Politico's Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman take a look at the Park51/Burlington Coat Factory Mosque from a perspective that has largely been ignored -- whether the developers really have their act together to actually follow through on their proposal:
The Cordoba Initiative hasn’t begun fundraising yet for its $100 million goal. The group’s latest fundraising report with the State Attorney General’s office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 – not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase.
The group also lacks even the most basic real estate essentials: no blueprint, architect, lobbyist or engineer — and now operates amid crushing negative publicity. The developers didn't line up advance support for the project from other religious leaders in the city, who could have risen to their defense with the press.
The group’s spokesman, Oz Sultan, wouldn’t rule out developing the site with foreign money in an interview with POLITICO – but said the project’s goal is to rely on domestic funds. Currently, they have none of either.
"They are in the process of hiring an architect — but here’s the thing, you’re not going to get the architect or the engineer because they don’t want to be involved in this," Sultan, the new media consultant hired to handle some of the project’s imaging — mostly via Twitter — told POLITICO.
There's much more in the full article, which is worth a read, though I should add that I quarrel with its political framing, which is that President Obama, though his defense of religious liberty, hitched the Democratic Party to "an ill-planned, long-shot development project."
What President Obama did was defend the right to build the community center and mosque. Against the backdrop of anti-Muslim bigotry from Republicans, President Obama defended basic Constitutional principles. He explicitly said that he was not addressing the wisdom of the development, but rather he was giving voice to the American value of religious freedom.
If it turns out that the developers of this project don't really have the wherewithal to follow through on their plans (and $18,255 doesn't make it sound like they do), that does not take anything away from the moral clarity of his comments.
If the project turns out to be as ill-fated as Smith and Haberman's reporting suggests that it is, another way of looking at it is that Republicans rallied en masse to destroy something that never had a chance to begin with, and they did so using the ugliest anti-Muslim bigotry imaginable.
Whether or not this project comes to pass, President Obama and other principled defenders of religious liberty did the right thing -- and the people who came out against the project merely to score political points did the cowardly thing.