Good news: Obama spokesman says it's okay to oppose the Ground Zero mosque

Well, it’s nice to know that at least one Democrat thinks so. According to Peter Beinart, not only does opposing the mosque spell the end of America or something, but it’s actually got him feeling nostalgic for George W. Bush. Who could have seen that coming? Ahem.

Alternate headline via Jim Treacher: “Harry Reid found not guilty on racism charge.”

Obama “respects the right of anybody — Democrat, Republican, independent — to disagree with his opinion on this,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters Tuesday.

“Senator Reid is a fiercely independent individual,” Burton said. “It’s one of his strengths as a leader of the Democratic Party. So the president feels completely fine that [they] might disagree.”

Translation: “Democrats, feel free to distance yourselves from the president on this.” Which, actually, was unnecessary, as they’re already abandoning ship in droves. Meanwhile, I’ve been seeing stories all day that New York Gov. David Paterson’s planning to meet with the Park51 chiefs in hopes of getting them to move the site, but as you’ll see from the clip below, that’s news to developer Sharif El-Gamal. Is this simply a question of Paterson wanting to meet with them, or are the meetings already in progress? Hmmmm:

Sources tell CBS 2’s Kramer that Gov. Paterson is concerned that Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a staunch supporter of putting the mosque at ground zero, and President Barack Obama, might be advising mosque leaders to dig in their heels and insist on the present location…

Paterson’s office confirmed that discussions between his staff and the developer’s staff have been ongoing and said the governor expects to have a meeting scheduled in the near future.

That does sound like something Bloomberg would do, but unless The One is some sort of deep-cover GOP agent, I’m guessing he’s not involved in Operation: Let’s Drag This Out As Long As Possible. As for why the developers might insist on staying put even though the much-touted goal of “building dialogue” has long since crashed and burned, you’ll find a clue in the video of El-Gamal. Most righties will say they’re committed to the spot as a “victory mosque,” most lefties will say they’re committed in order to thwart those darned wingnuts and prove a point about religious freedom, but this guy’s thinking about the bottom line. If they move the site now, it’s just another community center; if they keep it where it is, it’s that community center, “the most famous community center in the world.” Any publicity is good publicity, “dialogue” be damned.

I’ll leave you with a smattering of Muslim opinion about the project, as it’s not as uniform as you might have been led to believe. Zuhdi Jasser, whom I’ve cited several times before, continues to insist that it’s a bad idea, as does Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed of al-Arabiya, who fears that “it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime.” On the flip side, Muslim Republicans like David Ramadan and Randa Fahmy Hudome see it as a free-exercise issue that shouldn’t be demagogued for midterm gain, and longtime blogger Aziz Poonawalla gave a thoughtful interview to fellow blogger Scott Payne reiterating his support for the project and his misgivings about how both opponents and Park51 management have handled the subject. All worth reading. Click the image to watch.