I have to join Doug Mataconis in calling this a manufactured controversy, and a wildly successful one at that -- one which has trapped even the President in a political volte-face, despite the intellectual tenability of his position, and sparked false rumors, bought by formerly credible news sources, that the backers of the project have decided to move it elsewhere in the city.
If they could have been persuaded to relocate their project, well, that would be their decision and a victory for real dialogue. Dialogue, however, is not what this sort of thing is about. We are in the world of demagoguery, and the point of this issue is to make as much noise as possible. Changing anything isn't the point, attracting eyes and ears is.
American citizens should be able to do what they like with their own property as long as they comply with pre-existing laws. Period. These people have complied with the law and should be able to build whatever they want on land they own. Americans mostly recognize this, as Nate Silver points out:
Essentially, public opinion on this issue is divided into thirds. About a third of the country thinks that not only do the developers have a right to build the mosque, but that it's a perfectly appropriate thing to do. Another third think that while the development is in poor taste, the developers nevertheless have a right to build it. And the final third think that not only is the development inappropriate, but the developers have no right to build it -- perhaps they think that the government should intervene to stop it in some fashion.Alas, we come up against the poverty of language when phrases like "should a mosque be built here" are used. But let us not forget how the "middle" position came to exist -- at the hands of a small number of people, hungry to attract eyeballs, who decided to attack something that up until then had been non-controversial, an attack based on half-truths, xenophobia, and intentional ignorance of factual nuance -- one which turns a law-abiding American who cooperates with law enforcement officials and whose intent by all objective appearance is to guide his co-religionists down a meaningful path of peace into a fanatic Islamist sleeper agent and triumphalist intent on helping overthrow our government. What we have really learned from all is is that Pamela Geller has better Kung Fu than Laura Ingraham -- and we have learned, once again, that fear is more powerful than love.