staring at supermajority opposition to the mosque. Hey, I know: How about a statement that mostly dodges the question of whether it should be built in favor of the easier question of whether the owners have the right to build it? Not a Bloombergian lecture, in other words (unlike Bloomberg, Obama’s not a lame duck and thus can’t afford to wag his finger like The Enlightened so enjoy doing), but rather a pat on the back for free exercise and a pat on the back for the mosque’s opponents by acknowledging their “emotions.” He’s basically voting present. But since the media is pro-mosque too and eager to leverage authority on behalf of its position, this’ll be spun tomorrow as some sort of stirring statement in defense of the right to … alienate everyone around you, I guess, in the ostensible interests of “dialogue.”

Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities – particularly in New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

We must never forget those who we lost so tragically on 9/11, and we must always honor those who have led our response to that attack – from the firefighters who charged up smoke-filled staircases, to our troops who are serving in Afghanistan today. And let us always remember who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for. Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam – it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders – these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion – and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.

That is who we are fighting against. And the reason that we will win this fight is not simply the strength of our arms – it is the strength of our values. The democracy that we uphold. The freedoms that we cherish. The laws that we apply without regard to race or religion; wealth or status. Our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us – a way of life that stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.

Note to The One: Your leftist pals emphatically do not respect “the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan.” Respecting sensitivities would involve, at a minimum, not shrieking “bigot” — literally shrieking it in some cases — at everyone who says a word in protest of the development. But since he’s been grand enough to acknowledge that the “emotions” surrounding Ground Zero are legitimate, here’s a question: What exactly does that mean for the Park51 group in practice? Clearly it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t build on the site if they want to, but does it mean … they should consider moving to another site? Does it mean they should maybe knock off the insanely hypocritical fingerpointing about not respecting other people’s sensibilities? One of the core issues in all this is the extent to which cultural sensitivities should and shouldn’t be observed in the interest of harmonious co-existence. (That’s the point of Gutfeld’s gay bar idea, of course.) The “bigot!” crowd on the left manages to duck that dilemma by insisting that those who oppose the mosque basically aren’t fit for civil society and shouldn’t have their concerns factored into the “co-existence” equation in the first place. Obama apparently disagrees, but as I say, I’m not sure what that means in practice. Just words, maybe?

Speaking of Gutfeld, he says he invited Park51’s spokesman to come on “Red Eye” to chat about all this — and got no reply. (Audio here.) So much for dialogue.