Commentary Magazine


How Is the Ground Zero Mosque Playing in NYC?

It takes a perfect storm for the Republicans to win a congressional seat in Manhattan. But there is a storm brewing, so is it possible? Well, it’s not likely, but stranger things have happened.

The NY-14 (the East Side and part of Queens) is rated by Charlie Cook as “solidly Democratic.” Carolyn Maloney was elected in 1992 and really hasn’t faced serious opposition since. However, this year she has a primary challenge and, if she prevails, will face an energetic, likable Republican opponent, Ryan Brumberg. At least on one issue Maloney is badly out of step with her constituents. Unlike several other Democratic colleagues, she’s come out in support of the Ground Zero mosque. In fact, she’s being pushed by her primary challenger to be more vocal in her support. (What is she to do beyond cheerleading – donate money?)

For now, Maloney is trying to change the topic and talk about a bill for additional compensation for 9/11 responders. Brumberg is trying to keep the issue front and center and has been clear in his opposition to the Ground Zero mosque. In a brief e-mail exchange, Brumberg tells me: “I oppose the building of a mosque on ground zero because the Imam refuses to condemn Hamas as a terror organization, and claims that America was partially to blame in the September 11th attacks.”  He explains,”Just as the First Amendment grants Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf the right to build his mosque, it also gives us the right to protest its construction. Maloney’s actions are emblematic of a worrisome trend among hardcore liberals: that we need to go beyond granting those we disagree with the right to act, to actively supporting their endeavors and ideology.”

Well, his stance on the Ground Zero mosque is the same as that of Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and 60 percent of New Yorkers. Will it be a key issue in the race? Brumberg argues, “Yes, the September 11th attacks touched the lives of every citizen in this district, and yet Maloney’s support for this Imam shows how out of touch she is.”

On other foreign-policy issues, Brumberg cites the danger of “nuclear proliferation posed by Iran and North Korea” and also the threat posed by ”yawning trade deficits and the increasing American dependence on Chinese capital.” As for domestic policy, he dismisses the idea that we are in a recovery. “The reality of our country’s present economic situation is that as long as Washington continues to waste our precious resources, our economy will never truly recover. We need to unchain America’s economic potential — create jobs and pay down the debt.”

It is not clear that the district is winnable by a Republican. But if there is any year it might be done, this is it. And Brumberg certainly has an opening now that Maloney is providing fodder for the argument that she is out of touch, too liberal even for New York City.