Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) tells National Review Online that he is frustrated with “elites” who have characterized opposition to the Ground Zero mosque as “biased or bigoted.” President Obama’s comments, he adds, have “reignited the debate,” making what was “once a brushfire into a prairie fire.”
“The anger among ordinary people is growing each day,” King says. “The elites look down upon the opposition as being biased or bigoted when it is really just people who are concerned about what is happening to their country. . . . There is tremendous disappointment with the leaders of the mosque and the developer for appearing to be so insensitive.”
Later this week, King tells us, Gov. David Paterson (D., N.Y.) plans to meet with the mosque developers in a bid to find them a new location. “[Paterson] wants it to work,” he says. “He wants to find state property that’s not near Ground Zero and make that available to developers and do a property swap, or whatever is the ideal answer.” At this point, King says he is unsure of whether the mosque’s leadership will attend the meeting. If they don’t show up, King says that would be an “arrogant” move by a group “who says their purpose is to build a bridge into the community and to bring people together.”
“If the [developers and mosque leaders] don’t budge, there is little we can do legally,” King says. “As a conservative, I think that it is dangerous to have the government condemn property, saying what can or can’t be built. What we need to have is a public debate — public opinion, rallying — and hopefully bring enough pressure on the imam to change his mind.” With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and members of the New York delegation breaking with the president’s position, King believes that public outcry will play a major role in shaping the outcome.
King urges opponents of the mosque to express their views in an “intelligent and reasoned way,” saying that the issue, along with anything 9/11-related, remains a “raw wound.” He says that recent comments by Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, are an example of the “wrong way” to go about opposing the project, since “using the word ‘Nazi’ does not add to the debate, which already has enough intensity.”
President Obama, King adds, is the person “most responsible for bringing this issue back.”
When the president addressed the issue last week, he “noted the emotional effects of this issue in a very cavalier way, saying he realized that this was hallowed ground before moving on to a very academic, very cold presentation,” King says. “The fact that he backtracked the next day shows that he did not give this enough study or thought. Instead, he jumped to take the politically correct position.”