Former President Bush won't comment on Ground Zero mosque

The man who was president during the 9/11 attacks won't be sharing his views on the Ground Zero mosque proposal.

Several Republican leaders have denounced plans for an Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.

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But a spokesman for former President George W. Bush told AOL News that Bush would not comment on the matter.

Now that it has become a full-scale national controversy and campaign issue — with President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and dozens of Republican candidates across the country in 2010 weighing in — Bush's silence on the plans could become deafening the longer the debate wears on.

An endorsement of the plans from the former president, who took pains to separate Islam and terror in the wake of 9/11, would no doubt complicate the current Republican offensive over the project.

And more Democratic candidates are starting to come out against the plans. Along with Reid, New York Reps. Michael Arcuri (D) and Mike McMahon (D) denounced the proposal Monday.

In a speech just days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush described Islam as "a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world" and declared, "Islam is peace."

Some of the president's former aides have expressed concern over the GOP's rhetoric in opposition to the mosque, including former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, who endorsed Obama's position on the mosque in a Washington Post op-ed.

"How precisely is our cause served by treating the construction of a non-radical mosque in Lower Manhattan as the functional equivalent of defiling a grave?" Gerson wrote. "It assumes a civilizational conflict instead of defusing it."

-- This post was updated at 9:57 a.m.