Reid and Obama on Ground Zero: Agreement or Disagreement?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came out today against the Ground Zero mosque, while recognizing the First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Which puts him basically in line with President Obama.


The statement from a Reid spokesman:

"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else," a spokesman for the Nevada Democrat said in a statement.

And the quotes from Obama, both in his original statement to a White House gathering honoring Ramadan on Friday, and his subsequent backtrack over the weekend:

"Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone 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," he said. "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."

Asked Saturday about the issue during his trip to Florida, Obama said: "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding."

Obama, as he mentioned, has not explicitly commented on the "wisdom" of building a mosque near Ground Zero, but he has firmly supported the right for the mosque's planners to build it there. This is not quite the same thing as advocating for the mosque to be built.

Reid, on the other hand, "recognizes" (perhaps different from Obama's ardent backing) First Amendment rights in this case, but thinks the mosque should not be built there.

So Reid and Obama have publicly commented (though Reid did so through a spokesman) on different issues entirely--the can and the should--and it's probably not right to say flat-out that they either agree or disagree, except they do both agree that the First Amendment offers the protection it offers. They seem to agree on the can, but Obama has not quite weighed in on the should...unless we are to assume that his decision to initially address the can reveals, on any level, his unspoken opinion regarding the should.

If nothing else, we can thank the Ground Zero mosque for testing our capacity to interpret rhetorical nuance.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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