Summer is quickly coming to close and that means more Americans will be turning their attention to the fall election season. That's why this week, MTP put the focus on fall elections. I asked Sen. McConnell (R-KY) about the GOP strategy for 2010, had a tea party debate with Dick Armey and Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), and a lively roundtable discussion.But the issue that is trumping all right now is the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero.
The president came under fire for saying: " As a citizen and as President, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion and everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances. "
Some Democrats frame it as a Constitutional issue, saying that this is a case of freedom of religion and is exactly what America is all about. But Republicans like McConnell and former Rep. Rick Lazio (now running for governor of NY), say it is more an issue of sensitivity to those who lost loved ones on 9/11.
What this debate has shed light on is the perception of the president's religious views. A Pew Research Poll shows 18 percent of Americans mispercieve Obama as a Muslim. Among Republicans, that number is 31 percent. Here is what McConnell told me about those numbers:
And during our roundtable, Rick Lazio said this about the Iman trying to bring the mosque to Lower Manhattan: "There are millions of peace-loving, good Muslims in America. This Imam Rauf is not one of them. He's not a bridge builder."
But Gov. Granholm said this should be seen as a learning opportunity for Americans and the Muslim community. And the BBC's Katty Kay made this point:
When you have Newt Gingrich come out and effectively equate Muslims with Nazis, you wouldn't get away with doing that with any other minority group in America. New Gingrich couldn't have said that about gays, women or Latinos and had any political future in this country.
I'm interested to know your thoughts. And a note about next week's show - Nightly News anchor Brian Williams will be filling in for a special MTP from New Orleans. We'll examine how that city continues to recover five years after Hurricane Katrina.Catch all of today's show on our Web site.
If it's Sunday, it's Meet The Press.