Rep. Boehner Refuses To Condemn Quran-Burning Pastor

September 08, 2010 11:52 am ET — Alan Pyke

On today's Good Morning America, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) came painfully close to saying the right thing when asked about a Florida pastor's plan to disgrace the memory of the 9/11 attacks by burning a pile of Qurans on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the mass murders committed by al Qaeda terrorists.

Rep. Boehner began well enough, saying that "just because you have a right to do something in America doesn't mean it's the right thing to do." Those words echo his statement condemning the placement of the Park51 Islamic community center, and he was careful this morning to direct his words at Park51's backers as well as the book-burners in Florida. But sadly, that line used up all the courage Boehner brought with him to the TV studio.

"We're also a nation of tolerance," Boehner said, "and I think in the name of tolerance people oughta really think about the kind of actions they're taking." ABC's George Stephanopolous asked if Boehner was telling the pastor to cancel the book burning, and Boehner sat silent for fully five seconds. Stephanopolous asked again, and Boehner's initial force melted into platitudes about how the idea is "not wise," before the GMA crew turned to the pressing subject of tanning. Watch:

It's good to see someone in the GOP leadership talk about the planned Quran-burning shindig — the leadership has maintained a cowardly radio silence thus far — even if it took Gen. David Petraeus' warning that the event "could endanger troops" to put those leaders on the spot.

Considering that prominent conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) are eager to abandon the American tradition of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue, Boehner's performance here is an improvement. But that it is tempting to applaud Boehner for even this limp-wristed condemnation illustrates how far today's GOP has gone down the Islamophobia rabbit hole.

The man who would be Speaker can't speak his own mind on religious tolerance for fear of losing the Crazy Bigots flank of his party.  Even with Gen. Petraeus in his corner. 

UPDATE: With the failure of congressional Republicans to lead, Haley Barbour is becoming an unlikely voice of reason. This morning, Gov. Barbour (R-MS) went further than Boehner towards condemning the planned Quran burn. According to TPM:

"I do not think well of the idea of burning anybody's Koran, Bible, Book of Mormon or anything else," Barbour told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

"I don't think there is any excuse for it," Barbour said. "I don't think it's a good idea."