The Georgia Pol and the Ground Zero “Mosque”

In quotes because it’s more than a mosque and calling it that plays the opposition’s game. Newt Gingrich, a perennial wannabe presidential candidate (who is far too divisive a figure with too many personal skeletons to ever actually be much of one), comments:

“The World Trade Center is the largest loss of American life on our soil since the Civil War,” Mr. Gingrich said. “And we have not rebuilt it, which drives people crazy. And in that setting, we are told, why don’t we have a 13-story mosque and community center?”

He added: “The average American just thinks this is a political statement. It’s not about religion, and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive.”

Earlier the story notes of residents who actually live and work in the city — and suffered the brunt of those attacks — “it is a construction zone, passed during the daily commute or glimpsed through office windows.”

READ: NO BIG DEAL. But red meat for Republicans.

Gingrich says he favors religious freedom and would allow the project in NYC if it were near Central Park or near Columbia University, but New Yorkers wonder what difference 80 blocks makes? For consistency I wonder what’s Newt’s take on the Auschwitz cross? (The thrice married Gingrich turned Catholic last year. For those who may not know, divorce is still not allowed in the Catholic church. Technically.)

The NYTimes pegged its story to yesterday’s announcement by the Anti-Defamation League opposing the proposed Islamic center and mosque. NYMagazine’s Daily Intel notes:

Some Jewish leaders have come out in favor of the mosque, however, including Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, who said, “The Anti-Defamation League should be ashamed of itself.” New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo remains in support of the mosque, in the face of criticism from Rick Lazio, and a recent poll shows that a majority of Manhattanites support the building of the mosque, too, consistent with community board decisions. Even Mayor Bloomberg, a man who can remorselessly murder 170,000 Canada geese without a second thought, has remained stalwartly in favor of basic religious tolerance, saying, of the opposition to the mosque: “Democracy is stronger than this.”

For the record, uh, there were Muslims killed in the 9/11 terror attacks, too. This brouhaha wreaks of political exploitation and real religious prejudice.

Via Andrew Sullivan, Adam Serwer:

Let’s be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it’s been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politicians using anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.

And Jeffrey Goldberg:

This is a strange war we’re fighting against Islamist terrorism. We must fight the terrorists with alacrity, but at the same time we must understand that what the terrorists seek is a clash of civilizations. We must do everything possible to avoid giving them propaganda victories in their attempt to create a cosmic war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. The fight is not between the West and Islam; it is between modernists of all monotheist faiths, on the one hand, and the advocates of a specific strain of medievalist Islam, on the other. If we as a society punish Muslims of good faith, Muslims of good faith will join the other side. It’s not that hard to understand. I’m disappointed that the ADL doesn’t understand this.

One more for the New Yorkers, from my old UWS neighbor James Wolcott:

And rather than move forward for the common good, we should hit the reset button based the subjective, unquantifiable, free-floating, conjecturable emotional pain of an unspecified group of “some victims,” whose objections are minor squeaks compared to the roaring demagoguing of political opportunists such as Newt Gingrich, who never hesitate to trash New York City when it’s a useful proxy for Sodom and Gomorrah, i.e., the ineluctable end-product of liberal permissiveness and gay bars.

EXACTLY! Wolcott concludes:

Mayor Bloomberg has been sane and firm on this issue and I hope will continue to remain so, but I suspect we’re going to see a fair number of original defectors from the ranks of original defenders of the project, who will also be holding the sides of their heads from the hurt caused by the sinus pressure of reaching such a Difficult Decision and in the middle of such a hot summer too.

Wonkette and Raw Story both have bunches of incendiary quotes Newt’s been tossing around to fill his coffers with cash while he flirts with a 2012 run. But we should know better; we’ve all seen this show before.