Obama said Friday that Muslims shouldn’t be forbidden from building a mosque on account of where it’s located.
“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” he said at a dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month. “And 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. This is America.”
On his trip to the Gulf on Saturday, Obama said his statement didn’t express support for the “wisdom” of building a mosque two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Manhattan, but rather the right the group has to build it.
“My intention was simply to let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion,” he said.
A CNN poll shows an overwhelming majority of Americans (68 percent) oppose building the mosque just blocks away from Ground Zero.
Obama appearing to shift his stance on the issue hints at a disconnect he has with how voters are feeling on matters beyond lower Manhattan.
“People just are angry at the mainstream, centrist views the president is often espousing,” Washington Post’s David Ignatius told "This Week." “That is a real problem for [Democrats]. They don’t have the energy; they’re not tapping into this energy source as they head toward the election.”
Former Bush-Cheney strategist Matthew Dowd equated the energy in the Democratic Party to a campfire, while Republicans were stoking a bonfire, which he warned could blow back if conservatives are too extreme in picking challengers for November’s election.
“Republicans have nominated people that may not be able to win,” he told "This Week," adding, “They’re going to have less chance of winning in this election because of who they nominated in some of these places.”
Roberts agreed Republicans have excelled in tapping voter anger and also questioned the wisdom of Democrats who contend they have forward-looking agenda but insist on blasting President George W. Bush for his mishandling the economy.
“They’re running against George Bush,” she said, adding, “I’m not at all sure it will work for them this year. And that could be a real problem because they’re not understanding the level of [voter anger].”
Sean J. Miller contributed to this article.