Menino: Looks like I can't ban Chick-fil-A from Boston after all

The guy’s a moron. End of story.

“I can’t do that. That would be interference to his rights to go there,” Menino said, referring to company president Dan Cathy, who drew the mayor’s wrath by going public with his views against same-sex marriage.

The mayor added: “I make mistakes all the time. That’s a Menino-ism.”

The Herald first reported last week that Menino warned “it will be very difficult” for Chick-fil-A to obtain licenses for a restaurant in Boston…

“I sent (the landlord) a letter, but that’s all. There’s no pressure by me to allow this place to be rented,” he said.

The mayor of Boston sends a letter to a property owner warning him that the city would frown upon him leasing to Chick-fil-A, but “there’s no pressure.” Question for First Amendment litigators: How much state interference is required before Chick-fil-A might have an action against the city? Refusing to grant the company a zoning permit for its stance on gay marriage is a no-brainer but informally leaning on landlords not to do business with it is trickier. Maybe Mumbles isn’t as dumb as I thought.

At the Standard, Mark Hemingway says it’s time for Obama to have a Sistah Souljah moment by defending Chick-fil-A:

–Defending the Chick-fil-A CEO’s right to express his religious beliefs without his business suffering legal consequences would blunt some of the criticism he’s been getting from Catholics and evangelicals who are hopping mad over Obamacare’s birth control and abortion mandates.

–He can defend Cathy without making his sudden same-sex marriage flip-flop seem even more disingenuous. All he has to say is, “You don’t have to agree with Chick-fil-A’s marriage views. You can speak out against them and refuse to patronize their restaurants. But it’s not right to penalize them legally for their beliefs.” Even a lot of staunch liberals would likely recognize the value of respecting the owners of Chick-fil-A’s right to expression if the president forced them to set aside the hysteria for a moment.

–By coming out in support of Chick-fil-A, Obama could gently criticize Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Alderman for persecuting Chick-fil-A. That way, he can distance himself from the sleazy Chicago machine politics of his early career that many people still associate him with.

Jonah Goldberg concedes that it’d be the right thing to do but argues that Obama wouldn’t benefit politically from doing it. Most of his base seems okay with the idea of Democratic mayors strong-arming Chick-fil-A for the cause, after all, no matter how awful and ominous a precedent that might set. Why would O do something to irritate them when he’s spent the past three months pandering to them relentlessly to try to boost turnout in the fall? It’s a fair point, but don’t underestimate Obama’s newfound anxiety about damage from negative campaigning being done to his image as the Unicorn Prince. Those two ads he released a few days ago were all about restoring the luster of the shiny, happy Hopenchange brand. If he steps up for Chick-fil-A, it’s a small but maybe significant boost for his likability among independents, and likability’s probably his biggest asset right now. Besides, even some of the lefty commentariat has tut-tutted Menino and Emanuel for going too far. O’s got cover from liberal opinion leaders; his base will forgive him in the name of electability. In fact, Obama would be doing them a favor by refocusing the debate: Until yesterday, when Rahm and that dopey alderman weighed in, this was chiefly a story about boycotting the company, not denying it its First Amendment rights. Obama can put that back on track.

Via Mediaite, here’s the “View” crew also siding with Chick-fil-A. Exit question: Why can’t “Chicago values” tolerate a chicken restaurant whose owners oppose gay marriage when, for centuries, it’s tolerated churches and mosques (and related charities) whose leaders oppose it? What’s the difference? Churches have a free exercise right to their beliefs but business owners who attend those churches don’t?