TPM News

Republicans for weeks have been surfacing left and right to condemn the proposed Islamic center two blocks from the site of Ground Zero in New York City, but one GOPer stayed quiet. As the "mosque" debate boiled over this weekend the big question was whether George W. Bush was going to weigh in.

TPM asked, and the response from his spokesman today was simple:

"President Bush has no comment."

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Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been found guilty of only one of the 24 counts in his corruption trial. After deliberating for 14 days, the jury found him guilty only of making false statements to the FBI. The jury is deadlocked on the other 23 counts.

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Marco Rubio says that Muslims in other nations should look fondly on the United States as a bastion of religious tolerance following the Cordoba House flap. Rubio, the Florida Republican running against Independent Gov. Charlie Crist in a tight Senate race, has joined the chorus of politicians publicly opposing the proposed lower Manhattan Islamic cultural center on the grounds that building it would be "opening wounds" from 9/11.

On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, I asked Rubio how he thought views like his would play among moderate Muslims across the globe. (At an event I attended earlier today, some religious leaders suggested that the tough rhetoric opposing the project could have a negative effect on the way Muslims view the United States.)

"I would point out to Muslims all over the world that America is one of the few countries on earth where every faith is represented," Rubio said. "We have a long and cherished tradition of religious liberties and freedom, and none of that is being questioned in my mind."

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Businessman Ron Johnson, the likely Republican nominee against Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), says that man-made global warming is a myth -- it's sunspots that are to blame for climate change. Furthermore, he said, more carbon dioxide is a good thing that helps trees grow.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on an interview that Johnson did with the paper's editorial board:

"I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change," Johnson said. "It's not proven by any stretch of the imagination."

Johnson, in an interview last month, described believers in manmade causes of climate change as "crazy" and the theory as "lunacy."

"It's far more likely that it's just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time," he said.

Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere "gets sucked down by trees and helps the trees grow," said Johnson.

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Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) are enlisting members of Congress to press President Obama's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to propose "significant cuts to the military budget."

Frank and Paul are seeking signatories to a letter to the fiscal commission, highlighting one trillion dollars in savings they can be achieved, through cuts and efficiencies, in the next 10 years.

"[W]e write to urge in the strongest terms that any final Commission report include among its recommendations substantial reductions in projected levels of future spending by the Department of Defense," the letter reads.

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Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has taken up the cause of reforming state judicial campaign and election systems, writing that the "crisis of confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary is real and growing." If left unaddressed, said O'Connor, "the perception that justice is for sale will undermine the rule of law that courts are supposed to uphold."

O'Connor's comments came in her introduction of a new report which concludes that partisan and special interest groups have grown far more organized in their efforts to use judicial elections to tilt the scales of justice. Campaign fundraising for judicial elections more than doubled from $83.3 million in 1990-1999 to $206.9 million in 2000-2009, according to the report.

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A new poll out of Louisiana finds that David Vitter could be forced into a runoff against his main primary rival, former state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor, if voters are kept aware of Vitter's scandalous past.

The survey, conducted by the Market Research Institute, finds Vitter leading the pack of Republican hopefuls with 46 percent support, followed by Traylor with 34 percent, and 21 percent undecided. Vitter would have to secure more than 51 percent of the votes in the August 28 primary to avoid a runoff.

The poll was conducted on behalf of Traylor's campaign and the results reflect voter opinion after being reminded of Vitter's connection to the D.C. madam prostitution scandal. Vitter, according to the poll, has similar numbers when voters are informed that Vitter employed aide Brent Furer for roughly two years after Furer was arrested for violently assaulting his girlfriend.

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Add Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) to the list politicians with selective memory about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's global outreach on behalf of the United States.

Pawlenty, a presidential hopeful for 2012, appeared on Fox News' "Hannity" last night to decry Obama's support for the Islamic cultural center proposed by Rauf's Cordoba House at a site two blocks from Ground Zero. He also criticized the State Department for sending Rauf on a diplomatic mission to the Middle East, saying that was "disgusting" and "dangerous."

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An interfaith group gathered in Washington this morning in an event organized by the Muslim American Society and expressed concern that Democrats were joining many of their colleagues in the Republican Party in calling for the Cordoba House project to be moved from its planned location near Ground Zero in New York City.

The group said it was worried that political concerns were overriding moral ones in the national debate about the project, and they said it looked to them like President Obama and many other Democrats were getting swept up in the stream.

"It's interesting how this evolved," Mahdi Bray, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation, told reporters. Bray said opposition to the Cordoba House project began on "known Islamophobic websites" before spilling into the tea party and then into mainstream conservatism. From there, he said, it quickly became "a political football."

"I think it speaks to the worst of politics to use that issue to maybe advance" a political agenda, Bray said. He lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who he said was trying to "out-oppose the mosque" with his opponent in the Nevada Senate race, Republican Sharron Angle.

Bray said he was "disappointed" by the direction the political debate has taken and said he was concerned by Obama's recent "couching" of his statement about the rights of Muslims to build religious sites where they wanted. Bray told me he still considers Obama "an ally of the [moral] right" when it comes to Cordoba House.

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