The week began for Obama with him basking in the love of his invited guests at a White House Iftar dinner and ended with his party in disarray, his political fortunes plunging even further, and his sixth (Michelle's seventh) lavish vacation of the season imperiled by floating poop.
Celebrating Iftar at the White House, the president, as is his wont, made ridiculous panders to the audience, suggesting Islam had contributed much to this country since its creation and suggesting by both word and tone that he supported the building of the Cordoba House mosque near the ruins of the World Trade Center.
The storm which followed caught hacks like the Washington Post's Greg Sargent unawares and the Democrats left begging for help from an unlikely source; Obama's political career on life support; and the Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader, and former DNC chief Dean in an internecine fight that further diminishes their standing and prospects for the future. The Wall Street Journal's estimable James Taranto:
From the standpoint of public diplomacy, his actions with respect to the Ground Zero mosque have been utterly disastrous and stunningly incompetent.
By all accounts, his first statement on the subject was quite deliberate. He told an audience of Muslims just what they wanted to hear, presumably with the idea of fostering U.S.-Islamic amity. But the President evidently was taken by surprise that anyone else was paying attention.
By weighing in on the subject, Obama elevated it to a leading matter of national concern. And by issuing what sounded to almost everyone like a strong endorsement of the mosque plan, he put himself on the wrong side of the public, the vast majority of whom take it as an insult added to the injury of 9/11.
He attempted to conduct public diplomacy heedless of public opinion. Then, rather than try to persuade the public, like brave Sir Robin he bravely ran away, away! Mosque? What mosque? Hey, isn't the Constitution great? Since voting "present," the President has absented himself from the debate, which of course rages on.
With Obama having seized the initiative and quickly abdicated it, it is left to the professional controversialists of the left to make the case for the mosque scheme. This cackle of rads are the worst public diplomats you could ever hope to find. Their approach has been to try to bully Americans into submission by piling insult upon insult: Bigot! Un-American! Not only is this unlikely to win anyone over, it also perpetuates the lie that most Americans are anti-Muslim bigots.
a. Cordoba House, aka Park-51
There is something peculiar about the way Democrats think we ought to memorialize the worst attack on American soil, an attack by nineteen Moslems, supported by their fellow religionists and certainly some Moslem countries. (Gallup's latest survey indicates that 7% of the Moslem world hates us -- that's 80 million people.) While we pay the high costs for this attack, both in rebuilding the ruins and compensating those who suffered it, but as well in daily inconveniences in public buildings, transport, and higher military defense costs, so many on the left -- which, face it, is now synonymous with the Democratic Party -- think we ought to use these sacred spots to reach out and touch our enemies, gestures which in those places are seen only as weakness.
New York City has been slow to rebuild from the 9/11 attack. There are a lot of committees and public agencies involved. But part of the delay has been caused by absolute nitwittery. The first plan for the area, I remind you, centered about a preposterously simpy multiculturalist bit of nonsense called the Freedom Center, which wasn't abandoned until 2005. Now, after storms of protest, the folks in charge have settled on a more publicly acceptable 9/11 Museum, projected to open in September 2011 -- a mere ten years after the destruction of the towers. Similar plans held up a memorial in Pennsylvania, where the architects had originally planned a monument to the downed plane and passengers in the shape of a crescent, an Islamic symbol.
In any event, the area is still in bad shape, with a gaping hole where the towers once stood. A Greek Orthodox church which was destroyed in the attack has also been fighting for the right to rebuild, and just last week, as luck would have it, the congregation learned they've been denied permission to rebuild on the site.
Into this hive of feckless plans and bureaucratic inactivity stepped Sharif Gamal, who describes himself as a real estate developer. Two blocks from the site of the WTC West Tower, he purchased for $4.85 million half of a five-story building on Park Place. The building known as the Burlington Coat Factory was abandoned after part of the fuselage of one of the attacking planes crashed through the roof. Gamal planned to build a condominium complex at the site. Explanations for why he didn't are murky. He says it was because after listening to man named Imam Rauf, he envisioned a greater purpose of the structure. (I suspect the greater purpose came to him when the market crashed, financing became hard to get, and he couldn't unload the building without taking a substantial economic hit.)
In any event -- though Gamal owned only half the building and has no architect or the estimated $100-150 million to do so -- he proposed building a thirteen-story Islamic center (mosque, meeting rooms, swimming facilities) at the site, with Rauf as its leader. Naturally, this appealed immediately to the credentialed morons in charge of planning what goes into this site and their boss, Mayor Bloomberg. It caught the attention of the U.S. State Department as well, which gave Rauf sixteen thousand dollars to tour the Middle East, ostensibly to do outreach for the United States -- but inevitably, given the way business is done in the Arab world, to also raise the money for this let's-poke-you-in-the-eye edifice.
Not a lot of attention was drawn to this plan, but with the deft touch he brought to the Gates-Cambridge Police Department kerfuffle last summer, Obama's words lit a torch under the opponents of the mosque, which I believe now comprise about 70% of the country.
Naturally, those who supported it insisted Rauf was a moderate Moslem, the very sort of modern moderate Moslem we should support. He does refuse to call Hamas a terrorist organization, but that's okay for those who are looking for love in all the wrong places.
The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens reminded readers that the press, like the deluded, lonely women who send mash notes to psychotic killers, regularly tag as moderate Moslems people who are anything but.
Take Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, who, my friend Rick Ballard reminds us, is now justifiably the target of predator drones -- part of the administration's "this hellfire's for you Moslem outreach program." Awlaki was the imam of the mosque attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers and spiritual mentor to Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood mass murderer, as well as two other would-be bombers of innocent Americans. Here's how, per Stephens, the press described him not so long ago:
- The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2001: "Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, spiritual leader at the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Virginia, one of the nation's largest. . . . is held up as a new generation of Muslim leader capable of merging East and West."
Or take Brian Williams, another great moderate Moslem-spotter, of whose judgement Stephens reminds us.:
- NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Dec. 9, 2004: "It's the TV industry's newest experiment, 'Bridges TV,' billing itself the 'American-Muslim lifestyle network,' featuring movies, documentaries, cartoons. . . . It's the brainchild of Aasiya Hassan, an architect, and her husband, Muzzamil Hassan, a banker, who are disturbed that negative images of Muslims seem to dominate TV, especially since 9/11." [snip]
As for Bridges TV, the saccharine story told by Brian Williams and reporter Ron Allen (complete with scenes of the family's domestic bliss in their modest home in Buffalo, N.Y.), came to an abrupt end in February 2009, when Mr. Hasan beheaded his wife after she had filed for divorce, evicted him from their home, and won an order of protection. Last week, Mr. Hasan's attorney defended her client on the grounds that he was, of all things, a "battered spouse."
(b) The Storm that followed
The double lutz triple mosque spin by Obama had hardly been completed when the politicians of all stripes and voters weighed in, and the fancy footwork was not getting the kind of score the president apparently thought it would. Instead, it started a battle which continues to erode his support his party's. (Some nutters in the Moslem world abroad have suggested the whole thing is really a Zionist plot, but I'm beginning to think Obama himself is a Republican plant designed to bring the mainstream media hacks, who promoted him into office and continue to cover his behind, and his own party into such ignominy that they may never recover.)
The issue to anyone who is an adult is not the legal right to build a mosque in that part of the city, nor the right to freedom of religion; it is the propriety of building a thirteen-story mosque within the very area hit with the debris of the attack.
People who have no problem attacking Israelis for building apartments on their own land in Jerusalem, opposing energy companies for surface mining and constructing generating facilities, and denying even the right to smoke in one's one home and car are suddenly championing private property rights. People who would require that Catholic doctors and hospitals perform abortions, that kosher butchering be made illegal, and that Mormons be boycotted for opposing gay marriage are now championing religious freedom. You really can't make up this stuff.
Sometimes, like this week, I think the Almighty looks after America because we provide him with so much amusement.
And there are, of course, some benefits to us all from the controversy. I'm not talking about the value of public debate. When I say benefits, I mean this: Senator Schumer has finally been silenced. So has Hillary Clinton. So has Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Speaker of the House Pelosi wasn't muzzled. Well, not originally -- she called for an investigation of the WTC mosque opposition, seeing something evil in the exercise of free speech by other than mosque-supporters. Then her handlers got to her, and she said both sides should be investigated. Any day now, I expect her to show up in an Italian designer straitjacket with a gavel embroidered on it.
Senate Majority Leader Reid, in a fight for his life, bolted and opposed the mosque. So did Howard Dean, who called it a "real affront to people who lost their lives" on 9/11.
Efforts by NY Governor Paterson to get the mosque-builders to consider another site, which he would help them find, failed. Let me guess why. Do you suppose it's easier to collect funds in Iran and Saudi Arabia for a mosque at ground zero or one ten blocks away?
(c ) Nostalgia for George Bush
Maureen Dowd begged George Bush to weigh in on the matter and save Obama's bacon...er...hide. So did Eugene Robinson, and Peter Beinart wrote that he was feeling nostalgic for the former president.
So were the residents of Martha's Vineyard (Obama vacation spot) where Bush ("Miss Me Yet?") T-shirts were outselling pro-Obama ones.
But they weren't the only ones nostalgic for George Bush. Mark Hemingway of the Washington Examiner:
Over at Hotline, Reid Wilson has pretty informative read on the campaign strategies of congressional Democrats, who are quickly trying to create daylight between themselves and the President. It's worth reading for some smart strategic campaign analysis, but it also contains this eye-popping detail: The advice from Democratic consultants and strategists is almost unanimous: Run away from the President, and fast. A prominent Democratic pollster is circulating a survey that shows George W. Bush is 6 points more popular than President Obama in "Frontline" districts -- seats held by Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sees as most vulnerable.
And while it wasn't likely nostalgia for Bush, Obama managed to wee-wee up all of Los Angeles with security blockades as he attended a fundraiser for Barabara Boxer in Hancock Park, a fundraiser where two of the sponsors, Barbara Streisand and Jeffrey Katzensberg, were no-shows.
When you've lost Barbra and Jeff...
By week's end, the president, his approval ratings scraping bottom, made it to Martha's Vineyard in time to learn that Tisbury Great Pond, which fronts on the expensive rental vacation estate they are staying at, is contaminated with coliform fecal bacteria.
It was a week where everything around Obama turned to merde.
Aside from the mosque dispute, the big news item this week was the 23-1 shellacking prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald took at the hands of former Illinois Governor Blagojevich. The Wall Street Journal editors, echoing criticisms I've made of Fitzgerald for four years here at American Thinker, said he should resign or be removed for his shoddy tactics. Fitzgerald announced immediately that he planned to retry the case, something the Washington Post said would go beyond prosecution to "persecution."
I remind readers that Ben Bradley and Bob Woodward knew all along that Richard Armitage was the leaker, and yet the paper promoted the witchhunt by Fitzgerald into the fake Plame leak. You'll pardon my suspicion. I think the editors know what I believe: that any new trial will harm the Democrats, and the president even more, and most certainly will require that the prosecution pony up some real witnesses, even though they are vulnerable to embarrassment and even prosecution themselves -- as are Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, and Jesse Jackson, Jr. -- and even though they may be unable to cover up Obama's role in the attempted sale of his Senate seat.
In any case, I always love it when someone uses his opponent's own underhanded tactics against him, and that is exactly what Blagojevich did. He knew that Fitzgerald makes charges outside the complaint to poison potential jurors against the defendant, knowing that prejudicing the jury is an important part of winning, and no one ever stops him. Blagojevich undercut the hyperbolic Fitzgerald jury-poisoning (this time he had Lincoln rolling over in his grave) by going on every goofy TV show he could get on -- along with his wife -- creating the impression in the minds of those who watch this stuff (standard juror fare) that he wasn't an evil politico, just an amiable dunce.
As Fitzgerald apparently girds for another battle, Blagojevich does, too. Reports indicate he's looking for more TV shows on which to make appearances, starting with the very un-goofy Fox News Sunday today.