I had all my notes ready for this week's column and grabbed them to think in peace and quiet in the Georgetown Rathskeller, one of the few non-tarted-up boites left in this growing-ever-richer Capital City.
I can't work in an atmosphere of botoxed babes hustling the latest mango-pomegranatetinis at brightly lit granite bars.
The Rathskeller, hidden in a mews (a fancy word for alleyways that once led to horse stables) was the perfect atmosphere for work: dark, virtually uninhabited at noon. It serves burgers, fries, and real drinks. It had the added advantage of still reeking of decades of once-licit cigarette smoke
I slid to the end booth facing the door, placed my order, and started riffling through the stack.
First up was the Obamas' sudden burst of patriotism.
Neither had shown any significant or appropriate concern ever for the sacrifice of the troops or the martyrs of 9/11. Obama famously pitched a rose at the wreath-laying ceremony at ground zero while campaigning.
And their actions since then hadn't improved much in that regard.
It was only after Michelle's trip to Spain proved the last straw and her approval ratings tumbled that she muscled her way into the planned Shanksville 9/11 memorial ceremony, which was featuring Laura Bush. I wove in a neat riff about her huge staff brainstorming how to restore her lost luster and coming up with this gimmick.
The president, too, was detailed away from the golf courses to make a speech to the nation on Iraq. Presumably Imam Rauf did not write it, unlike Obama's speech in Cairo, because as Jake Tapper indicates, it will praise the troops. Tapper notes, however, that the speech is not likely to be terribly accurate:
President Obama is not expected to address the fact that he opposed the surge of troops in Iraq in 2007. Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen told me last year that the surge created the conditions allowing the US to withdraw combat troops today.
Next up as I wrote the column, there was the unfortunate stabbing of the Moslem cabdriver in New York City.
The truth is that hate crimes against Moslems are much exaggerated. The number-one target by tenfold is Jews. The stabbing nevertheless produced an outpouring of vitriol against the Ground Zero mosque's opponents by the left. Mark Hemingway writes in the Washington Examiner:
According to the latest hate crime statistics available, there were 1,606 hate crime offenses motivated by religious bias in 2008. A closer look: 65.7 percent of them were committed against Jews. Against Muslims? 7.7 percent.
Depending on which population estimates you accept for Muslims (anywhere between 4 and 7 million), hate crimes are committed against Jews at a rate three to eight times greater than against Muslims. Yet something tells me that despite all these hard numbers - as opposed to Time's "anecdotal evidence" - thatmagazine is not going to run a cover anytime soon asking, "Is America Anti-Semitic?"
After 9/11, there was a quick spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes - there were 28 in 2000, then 155 in 2002. In 2008, there were 123. Even one hate crime is too many, but consider: Between 2 and 4 of every 100,000 Muslims was a hate crime victim in 2008. The murder rate in D.C. last year was about 24 for every 100,000 residents.
Another interesting data point: 4.7 percent of hate crimes in 2008 were motivated by anti-Catholic bias. Another 3.7 percent were anti-Protestant. So from a raw numbers perspective, there were more hate crimes against Christians in America in 2008 than there were against Muslims. Given our large Christian population, it's true that each Christian is far less likely to be victimized, but the numbers still show that religious haters have not been singling out Muslims.
But facts rarely make it through the heavy curtain of victimology reportage. They didn't this time, either. A significant roster of progressive pundits weighed in, blaming their political opponents for the crime.
New York Magazine: "But with the tension so high right now on the issue of tolerance of Muslims, the correlation between the two is troubling enough."
Little Green Footballs: "With the bigotry and hatred continuously pouring out of Fox News, right wing websites, and talk radio, it was only a matter of time."
Bob Cesca: "Claiming to be a Muslim that close to Ground Zero is a stab in the heart to whatever."
TPM Livewire: "Okay so: Anyone else sadly not surprised at a Muslim hate crime in New York City these days?"
The only thing that bollixed up that fairytale was the fact that the cabdriver himself opposed the mosque, and the man he said attacked him was a young man who'd worked for an organization that supported the mosque.
When the New York Times came around to reporting this "coincidence," it buried that bit of news almost at the very end of the story. Just as they would have, I am sure, had he been a Tea Party operative.
And while we are discussing false narratives, I added a bit about the guy who bombed Congressman Carnahan's office. He turned out to be -- I am sure to the anti-conservative press's grief -- one of Carnahan's own staffers, a left-wing blogger at Josh Marshall's TPM, who had regularly behaved aggressively against Tea Party supporters -- not that the press got around to ever reporting that.
And then I got to the updates on Imam Rauf, his wife, and the Department of State "Outreach Program," which Claudia Rossett, bless her, covers so well.
I put together some of the more outrageous things Imam Rauf and his wife have said, my task made easier by people like Nat Hentoff, the noted civil libertarian who opposes the construction of the mosque:
"I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened [on 9/11],"but the United States' policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. ... Because (the United States has) been an accessory to a lot of -- of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, it -- in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A." [snip]
In the Dec. 9, 2007 Arabic newspaper Hadi el-Islam, Rauf insisted:
Throughout my discussions with contemporary Muslim theologians, it is clear an Islamic state can be established in more than just a single form or mold. It can be established through a kingdom or a democracy. The important issue is to establish the general fundamentals of Sharia that are required to govern.
Other writers had dug up even more.
Ron Radosh quoted Andrew McCArthy on Rauf's kind of "moderation":
Andrew McCarthy writes about the attempt to invent a moderate Islam that barely exists. He informs us about "Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual guide and a favorite of the Saudi royal family," whom he notes has been endorsed and cited by our good Imam Rauf. Called the "most well known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today" by Imam Rauf, the sheik's argument is Islam is incompatible with secular society. After all, to say you know better than Allah is "apostasy." And if a Muslim makes a public break with the faith, as let us say Hirsi Ali and others, he has a quick solution: "Execution." And this is the face of Muslim moderation!
Quoting a Fox News report of the State Department's justification for hiring Rauf, I added in more of Rauf's preposterous anti-American notions:
During a 2005 conference in Australia, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf compared the United States to Al Qaeda and said, "We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims."
Rauf made the comments while speaking at the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Center during a question and answer session, as part of what sponsors say was a dialogue to improve relations between America and the Muslim world.
Rauf added, "You remember that the U.S. led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children.
Imam Rauf was not the only family member the Department of State decided to fund even after knowledge of his views critical of this country.
His wife, Daisy Khan, Claudia Rossett informs us, who is just as ridiculous and just as anti-American, was also hired by the Department to engage in public diplomacy on our behalf.
As Rossett notes:
Daisy Khan has been speaking prolifically from New York about the Cordoba House mega-mosque project (which the developer recently re-dubbed Park 51, and the Cordoba House is now describing as a "community center"). Her message, like the name of the project, has been morphing at speed. When Rauf and Khan won approval for their 15-story mosque-topped Cordoba House from a Manhattan community board this spring, they advertised their project as all about doing their part for harmony and healing near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks.
When it turned out that a majority of New Yorkers, and Americans generally, think this project is more like rubbing salt in a wound, Khan shifted focus. She's now talking about the Cordoba project as a test of American religious tolerance. If a majority of Americans--cognizant that the Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by Muslims, in the name of Islam--think it's inappropriate to stage that test near the edge of Ground Zero, Khan's retort is that they must be bigots. In an interview last week with the Washington Post's Sally Quinn, she lamented: "When will Muslims be accepted as plain old Americans?"
On Sunday, interviewed on ABC TV's This Week by Christiane Amanpour, Khan ratcheted up her complaints. Amanpour asked, "Is America Islamophobic?"
Khan replied, "It's not even Islamophobia, it's beyond Islamophobia. It's hate of Muslims."
I wanted to blame the Judith A McHale Under Secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs and the present staff of the Department of State for all this, but I'm sorry to report that the blame must be shared with her predecessor Karen Hughes, who was hoodwinked into first hiring this "former industrial filter salesman" who has no formal religious education. And I cannot even say that Hughes has come to learn better with time. She didn't know what she was doing then, and she still hasn't a clue. In indicating her opposition to the mosque, she said the nineteen hijackers were men "who claimed to be Moslem." Claimed and were, Karen, and hailed as such throughout the Moslem world. Perhaps this and future administrations ought not to staff this post with public relations ninnies or at least provide them with some more substantial education into Islam before letting them dispense money for such a ridiculous undertaking.
As Rossett observed in her Forbes article:
Under both the Bush and Obama administrations, Rauf has been tapped for three previous taxpayer-funded "outreach" jaunts to the Middle East, two in 2007 and a third earlier this year.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, far from being shunned as Muslims, Rauf and Khan have enjoyed a boom business in "outreach." Their lifestyle includes at least two homes in the U.S. and one in Malaysia, fancy cars and pricey clothes. Last October, in an article headlined "High Five With Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf," Forbes chronicled the imam's pleasure in driving a Lexus GS400. Rauf also detailed how he enjoys Armani and Brioni suits, his wife likes her cashmere scarves, and he mentioned his fondness for handcrafted Persian rugs, especially those woven of silk. He added that he owns about 15 carpets dispersed between his homes in New Jersey and New York, and another 15 carpets "at my home in Malaysia."
I was just wrapping up and about to eat when two fellows still wearing their State Department badges entered and sat down at the bar. They didn't see me, but they were drinking and talking rather slowly, so when they started saying something memorable I put down the hamburger and took, what I think, are rather accurate notes on the entire public diplomacy fandango.
"You're in trouble, I take it," said the first man. "The Imam Rauf and Mrs. Rauf stuff's really hitting the fan."
"No, honestly. Everyone upstairs says I was right to tell China, Cuba, Libya, Russia, and Saudi Arabia that the U.S. mistreats women and minorities and that Arizona was wrong to try to control illegal immigrants. And hiring Daisy was just the cream on top as far as they are concerned."
"You didn't think it preposterous to hire as 'public diplomats' to Moslem nations people who say we hate Moslems and to tell the world's worst abusers of human rights that it's all equivalent -- we aren't -- except for our president -- perfect?"
"I'll give you a clue," the second man said, finishing his drink and heading toward the door. "Can you think of a cleverer way to keep Moslems and Chinese and Hispanics from immigrating here?"
I put my palm to my head. How could we have all missed it? "Outreach" is a synonym for "bamboozle."