So why did nearly everybody construe the Friday remarks as a strong endorsement of the Ground Zero mosque? Blame the professional left, which, in its characteristic neo-McCarthyite style, has sought to portray all criticism of the mosque project as, to quote Sargent, "un-American" and the critics as an undifferentiated lunatic fringe that rejects the First Amendment, at least as it applies to Islam.Read the whole piece.
Obama is a man of the left, so when he deployed the left's rhetoric about the First Amendment, allies and adversaries alike assumed that he also intended to level this accusation at the mosque's critics. They might well have been right about this, but if so, the president quickly made clear he does not have the courage of his convictions.
In doing so, and despite himself, he managed to make an important point. It is not a "clever little dodge" but a principled position to say that while the mosque's developers have a right to build it near Ground Zero, doing so is not the right thing to do. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from criticism.