Obama mosque stance hurting, Gallup finds, as Americans disapprove of it and him
President Obama busily continued his five-state cross-country political money collection tour today.
But he took time out to declare that he has "no regrets" about his firm statement of support for a new mosque and social center near the site in New York City of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Shortly after, Gallup released a new overnight poll showing, however, that many Americans have regrets that their president made that statement.
The new survey found that among the 57% of Americans with an opinion, 37% of Americans disapprove of the Democrat's mosque comments. Twenty percent support them. Another 41% said they don't yet know enough to have an opinion.
Two-thirds of Americans told Gallup they are paying a great deal or fair amount of attention to the mosque issue, which Gallup suggests is playing a role in Obama's overall approval this week falling to 41%, the lowest level of his 19-month presidency.
Of course, Obama's not on any ballot for the Nov. 2 midterm elections.
But many Democrats worry that disapproval of him, his administration, controversial legislative agenda and now a mosque could cost them control of at least one house of Congress.
The party of presidents under 50% approval in midterm years usually suffers severe....
...congressional losses. And another Gallup Poll earlier this week shows the Republican lead on the generic congressional ballot has grown to seven points, its largest this year.
We published the full text of Obama's remarks, as usual.
Friday night at a sundown White House Iftar dinner celebrating the breaking of the day's Ramadan fast, Obama said Sept. 11 was a traumatic event, that he supported America's religious freedoms 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."
The next day criticism of Obama's mosque statement mounted. House Republican Leader John A. Boehner said:
The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it. The American people certainly don’t support it. The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding.
Former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin asked:
Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?
In Florida on another vacation, Obama attempted to clarify by saying: "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there." Later, however, aides said the president was not back-pedaling on his dinner statement.
Gallup's overall approval polling, which includes the first two days of fallout after the mosque statement, would appear to confirm that Americans heard him supporting the idea.
This afternoon ABC News reported that mosque supporters said they would need $100 million for the development and would not rule out accepting funds from Iran, Saudi Arabia and other nations.
Exactly why an already embattled U.S. president would voluntarily insert himself into what had been a local controversy, thereby poking the country's still-tender Sept. 11 scars and raising a Muslim place of worship to a divisive national campaign issue, has puzzled many political observers. Especially since there is another mosque just 12 blocks from the site.
On the other hand, if people are arguing about a possible mosque near ground zero, they're not debating the responsibilities of Obama and his large Democratic congressional majorities for the stubbornly stagnant economy, high unemployment rates and deficits, which previous polls showed were their most vulnerable political points heading toward November.
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-- Andrew Malcolm
Photo: Associated Press (file); Associated Press (Obama Iftar dinner).