Inside the Beltway

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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THE MOSQUE QUESTION

Can America live with the idea of a $100 million “ground zero mosque” built two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks? The prospect has sparked political debate, protests and national press as critics confront the project as proposed by the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative. The din grows louder: Hearings have begun at the Landmarks Preservation Commission in Manhattan, ultimately charged with approving or rejecting the construction of “Cordoba House,” described by organizers as a “cultural nexus” and “a center guided by Islamic values in their truest form,” complete with a swimming pool and a 500-seat auditorium.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, chairman of the project, insists it is a community center, not a mosque - comparing it to the city’s Jewish Community Center or the 92nd Street Y. He has the support of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and is opposed by Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rick Lazio and Rep. Peter T. King, a Republican from the 3rd District. Mr. King has called for an investigation into the financial underpinnings.

“The response to my call for an inquiry has been very positive. In my neighborhood, we had 150 victims who died at ground zero, their friends and families left behind. Now, you can build mosque anywhere you want. The issue is not about where people pray or worship. This is an extraordinary situation. To build the mosque within a few blocks of ground zero isn’t appropriate, and besides that, it is a multimillion dollar operation,” Mr. King tells Inside the Beltway.

“There should be an investigation into who is financing this project, because the balance sheets are revealing very few details. At the very least, the 9/11 families deserve a full accounting of who is paying for this mosque, and information about the imam who is leading it. In the past, mosques and imams have not always been cooperative with law enforcement. Add it all together, and significant questions emerge,” Mr. King adds.

THE MAINE EVENT

Bad timing, unfortunate coincidence, collateral damage? It’s all in the headlines:

Michelle Obama urges U.S. holidaymakers to support the Gulf Coast.” (The Guardian)

Obama family will spend the weekend in Maine.” (Boston Globe)

“First lady encourages Americans to vacation on the Gulf - the Obamas head to Maine.” (ABC News)

Obama vacations for the third time - since oil spill began.” (Right Pundits.com)

“Obamas will vacation on the beach in Maine when the beach in the Gulf has more room. What were they thinking?” (Lucianne.com)

THIRST FOR FREEDOM

Inside the Beltway has heard of the Muckraker’s Happy Hour, a motley gathering of journalists and wonks organized by the Project on Government Oversight at a Capitol Hill watering hole each month. But move over. Witness the Ayn Rand Happy Hour - this hosted by FreedomWorks, a grass-roots group chaired by Dick Armey that seeks less government and less taxes.

An inside source reveals that official cocktails include the Ragnar Rum Runner, the Ayn Rand White Russian and Halleys 5th Concerto Cosmopolitan.

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