Monday, August 23, 2010

Over The Top?

It's amazing what a manufactured story can accomplish when the media plays along. The most current example is that of the Muslim cultural center which was going to be built near the site of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Actually, the cultural center may still be built, the hearing process is long over and the requisite permits have been issued, but that didn't stop the extreme right from pouncing on the issue. Words like "mosque" and "sacred ground" are spinning around so fast that editors and producers must be keeping chiropractors specializing in whiplash up late.

The story, which should be a non-story for all sorts of reasons, has given a boost to Republicans running for office who were worried that they didn't sound extreme enough to satisfy the Tea Party activists who claim to be running the show (and who just very well might be). Once such candidate, Rick Lazio, is making the issue the centerpiece of his campaign for governor of New York.

From the New York Times:

At an office complex in the faded industrial town of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., recently, Rick A. Lazio, the former congressman from Long Island who is running for governor, had taken a series of standard jabs against political dysfunction in Albany and sky-high tax rates when he suddenly seemed to gain true traction with the crowd.

The issue was not the economy, or even his rival; it was the planned Muslim community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan. “We do not believe in turning our back on the victims of 9/11,” he said to enthusiastic applause. As the Republican primary for the governor’s race approaches, Mr. Lazio is making his vigorous opposition to the project a centerpiece of his candidacy, assailing it on the campaign trail, testifying against it at public hearings, denouncing it in television commercials and even creating an online petition demanding an investigation into the center and its organizers. “Defend New York,” says the giant headline above the petition on his Web site.

As a dominant New York voice against the center, Mr. Lazio has attracted a burst of public attention to a campaign that had failed to gather much momentum, overshadowed by the money and muscle of his Democratic rival, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

Mr. Lazio has more than Andrew Cuomo on his mind. His opponent in the Republican primary, Carl Paladino, is using even harsher language to describe the "Mosque On Sacred Space." Lazio is trying to keep up so he can get ahead. He may, however, be overplaying the issue, just as he overplayed the issue of then-Senator Hillary Clinton's acceptance of a campaign donation from a Muslim group when he ran against her and lost. Voters were turned off by the last minute robo-calls on the issue. He apparently hasn't learned much since then:

Nevertheless, Mr. Lazio is pushing ahead with the strategy, even breaking what has been, until now, something of an unwritten rule of politics in New York: never to use images of Sept. 11 in campaign advertisements.

Last week, Mr. Lazio released a Web advertisement critical of the mosque featuring rescue workers on Sept. 11 and a television commercial in which he appears before photos of a still-smoldering World Trade Center, questioning where the money for the planned Muslim center will come from, and declaring that Mr. Cuomo, who has defended the rights of the project’s organizers, “is very, very wrong.” ...

Unions representing the city’s firefighters and police officers immediately demanded that Mr. Lazio pull his most recent ad, calling it an affront. Ed Mullins, the head of the city’s police sergeants’ union, called the ads “as irresponsible as they are reprehensible.”
[Emphasis added.]

Will Lazio's over-the-top rhetoric propel him to the Albany State House? Will it put him over the top?

It's hard to tell. Even though 9/11 happened nearly nine years ago, eight of those nine years were spent by the Bush administration working diligently to keep us all terrified that the terrorists were about to return, so terrified that we allowed Bush/Cheney to take away key constitutional rights. If you couple that with the the horrible economy which continues to suck jobs out of the country, the fear just might be enhanced back to the hysterical levels which allowed for the implementation of two totally unjustified wars.

Still, by being so over the top as to use images from 9/11, Lazio just might have made another mistake, the kind which costs him elections.

I certainly hope so.

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