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More Bed-Wetter Democrats Join Reid on Cordoba House

Chris Cillizza must have been the first one with his hand up in the Washington Post editorial meeting to volunteer to write the “Democrats in disarray” piece, about the Cordoba House project. He must have dialed with glee into all the campaigns and heard all the anguished responses. I particularly enjoyed the anonymous operative at the front of the article, who said, “Obama is right on substance but wrong on politics, and right now we need to focus on politics.”

Here are some sharp political types with their canny takes:

Some Democrats running for office in conservative states sought a middle ground that would appeal to supporters and opponents of the proposed mosque. “I support freedom of religion, but let’s give the families of 9/11 victims a voice about where this mosque should be placed, because putting one near Ground Zero isn’t appropriate,” said Rep. Charlie Melancon (La.), who is trying to unseat Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

Reid was the most prominent Democrat to break with the president on the mosque, but he was not alone. Billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene, who is running in a Senate primary against Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (Fla.), spoke against the mosque over the weekend: “Common sense and respect for those who lost their lives and loved ones gives sensible reason to build the mosque someplace else,” Greene said. Greene and Meek will compete for the Democratic nomination Aug. 24.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the party’s nominee for governor, sided with Reid and Greene — saying that she opposes the construction of the mosque because the families of those killed Sept. 11 oppose it.

Apparently September 11 families run community land use deliberations now. Actually, if they did, there would be a Cordoba House in the vicinity of Ground Zero, possibly, since opposition to the Islamic community center is not monolithic among those families.

Cillizza dismisses the strong defenses of the Cordoba House project, like Jerrold Nadler (who represents the area) and Keith Ellison (the first Muslim in Congress), by saying that those two Democrats represent safe seats in November. Because they couldn’t possibly believe in religious freedom!

Today’s cable news fodder in this vein will occur in Philadelphia within the hour, as Joe Sestak campaigns with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has managed to burnish his reputation with his bold yet lonely stand in full support of Cordoba House. When Sestak got Bloomberg’s endorsement and decided to hold a press event today, he probably didn’t think he’d need to have a fully-formed opinion of what type of project should fill the former Burlington Coat Factory at 45-51 Park Place, but now he does:

“Joe believes there is a Constitutional right to religious freedom and separation of church and state that applies equally to all Americans,” Sestak spokesman Jonathon Dworkin said. “But he is not looking to say what is best for New York – as long as that right is respected – he is focused on Pennsylvania.”

Expect this dodge for the next several days, as Democrats hope this August, silly-season issue peters out. But a couple things strike me. First, it’s remarkable that Republicans have managed to figure out a way to run on 9-11 again, seemingly with as much vigor as the campaigns of 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Maybe when the grandson of a victim runs for President in 2076 he or she won’t be able to go to that well, but for now, they can still make bacon off it.

Also, this is a situation where Democrats control the White House, both houses of Congress, and are nonetheless directed by events, completely reactive, and unable to cut through the media clutter. It’s just not a competent political operation.

Ultimately, I agree with many commentators that the true worth of an unequivocal stand will come not in this election (and I really don’t think this will matter much in anyone’s race), but a decade or two down the road, when the minorities watching this spectacle understand who stood up for their rights and who didn’t. Right now, they’re not seeing a lot of bravery anywhere.

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David Dayen

David Dayen