Beware an October Surprise: A government bailout for the Ground Zero Mosque

Fun parlor game: predict which is more likely to occur first. Obama’s Manhattan trial of confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, or opening ceremonies at the Obama-endorsed Ground Zero Mosque? Trick question: neither will happen.

Opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque have a strong hand and can certainly succeed in having the location moved. But it is important for opponents to use this strong position to win cleanly, without facilitating a boondoggle in the process.

While mosque supporters enjoy Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s enthusiastic support and have won the early rounds before a Manhattan Community Board and the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, construction in New York is no easy feat, as Walmart and any NY businessperson can attest. The Ground Zero Mosque is far from built. (Note: I call it the Ground Zero Mosque because the site was selected specifically for its Ground Zero location and we should not trust the motives of anyone unwilling to admit that Hamas is a terrorist group.)

What’s more, a bold, unequivocal endorsement by the President of the United States can help push things along, but President Obama’s endorsement only lasted about as long as it took his Muslim audience to return home. Then came his walk-back, and his walk-back of the walk-back. In short, this President is so weak and unpopular his endorsement carries little weight.

The strength of the opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque, though, does not rely merely on NYC red tape or Obama’s fecklessness. The American people share the view that the Ground Zero Mosque should be moved. Specifically, in a recent Time magazine poll (which I assume was skewed to the Left), 61% of Americans oppose the Ground Zero Mosque, while just 26% support it. (Other polls have opposition closer to 70%.) In the same Time poll, 55% said they would support the “construction of an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks” from their own homes. This suggests forty percent of respondents who can’t embrace a mosque at Ground Zero are nevertheless willing to have one in their own back yard. (Count me among that forty percent.)

As of January 2011, moreover, Congress will be decisively more conservative and have many fewer Democrats, in part because of this very issue (just as cake icing; the main courses being the jobless non-recovery, government health care takeover, union and corporate bailouts, bankrupting of our nation, pending tax increases, etc.). This will make Ground Zero Mosque opposition more powerful. What’s more, if the GOP takes control of either the House or Senate, as it increasingly appears it will, then Congressional hearings alone could spell the end of the Ground Zero Mosque, with every donor and every Mosque contractor under scrutiny of a government body with subpoena power. That the Mosque developers will not rule out funding from Iran or Saudi Arabia to build near Ground Zero is just further wood on this fire.

Third, government approvals alone cannot get this Ground Zero Mosque built. It also requires architects, contractors, construction workers, bankers, marketers, retailers (including “bookstores, restaurants”), etc. The boycotts of this project, and of those who would help build it, are just in their infancy. But as Target’s recent, lightning-fast capitulation to a threatened gay boycott of its stores shows, the Ground Zero Mosque boycotts would have immense power to slow or halt the building at this location.

Ground Zero Mosque opponents, then, are in a strong position today. But what are its supporters likely to do? Scores of Democrats in elective office are now just weeks away from losing their cushy jobs, and this is finally sobering them up. They are no doubt blasting the Obama team for Obama’s gratuitously inserting them into yet another issue with monumentally weak — 26% — support, and demanding an exit strategy. (Note also that Howard Dean has outflanked Hillary Clinton on this issue by publicly urging a new site, perhaps in early jockeying to primary Obama in 2012.)

At the same time, even though Islam in America is more decentralized than, say, the Catholic Church, or Southern Baptists, leading voices in that community will soon be forced to step up and pressure Ground Zero Mosque organizers to find an exit strategy of their own, as this provocative site location is doing real and lasting damage to their fellow Americans’ good will towards and views of American Muslims.

Remember: after 9/11, liberals predicted American Muslims would have a target on their backs. But virtually none of that materialized. To the contrary, even today, Protestant grandmothers let their government put them through nude scanners in airports so twenty-something Muslim men do not feel singled out. We are a kind and tolerant nation. But Americans of good will are tired of being pushed around and having our kindness exploited. I would submit the Ground Zero Mosque, if not moved soon, will do more damage to Muslim standing in America than did the attacks of 9/11, precisely because this is being sold to us as a project of “moderate Muslims” in America, while 9/11 was an attack by terrorist infiltrators. Muslim leaders will soon realize this (many probably do already), and they will be working behind the scenes for a face-saving exit strategy.

Curiously, the Ground Zero Mosque has been project by press release. The $100 million project is so far about $99.9 million shy of its goal. This has led some observers to note that, as the Wall St. Journal’s James Taranto wrote, “it almost sounds like a mere prank….” A more apt comparison may be to the so-called “Flying Imams,” who behaved ostentatiously then sued the airline for discrimination and bullied passengers who had reported their suspicious behavior. Could the Ground Zero Mosque PR campaign be a massive shakedown effort to fund a Manhattan mega-Mosque elsewhere?

This is where it gets dangerous for conservatives. The Obama Democrats need an exit from this issue before election day. Even more, they need some good news. The Ground Zero Mosque organizers need an exit. Prominent Ground Zero Mosque opponents have repeatedly said they would welcome the Mosque in a different Manhattan location. New York Governor David Patterson is desperately and publicly trying to make a deal with the Mosque developers.

Put it all together and the solution becomes disturbingly clear. President Obama announces in October that he has received a commitment from Ground Zero Mosque organizers that they will reluctantly move their site location to demonstrate their goodwill and interest in harmony. New York (both city and state) and the Feds step in with a variety of benefits, abatements, green credits, stimulus dollars, perhaps the alternate property itself, and other inducements both announced and kept quiet (at least until the polls close).

Obama gets to say his strong defense of the first amendment and personal diplomacy made the change of venue possible. Democrats get some rare good news before election day. Muslims in America escape a PR disaster, and Ground Zero Mosque developers end up with a Manhattan mega-Mosque massively subsidized by the American taxpayer. Not bad for the cost of planting a friendly news article and maintaining a Twitter feed.

Let’s oppose this Mosque, by this Hamas-apologist cleric, at Ground Zero. But let’s not get suckered in the process.

The writer is an attorney whose law school graduation party was at Windows of the World atop the north tower of the World Trade Center.

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