Apparently there are no principled grownups left among the leaders of the Democratic Party.

Today, via Ben Smith and TPM, we get to hear Howard Dean, who once stood for some decent principles, tell us that those who want to build a Muslim center in New York City should be looking for a "compromise" that would place the center somewhere else.

The preferred location, I gather, would be somewhere that didn’t function as a litmus test for whether a politician has a genuinely principled adherence to the US Constitution. After all, it’s awkward when our leaders must prove they actually understand why the Founders found religious intolerance so odious and dangerous to the concept of a free people that it was the first behavior they explicitly banned from American government.

How sad that we’ve lost that wisdom.

It’s predictable that morally depraved right wing zealots and opportunists like Palin and Gingrich would attempt to exploit America’s ignorance of its own history, exacerbate anti-Muslim intolerance and risk further religious wars. It’s predictable they would then use that as a wedge to split Democrats and Americans everywhere into those who actually believe in religious freedom and those who only pretend or don’t get it.

But it is disheartening to find that so many prominent Democrats fall for this evil gimmick and then wonder why their once loyal supporters hold them in such contempt and are ready to abandon them and start over.

Has no one thought through where this leads? As I understand the logic of the principle Howard Dean and Harry Reid are embracing from their right-wing tormentors, European Jews should have been more sensitive to the hurt feelings of post-World War I Germans and been more willing to compromise about where they should live.

I suppose the same principle would apply to Native Americans who once lived on lands coveted by White Men and refused to go "somewhere else" willingly. And what about the African Americans who rudely insisted on sitting at lunch counters and in the front of buses, and in public school rooms, offending the hallowed sensibilities of so many whites in their communities?

Tell me how this ends, Howard.

More from Glenn Greenwald

Update: Sam Stein at HuffPo has a response from Dean:

The former Governor of Vermont told the Huffington Post that he "stood by" the remarks he had made earlier in the day on WABC radio in which he called the mosque plan "a real affront to people who lost their lives [on 9/11]." But in a clarification of sorts, he stressed that he would not have a problem if the proposed Islamic cultural center ultimately ended up being built in the current location.

"It won’t upset me," Dean said, "except I think it is a missed opportunity to show some flexibility… I don’t believe all this nonsense the right wing is putting out about radicals and all that stuff. I take the congregation at its word that it is a moderate congregation trying to heal the wounds of 9/11. But the best way to heal the wounds is not to have a court battle, but to sit down and try to work things out."