Spokesman Jim Manley said in a written statement that Republicans should show their sincerity about sensitivity to Sept. 11 survivors by backing a high-profile bill to grant health benefits to rescue workers, something that stalled in Congress earlier this month.
But at the same time, Manley put Reid on the record for the first time in the hyper-sensitive and volatile mosque debate.
"The First Amendment protects freedom of religion," Manley said. "Sen. Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else."
Reid's comments added another high-profile voice to the mosque controversy. The president first stepped into the fray Friday when he appeared to endorse the Park 51 project during a Ramadan dinner at the White House. The next day, he clarified that he was merely commenting on fundamental religious freedoms -- not specifically on the "wisdom" of the mosque project. Then White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama was not "backing off" his original remarks.
President Obama wanted to straddle the line. He wanted to state the obvious to the world: in America the first amendment guarantees everyone a freedom of religion. He didn't want to take a stand on the real issue: whether it's proper for this mosque to be built so close to Ground Zero.
Harry Reid had no such problem. Obama created a firestorm with his comments and then tried to walk them back. It was truly amateur hour, a growing trend, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Furthermore, Democrats have enough problems. Now, everyone has to deal with this.