The Out-Of-Towners: Politicians From Far, Far Away Fight Muslim Center In NYC

August 18, 2010 4:25 a.m.

The Cordoba House project, the Muslim community center that is set to be built in lower Manhattan a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, has inspired all sorts of opposition. But it’s not exactly a not-in-my-back-yard phenomenon. In fact, many of the politicians who have called for stopping the project, and who have spoken of the sacredness of the ground there, aren’t from anywhere even remotely nearby to begin with.

Indeed, the intensity of opposition seems to increase as one actually gets further away from the site. And this isn’t just for politicians, it’s for us regular people, too. A CNN poll has put national opposition at 68%. Meanwhile, a Marist poll of New York City put opposition at a somewhat lower 53%. And furthermore, opposition was lowest in Manhattan — the site of the actual Ground Zero location and the 9/11 attacks — where a 53% majority approved of the Muslim community center, compared to 31% against. Opposition then increases in the surrounding boroughs of New York City, a place that has a population larger than many states, and then increases even more going out into the country beyond.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Welcome To The Neighborhood: A Look At The Area Around The ‘Ground Zero Mosque’]

We decided to use a simple methodology: Using Google Earth, put down a location pin on the World Trade Center site, and then measure the distance to the hometowns of politicians who have slammed the project. So let’s take a look at some of these political leaders who come from far and wide, and want to preserve the integrity of the hallowed land with which they don’t actually come into regular contact.Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) – 3,346 miles away
Palin has been outspoken in her opposition to the center, calling upon peaceful Muslims to “refudiate” it. She has since added that the mosque would be “a stab in the heart” to Americans.

The town of Wasilla, Alaska, is 3,346 miles away. Interestingly, Palin has also opposed environmentalists who want to tell Alaska how to manage its resources.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) – 286 miles away
Cantor has invoked the “come on” exception to the First Amendment, to say that the project should not be permitted: “Anyone looking at that with any common sense would say, ‘What in the world would we be doing, you know, fostering some type of system that allows this to happen?’ Everybody knows America’s built on the rights of free expression, the rights to practice your faith, but come on.”

Richmond, Virginia, is 286 miles away.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) – 1,010 miles away
A potential president candidate, Pawlenty has said that the area is “hallowed ground,” and that the project would “degrade or disrespect” it.

Eagan, Minnesota, is 1,010 miles away.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) – 208 miles away
Gingrich, a potential presidential candidate, has called for comparing American Muslims’ religious freedom to the standards of Middle Eastern countries: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.”

He has also further dug in: “And I think we ought to be honest about the fact that we have a right — and this happens all the time in America. You know, Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”

McLean, Virginia, where the former Georgia Congressman has lived since he left office, is 208 miles away.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) – 70 miles away
The independent Senator has declared: “Well, I guess I’d say I’m troubled by it. But I don’t know enough to say it ought to be prohibited. But frankly I’ve heard enough about it, and read enough about it, that I wish someone in New York would just put the brakes on it for a while and take a look at this.”

New Haven, Connecticut, is 70 miles away.

Senate nominee and former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA) – 80 miles away
Toomey’s campaign has come out against the center. “It is provocative in the extreme to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero,” said Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik. “Islamic leaders should be encouraged to move the mosque elsewhere.”

Zionsville, Pennsylvania, is 80 miles away.

Rep. Mike Arcuri (D-NY) – 176 miles away
This Dem Congressman from upstate New York has come out against it: “As district attorney, I spent my career protecting victims’ rights, and to me, this is no different. The pain felt by many Americans from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is still very real, and I can understand how the thought of building a mosque near Ground Zero could reopen those wounds. For the sake of the victims and their families, I think another location should be chosen.”

Utica, New York, is 176 miles away.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) – 1,169 miles away
Vitter said in a statement: “President Obama’s support of building the mosque at Ground Zero is a slap in the face to the American people and I’ve demanded that President Obama reverse his position.”

Metairie, Louisiana, is 1,169 miles away.

Florida Senate candidates Marco Rubio (R) and Jeff Greene (D) – 1,090 and 1,024 miles away
After President Obama’s remarks in support of the right of Muslims to build the center, Florida governor and independent Senate candidate Charlie Crist voiced his agreement. “We are a country in my view that stands for freedom of religion. You know, respect for others,” the ex-Republican Crist said. “I know there are sensitivities and I understand that, but I think Mayor Bloomberg is right and I think the President is right.”

On the other hand, the presumptive Republican nominee and one of the Democratic candidates came out against it. GOP candidate Rubio said in a statement: “It is divisive and disrespectful to build a mosque next to the site where 3,000 innocent people were murdered at the hands of Islamic extremism.”

Dem businessman Jeff Greene chimed in, too, opposing Obama’s stance. “President Obama has this all wrong and I strongly oppose his support for building a mosque near Ground Zero,” Greene said in a statement. “Especially since Islamic terrorists have bragged and celebrated destroying the Twin Towers and killing nearly 3,000 Americans.”

Rubio’s hometown of West Miami is 1,090 miles away. Green’s hometown of Palm Beach is 1,024 miles away.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican nominee Sharron Angle – 2,236 and 2,396 miles away
Team Angle insisted earlier this week:”As the Majority Leader, Harry Reid is usually President Obama’s mouthpiece in the U.S. Senate, and yet he remains silent on this issue. Reid has a responsibility to stand up and say no to the mosque at Ground Zero or once again side with President Obama—this time against the families of 9/11 victims. America is waiting.”

Reid’s Senate office then issued a statement that did exactly that: “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else.”

Reid’s hometown of Searchlight is 2,236 miles away. Angle’s home town of Reno is 2,396 miles away.

Kentucky Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul – 851 miles away
Paul, as a libertarian and believer in private property rights, says he thinks it should be left to local authorities to decide the project’s fate. But personally, he doesn’t believe it should be built. Says the campaign: “In Dr. Paul’s opinion, the Muslim community would better serve the healing process by making a donation to the memorial fund for the victims of September 11th.”

Paul’s hometown of Bowling Green is 851 miles away.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) – 207 or 2,086 or 2,141 miles away
The 2008 Republican presidential nominee has stated his position, though he made it clear that his opinion is not a matter of law — and he admitted that he’s an out-of-towner. “I understand that I am a senator from Arizona, and I’m a long way from New York City,” said McCain. “But I am entitled to my opinion. And obviously my opinion is that I’m opposed to it. I think that it’s something that would harm relations, rather than help.”

This one is actually a bit difficult to nail down — as we learned in 2008, John McCain sure has a lot of homes. Sampling around a bit, we find that the distance from Ground Zero to Arlington, Virginia is 207 miles; the distance to Sedona, Arizona, in 2,086 miles, and the distance to Phoenix, Arizona, is 2,141 miles.

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