Democrats disagree on NY mosque, White House says no problem
Barack Obama and Harry Reid agree on most things.
They both favored stimulus measures to boost the economy. They both want climate change and comprehensive immigration reform to pass the Senate — at least someday.
But the U.S. president and the top Democrat in the Senate disagree about an issue that could become a flashpoint in the November elections: whether or not a Muslim cultural center in New York should be built near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Obama has come out forcefully in favor of the rights of the builders to put the center, which would include a prayer room and an auditorium, near the site known as “Ground Zero.”
Reid, who is facing a tough reelection battle in his home state of Nevada, has said he thinks it should be built elsewhere.
White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama didn’t mind the difference of opinion.
“Senator Reid is a fiercely independent individual; it’s one of his strengths as a leader of the Democratic Party. So the president feels completely fine that he might disagree,” Burton told reporters.
“He respects the right of anybody — Democrat, Republican, independent — to disagree with his opinion on this. That’s one of the other fundamental rights written into the DNA of our Constitution.”
Obama has taken heat for his comments about the center from both political parties, and Democrats who are concerned about losing a lot of seats to Republicans in November, hope it does not become a distraction.
What’s your take? Should the center be built near the 9/11 attack site? Has it become a distracting political issue?
Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama speaks to press about New York mosque), Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Reid listens to Obama at fundraiser in July)