POLITICS -- August 17, 2010 at 8:24 AM ET
The Morning Line: Mosque Debate Continues to Distract
So much for Obama's campaign tour handing the Democratic message tons of free media coverage heading into the post-Labor Day frenzy.
As the president wings his way from Los Angeles to Seattle to cheerlead for vulnerable incumbent Sen. Patty Murray before calling it a day in Columbus, Ohio, the political press and punditocracy is still primarily focused on lower Manhattan.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accomplished three things by issuing a statement saying the Islamic community center and mosque should be built anywhere other than a couple of blocks from Ground Zero.
"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Sen. Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.
First and foremost for the embattled majority leader, the statement closes off an avenue of attack for Reid's Republican opponent in Nevada, Sharron Angle.
Reid's statement also provided a fresh and prominent data point into the issue, allowing cable and internet chatter at least another 24 hours of non-stop coverage of the story.
But the third, and possibly most important, impact is how clear Reid is being about the proposed site of the Islamic center compared to President Obama's vague and muddled response to the issue.
After making remarks Friday night that he was in favor of seeing the Islamic center constructed, the president's obvious discomfort in leaving that impression was apparent during his second statement to the press on Saturday.
He may never want to speak about this topic again, but Reid's clarity indicates it's not just a local issue. It also begs the question for Mr. Obama: Does he or doesn't he believe the location two blocks from Ground Zero is an appropriate spot for the Islamic center and mosque.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin can excite millions of supporters with the blast of a Facebook message or the sending of a tweet.
But just as Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy learned when they sat atop the Republican boogeyman fundraising circuit, that kind of popularity and devotion can cut both ways.
EMILY's List, the organization that supports pro-choice Democratic women running for office, plans to utilize Palin at the center of a new, grassroots organizing effort being announced Tuesday morning: "Sarah Doesn't Speak For Me."
A spokesperson for the group describes it as "launching a full-scale interactive arena for women (and men too!) to respond to Sarah and her candidates and connect with each other. They'll be able to sign petitions, tell their stories, pledge to vote, donate to candidates who share their concerns, and more."
"Also? There will be swag. So you can bring your 'Sarah Doesn't Speak For Me' message with you in the non-virtual world too."
GATES' FIRST EXIT INTERVIEW
NewsHour Foreign Affairs Editor Mike Mosettig writes: "In Washington's sprawling defense community, Monday's let-your-hair-down interview with Secretary Robert Gates raised questions about the future and a curious footnote from the past."
"Talking with Foreign Policy reporter Fred Kaplan, Secretary Gates pretty much confirmed rumors long around: that he would be departing his job some time next year. And that got the buzz started all over again as to his possible successor. As Josh Rogin enumerated in his blog, The Cable, there are plenty of candidates. Perhaps the top two: Under Secretary Michele Flournoy and Clinton-era Navy Secretary Richard Danzig.
"In his interview, Gates made a joking reference, in addition to several serious reasons, why he would not want to serve for the full Obama term. That would place him on the longevity list with Robert McNamara, Donald Rumsfeld, Caspar Weinberger and Charles Wilson (first term, Eisenhower administration). Those men also happen to be the four most controversial to fill the job.
"Which raises another historical footnote: Two of these controversial secretaries were either preceded or succeeded in office by men named Gates. Robert gates took over from Rumsfeld in 2006, and Thomas Gates preceded McNamara in the last year of the Eisenhower administration. Like Robert Gates, Thomas Gates was so well regarded across the partisan aisle that President-elect John F. Kennedy was tempted to keep him at the Pentagon to maintain an aura of bipartisanship. Instead, Kennedy chose another nominal Republican, McNamara. And the rest, as they say, is history."