Thursday, July 22, 2010


What strikes me about Newt Gingrich's denunciation of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero is that he's trying to treat Muslims the way Republicans treat Democrats in Congress: he's making an impossible demand and declaring it non-negotiable while pretending that he's negotiating in good faith.

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.

Salon notes that Newt's argument is that "the United States should follow the lead of the oppressive theocracy of Saudi Arabia." That's true. But I think the real point here is to set a bar so high that it won't ever be cleared -- how the hell are the planners of the Islamic center supposed to effect this change in Saudi Arabia? -- and then claim that the other side is responsible for the impasse. This is a script Republicans have been following with Democrats whenever Democrats had any power whatsoever since Gingrich's day.

Apart from that, Gingrich's language is drawn from the ur-narrative of right-wing resentment: they're taking over, they want to destroy our culture and poison our precious bodily fluids, etc., etc. He could be a Bush-White-House-on-speed-dial televangelist denouncing the gay menace or an old-line segregationist trying to induce nightmares about miscegenation -- the arguments are exactly the same, including the assertion that unnamed "elites" are trying to foist the Other on our simple, patriotic culture:

The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

... every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba [House] as a symbol of Islamic conquest.

... America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could.

No mosque.

No self deception.

No surrender.

Somewhere in hell, Strom Thurmond and Jerry Falwell are reading this and feeling like proud parents. Only the Antichrists have changed.

A lot of lefties saw something uniquely pathological in Sarah Palin's decision to denounce the Islamic center. As a New Yorker, I knew that the issue was already being widely demagogued, even by alleged non-extremists such as Rick Lazio, who's running for governor. Local hearings on the Islamic center had already been dominated by angry opponents, and a Quinnipiac poll showed most residents opposed to its construction. And news reports tell us that anti-mosque protests are on the rise across America.

So it's no surprise that Palin and Gingrich waded in. I won't be surprised if Romney and Huckabee feel compelled to follow suit -- in fact, I'd imagine it will be necessary for every GOP presidential candidate in 2012 to support at least some restrictions on mosque construction.

If you wonder why I refuse to give up entirely on the Democratic Party, this is why. You can say that things are no better under Obama than they were under Bush, and in some areas that's true. But they're still better than they will be in the next Republican regime. Bush, for all his warmongering, continued to offer words and gestures of respect to Islam and its peaceful practitioners. The next Republican president is highly unlikely to do the same. In the next Republican regime, we will be at war not with individual countries, not with Islamicists, but with Islam itself.


UPDATE: In comments, c u n d gulag says,

By Newt's standards, we shouldn't let American women vote until Saudi Arabia allows theirs to vote.

Hmmm, is that the right analogy? Maybe, by Newt's standards, we wouldn't let Muslim-American women vote until women are allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia. And the same would go for issuing them drivers' licenses. Or maybe we wouldn't let Muslim men vote or drive here until the men let women vote there. Maybe Newt will post a follow-up.


AND: More analogy-based suggestions in comments.

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