Dover Bitch

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Newt Gingrich gave a speech yesterday to the National Press Club, another notch in his bid to "create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen."

He spent the bulk of his time discussing the relative vapidity of today's political process, with particular attention to the format of our debates. Nothing he said in that regard was particularly offensive. In fact, much of it was substantive and thought-provoking. (All though, DB takes exception to his quip that a debate wonk like me has a lousy social life.)

Naturally, the media covering the event focused on his major theme -- that the debates and campaigning process could be dramatically improved. I listened to the speech and what jumped out at me, however, was his emphasis on Iran.

I believe we are on the edge of a precipice. The Iranians are desperately trying to build nuclear weapons and they will use them. This is a state with... Read what Ahmadinejad says. He writes poems about the joy of being a martyr nation. He gets to wipe out Tel Aviv, maybe the Israelis use nuclear weapons and wipe out Tehran. He'd accept that in a minute because he believes everybody in Tehran goes to heaven and everybody in Tel Aviv doesn't.

Gingrich went on to make it clear that we should be terrified. We should understand that Iran is unreachable diplomatically because they are driven by religion and are, therefore, irrational.

It's very hard for secular elites to understand this. Religiously-driven people do things that don't calculate in nice academic faculty surroundings and they don't calculate at the State Department and they don't calculate in a rational way in most of our bureaucracies. We are in trouble and somebody better begin talking about it in a blunt way.

Yes, secular elites cannot understand that world leaders driven by religious dogma are dangerous:

President George Bush has claimed he was told by God to invade Iraq and attack Osama bin Laden's stronghold of Afghanistan as part of a divine mission to bring peace to the Middle East, security for Israel, and a state for the Palestinians.

The President made the assertion during his first meeting with Palestinian leaders in June 2003, according to a BBC series which will be broadcast this month.

Why hasn't there been a discussion about that?

Why aren't liberal bloggers paying attention to the fact that wackos might be driving politics in the Middle East?

On July 16, I attended Christians United for Israel's annual Washington-Israel Summit. Founded by San Antonio-based megachurch pastor John Hagee, CUFI has added the grassroots muscle of the Christian right to the already potent Israel lobby. Hagee and his minions have forged close ties with the Bush White House and members of Congress from Sen. Joseph Lieberman to Sen. John McCain. In its call for a unilateral military attack on Iran and the expansion of Israeli territory, CUFI has found unwavering encouragement from traditional pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and elements of the Israeli government.

But CUFI has an ulterior agenda: its support for Israel derives from the belief of Hagee and his flock that Jesus will return to Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon and cleanse the earth of evil. In the end, all the non-believers - Jews, Muslims, Hindus, mainline Christians, etc. - must convert or suffer the torture of eternal damnation. Over a dozen CUFI members eagerly revealed to me their excitement at the prospect of Armageddon occurring tomorrow. Among the rapture ready was Republican Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. None of this seemed to matter to Lieberman, who delivered a long sermon hailing Hagee as nothing less than a modern-day Moses. Lieberman went on to describe Hagee's flock as "even greater than the multitude Moses commanded."

Why haven't secular elites noticed that things can get really, really bad when religion is the driving force behind military action?

Actor Stephen Baldwin, the youngest member of the famous Baldwin brothers, is no longer playing Pauly Shore's sidekick in comedy masterpieces like Biodome. He has a much more serious calling these days.

Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future.

"We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region," OSU declares on its website about its planned trip to Iraq. "We'll hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq."

The Defense Department's Chaplain's Office, which oversees OSU's activities, has not responded to calls seeking comment.

Gingrich calls for somebody to talk about this problem in a blunt way. Apparently, not him. He ended his visit with this:

...We have inherited -- this is the 400th anniversary -- a remarkable civilization, which believes that your rights come from your creator. We should make English the official language of government. We should ensure the courts do not interfere with the right to say 'One Nation Under God' as part of the pledge. And we should insist both that first-generation immigrants can pass a test in American History and that high school graduates can pass a test in American History. Thank you very, very much.

Earlier, the man who already suggested that we might need to limit free speech in order to combat terrorism continued to lecture the civil libertarians among us.

We are simply not prepared today to be a serious country and my fear is... I am genuinely afraid this political system will not react until we lose a city. And nobody's thought about the threat to our civil liberties the morning after we decide it's that dangerous and how rapidly we will impose ruthlessness over ourselves in that kind of world. I think those of you who care about civil liberties had better be thinking about how we win this war before the casualties get so great that the American people voluntarily give up those liberties.

When will some secular elitist notice that our government can respond to terrorism with ruthlessness?

My favorite part, though, was when Gingrich said this:

In the end, the American people are going to pick somebody and the job of all of us then is to try to make that person succeed. Sometimes you have to put patriotism ahead of partisanship and decide that whoever the next president is, we better help them have this conversation and help them have these decisions and hopefully make it work for the whole country.

Yes, Newt is such a uniter that CNN, in the first article linked above, felt they needed to add this to their story:

Gingrich stepped down as House speaker in 1998, after Republicans lost seats amid the drive to impeach then-President Bill Clinton over allegations that he lied under oath about a sexual relationship with a White House intern.

In March, Gingrich acknowledged he was having an affair of his own around the same time. He insisted he was not a hypocrite because Clinton was not impeached for the affair -- but for lying about it.

Are we compelled yet?