Tuesday, August 17, 2010
G.O.P. Sees Mosque Near Ground Zero as Campaign Issue - NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — Republican Congressional candidates on Monday intensified efforts to inject the divide over construction of an Islamic center near ground zero into the midterm campaigns while the Senate’s top Democrat said he objected to the mosque being built there.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader and a Democrat facing a difficult re-election fight, said through a spokesman that those who plan to erect the Islamic center should look elsewhere. That separates Mr. Reid from President Obama’s support of the developers’ right to build the center.
“The First Amendment protects freedom of religion,” said Jim Manley, a top adviser to Mr. Reid. “Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”
In a number of releases and statements, Republican House and Senate candidates challenged Democrats like Mr. Reid to make their positions clear on the construction of a mosque and community center about two blocks from the site of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City.
“Ground zero is hallowed ground to Americans,” Elliott Maynard, a Republican trying to unseat Representative Nick J. Rahall II, a Democrat, in West Virginia’s Third District, said in a typical statement. “Do you think the Muslims would allow a Jewish temple or Christian church to be built in Mecca?”
Republicans said Mr. Obama’s defense of the right of the developers to pursue the project showed that he was out of touch with average Americans.
“It is very troubling to see President Obama again turning a deaf ear to the thoughts and concerns of a majority of Americans,” said James Renacci, a Republican candidate in Ohio’s 16th District, who said people at a recent public meeting were furious about the mosque proposal.
The remarks were a rare instance in this campaign season when Republicans have strayed from a focus on economic issues in their push for substantial gains in the House and Senate in November. The intensity of their attacks showed that they do not appear worried about the risk of being seen as intolerant or not supportive of the right to freedom of religion.
Some leading Democrats said it was the president’s role to stand up for constitutional rights in the mosque dispute.