WHAT WAS DEAN THINKING?…. When Ben Smith first reported yesterday afternoon that Howard Dean was siding with the right on Park51, I found it hard to believe. Indeed, when I clicked the link and noticed that it had been posted by Breitbart, I held off on mentioning it all — he does have a history with creative editing. (“Fool the political world once, shame on you….”)

But Democracy for America confirmed that the recording is legitimate, and Dean really did take a line that seems completely at odds with his values and principles.

Dean responded by saying he favored some sort of “compromise” of the issue that involved using the proposed site for “people of all faiths.” He called the presence of the mosque an “affront to people who lost their lives, including Muslims.” He then went on to say that while the congregation building the mosque probably has good intentions, “there’s no point trying to do something good if it’s met with enormous resistance from a lot of folks.”

How a Muslim center could be an “affront” to Muslims who were killed nine years ago is a mystery.

Apparently referring to a closed Burlington Coat Factory store, Dean added, “That site doesn’t belong to any particular religion; it belongs to all people of all faiths.” Asked if the proposed community center should be moved to another location, Dean said, “Well, I think another site would be a better idea.”

When Sam Stein gave him a chance to walk it back, Dean more or less reiterated his position. “I don’t believe all this nonsense the right wing is putting out about radicals and all that stuff,” Dean said. “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.”

For the record, it’s not a congregation trying to build the community center, and there is no court battle.

I have no idea how Dean ended up with this position. It’s just bizarre.

It’s also probably worth mentioning a detail I hadn’t heard before today. Politico reports that the Park51 building may not be built anyway: “The Cordoba Initiative hasn’t begun fundraising yet for its $100 million goal. The group’s latest fundraising report with the State Attorney General’s office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 — not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase.”

The national uproar is baseless anyway, but the building in question may never exist.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.