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Tilting at Windmills

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July 22, 2010

WHEN THE RIGHT HOLDS AMERICA TO LOW STANDARDS.... Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has -- big surprise -- declared his opposition to a proposed Muslim community center a couple of blocks from 9/11's Ground Zero in Manhattan. That, in and of itself, isn't especially interesting.

It's why Gingrich opposes the Cordoba House that matters. From his blog post on the subject:

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. [...]

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for "religious toleration" are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia.

So, by Newt Gingrich's estimation, Saudi Arabian officials are wrong to squelch religious liberty in their country -- so we should be equally wrong in ours. Gingrich sees Saudi Arabia discriminating and showing a lack of tolerance for spiritual diversity and, in effect, concludes, "Let's follow their lead."

This conservative worldview comes up from time to time, and it always amazes me. You'll recall, for example, that during the debate over whether the U.S. should utilize torture -- that there was even a debate continues to be remarkable -- it was not uncommon for the right to demand a single standard. If terrorists and America's enemies used torture, the argument went, then we should, too.

Since the problem with this line of thinking is apparently not as obvious as it should be, let's make this clear: the United States is supposed to be held to the highest standards. Our country should strive to be a beacon of hope and liberty, a shining light for others to aspire to. We're not supposed to lower ourselves to the levels of those we find offensive.

This continues to be a glaring point of contention between the left and right. Liberals see terrorists engaging in torture and authoritarian governments denying their people the freedom of religion, and we say, "We're better than that."

The right sees the same landscape and thinks, "No, we're not."

For America to endorse the construction of the Cordoba House would be a reminder to the world of how we, unlike less-free countries, celebrate our diversity and refuse to treat our neighbors as second-class citizens. It's genuinely sad that Gingrich and his ilk prefer to see us aim lower as a nation.

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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"Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for "religious toleration" are arrogantly dishonest."

Gingrich is projecting...AGAIN.

Posted by: Chris on July 22, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

So much for showing the Middle East what "freedom" looks like.

Posted by: chrenson on July 22, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

You're overthinking this. Newt's just using this as an apportunity to bash Muslims.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on July 22, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

What's striking is how unReaganesque the philosophy and rhetoric are. These lowlifes don't measure up to ANY presidential standard we've had in more than 80 years at least. Not even to the level of W!

Posted by: mark on July 22, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Newt Gingrich: "The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. [...]"

One more observation--

Gingrich doesn't distinguish between radical Islamists and and Islamists in the quote above. He would now have us believe that all Islamists are radical.

And this serial adulterating bigot would have his readers believe that we're the ones who are arrogant? Gingrich is a fucking joke.

Posted by: Chris on July 22, 2010 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

We should not allow men to drive as long as women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia

Posted by: cathy on July 22, 2010 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

We might as well be clear that conservatism, as it's expressed politically, is less a coherent set of principles than a tailgate party at a football game. "We'll show them!" might as well be their core instinct, and as the history of the GOP's strongest regional redoubt shows, they occsionally did with lynch mobs.

Ugly Americanism shows the mob whose side smarty-pants academics like Gingrich are on. It's a very small price to pay, as is Gingrich's horror that liberals have institutionalized "secularism" as a civic virtue. There's a reason we call these people assholes, which is why the mob has successfully turned that observation into a slander.

Posted by: walt on July 22, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

"The right sees the same landscape and thinks, 'No, we're not.'"

I think this interpretation is mistaken. When the right looks at "terrorists engaging in torture and authoritarian governments denying their people the freedom of religion," they think "I wish the United States was more like that."

To conservatives, terrorists and theocracies set the standard of greatness that they want the U.S. to achieve. They aren't lowering the bar; they are setting higher standards.

Posted by: Mark on July 22, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

And let's not forget, Newt is the revered intellectual figure on the right.
Yes, he is.
Says it all right there, don't it?

PS: cathy, you win the comments for the day!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on July 22, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

The Mosque is to be built on private property. The developer is Sharif El-Gamal, owner of Soho Properties. Inc. So what's the "point" of a conservative complaining about the owners building what they want within code? More hypocrisy. Who do they think has any authority to stop it, or is their "opposition" just a complaint that it's in poor tasted? (The latter can be a valid concern, as when people gripe about a particular billboard etc.)

BTW, it's hard to be sure the reason for the name "Cordoba House" - but Corboda was the center of the Iberian Islamic renaissance in the Middle Ages. There was a fabulous PBS documentary about that era (someone even with ex-RNC Co-chair Patricia Harrison at the PBC helm - REM how much cons wanted to defund PBC, then found it easier to stock it with their own.) The show came from the work of the Cordoba Initiative, an intercultural coalition involving Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and other scholars who want to bring back that sense of cooperation between those faiths and cultures. (No apparent relation to the Mosque developers.)

Posted by: Neil B on July 22, 2010 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

Furthermore, when Gingrich says "weakness and submission" - huh? Allowing the exercise of private property rights is "submission"? See, they don't really believe in any of those rights - only *themselves* and the concept of rights is just a tool, to exercise selectively.

Posted by: Neil B on July 22, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Is this what American Exceptionalism is? I know it's too much to ask for consistency from repukes but how are we to copy Saudia Arabia and still be exceptional? Also, as my father explained to me when I was 5 years old I think. "Two wrongs don't make a right."

Posted by: Cal on July 22, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

As far as I can tell, I work downtown, this is even remotely controversial here. Don't read the NY Post but generally I read the Daily News and Newsday along with the NYT. Haven't heard a peep from the "John Bircher" wannabe two seats down my trading desk.

Posted by: KK on July 22, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

OK, the hell with religious tolerance. Its about time we stone Newt for adultery.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on July 22, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Dang- should have read "this isn't even remotely controversial here..."

Posted by: KK on July 22, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Er, are there any Christians in Saudi Arabia?

Posted by: jimmy on July 22, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

And this man wants to be president? Holy crap.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on July 22, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

What makes Gingrich believe that the people behind Cordoba House agree with the religious intolerance found in Saudi Arabia? I suspect that Al-Qaeda sees the building Cordoba House as an insult to them.

Posted by: david1234 on July 22, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

I second the kudos to cathy.

Posted by: Danp on July 22, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Er, are there any Christians in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, particularly Catholics from the Philippines, but they're prohibited from openly practicing their religion.
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1723715,00.html

Posted by: josef on July 22, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

So there's already a 100 mosques in New York, sez, Newtie. So does he think they're OK? If so, what's the problem with Cordoba House? Its address? WTF?

Posted by: g on July 22, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Since it also seems to be tradition that Saudi men hold hands, ala GWB and the King in Crawford, is this an endorsement of teh gay agenda?

Posted by: flyonthewall on July 22, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

"Since the problem with this line of thinking is apparently not as obvious as it should be, let's make this clear: the United States is supposed to be held to the highest standards. Our country should strive to be a beacon of hope and liberty, a shining light for others to aspire to."

In theory.

The reality is: from death penalty to gun violence to infrastructure to school system to media responsibility to health care system to social security and a whole sack of other issues the USA have been outmatched by so many countries, it's hard to believe how superior in most of these fields your country has been.

At some point in your history the biggest part of your populace decided denial is the best way to go.

Ask anyone who knows how to tell a story: denial is the road to tragedy. The USA are speeding that way.

And blame Toyota.

Posted by: Vokoban on July 22, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

American Exceptionalism: Exceptionally Unjust, Exceptionally Racist, Exceptionally Stupid...

Posted by: cr on July 22, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

"So there's already a 100 mosques in New York, sez, Newtie. So does he think they're OK? If so, what's the problem with Cordoba House? Its address? WTF?"

I was wondering about that, too. Since there aren't--according to Newt--any churches or synagogues in Saudia Arabia does that mean we should shut down all the mosques here?

Posted by: Bulworth on July 22, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Newt knows how to get publicity and simultaneously play to his assumed base. And maybe he's losing it a little. actually, a lot. He's history in any case. He has no chance of getting any traction for the 2012 Rethug nomination. Like his twin, Pat Buchanan, these two has-beens stick their heads up every once in a while, the corporate MSM fawns over them, then they go back to their caves.

It's political masturbation, with a little help from friends in the media.

Posted by: rrk1 on July 22, 2010 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

The iconic Horse's Ass - now that's Newt Gingrich! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on July 22, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

We should not allow men to drive as long as women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia
Posted by: cathy

You are on very dangerous ground. With the "others' torture, we should torture" mindset, their answer may be Saudi's don't allow women to drive, we shouldn't allow women to drive.

My bet is that if Newt had to choose, this would be it rather than what you proposed.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on July 22, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

>It's political masturbation, with a little help from friends in the media

yes, and maybe they should restrict it to the confines of their homes.

I concur with the American exceptionalism comments -- do you think that harridan Liz Cheney is going to ask Newt why he doesn't think the US is "exceptional"? I'm guessing not.

And you know-- re: stoning Newt for adultery, my guess is the penalty is more severe for repeat offenders...

I hope that twit does run -- maybe with Palin. They can break a record for the fewest number of female votes ever.

Posted by: JCT on July 22, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

mMark says@8:57am:
When the right looks at "terrorists engaging in torture and authoritarian governments denying their people the freedom of religion," they think "I wish the United States was more like that."

I think it's simpler than that. Conservatives believe we're better than them simply as a matter of national identity - we're Americans and they're not. What we do is irrelevant. To conservatives, we're the Good Guys, no matter what forms of depravity we engage in, simply because we're of the right tribe, and they're not.

So as far as they're concerned, torturing doesn't take us down to their level, as Benen suggests; there's nothing we can do that would do that. But if they torture and we don't, then they feel we're fighting with one hand tied behind our back, and there's no reason to give them an advantage like that.

It doesn't make any sense. It doesn't have to. It's tribalism.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on July 22, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Newt seems to equate mosque to Muslim to terrorists. So no mosque near Ground Zero makes sense to him.

So it stands to reason he should also equate church to Christian to terrorists (Oklahoma City bombing). Did he check to see if any churches have been built around the Oklahoma City National Memorial? Would he be as enraged at that prospect?

Remind me again...who is arrogantly dishonest here?

Posted by: whichwitch on July 22, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

It's a shame that there aren't any Republicans of high status within the party, Republicans with amicable ties to Saudi Arabia, who can come forward and denounce this gutter bigotry from a disgraced has-been from nearly two decades ago--Republicans of somewhat more recent prominence . . . .

Naw. Too busy buildin' the library. Writin' the memoirs. Watchin' the Rangers.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on July 22, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

What I find even more offensive is Newt's bland assumption that American citizens of the Muslim faith should pay for the supposed wrongs of the Saudi theocratic regime, because after all, "they" are all the same. Saudis won't allow churches and mosques on what they consider to be Muslim sacred ground? Well then we won't allow mosques near OUR sacred place at ground zero.

And make no mistake that when the likes of Gingrich talk about that site as sacred, they do NOT mean that it belongs to all Americans. Liberals and Muslims are supposed to keep their hands off a national tragedy that belongs only to conservatives. Remember when Obama proposed making 9/11 a national day of voluntarism, to celebrate the spirit of national unity and cooperation that emerged after the disaster? Sounds to me like a beautifully appropriate way to honor the memory of the event, but Republicans were apoplectic. And they admitted in so many words that they didn't think it was right to use 9/11 as anything but "a day of fear that helps Republicans." That's their agenda, in a nutshell.

Posted by: T-Rex on July 22, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Excuse my confusion, but are large, expensive plots of land in Manhattan just given away by the city? No?

Then what in the hell are the champions of "private property" doing protesting a landowner's RIGHT to do what they wish with THEIR property? Aren't Newtie and the other bigots agitating for GOVERNMENT CONTROL over what people do with THEIR OWN PROPERTY here?

Why isn't anyone calling them out on this point? I mean, they are, after all, the folks who insist that ideology trumps all, even practicality and common sense. Except in this one case. Hmmmm. Wonder why?

Posted by: Jennifer on July 22, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Did Newtie grow up in a barn?

Didn't his mommie ever teach him "Two wrongs don't make a right?"

What a whiny baby.

Posted by: biggerbox on July 22, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

As per sacredness of Ground Zero - note how rough many conservatives were on 9/11 survivors, all that ridicule of the widows etc. because they dared to challenge Bush about insight, payment, health issues etc? Like I said, it isn't "rights" or "sacredness" or "patriotism" per se that matters to those people, it's about *them* and the other values are a means to an end.

BTW, if you have conservative views and read stuff like this comment, please speak out against the sort that make you look bad - don't blame us for calling 'em like we see 'em.

Posted by: neil b on July 22, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

"Since the problem with this line of thinking is apparently not as obvious as it should be, let's make this clear: the United States is supposed to be held to the highest standards. Our country should strive to be a beacon of hope and liberty, a shining light for others to aspire to. We're not supposed to lower ourselves to the levels of those we find offensive"

This is an important insight and a good way to put it. It suggests that Conservatives embrace policies that hurt America because they fundamentally fail to understand what made America great. Up is down to them.

Posted by: PTate in MN on July 22, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

I'm astonished to see a right-winger come close to acknowledging that our 9-11 "enemy" was Saudi Arabia, not Iraq. Since 15 of the hijackers were Saudi nationals and none were Iraqis, it would have been much more honest to invade Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: stinger on July 22, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Cathy wins the thread.

And what jimmy said. Just how many Christians are there in Saudi Arabia? I'd wager not too damned many.

But I'm sure they have total religious freedom, as spelled out in the first amendment to the Saudi constitution. Liberty is all the rage there, you know. ;)

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on July 22, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Political enemies in Saudi Arabia are beheaded. Does Gingrich want the US to head in that direction?

Answer carefully, Newtie-boy.

Posted by: Hmmmmm on July 22, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

It isn't just Gingrich, and it isn't just New York City. It's happening all over. Down in Temecula, California, in southern Riverside County, there is a plan to build an "Islamic center" on land the Muslim community there has bought over the past 20 years. While the mainstream religious leaders there have endorsed this, opposition is being led by the minister of the local Southern Baptist "non-denominational temple" and the local Republican Women's Club, whose leader says we can't "support our troops" in Adfghanistan and Iraq in their war against "islamic extremism" if "we let them in the back door here."

This is not the only other event of this kind. Go google "opposition to mosques in U.S." and you'll find the Republican Party doing this wherever they can.

These are the descendants of the morons who burned down my grandfather's barn in 1918 for the crime of having a "German" surname (despite the fact that wing of the family originally came to America in 1849 with a Prussian price on their head for participating in the anti-Prussian democratic revolution of 1848).

The "Know-Nothing" branch of the Republicans have been thee from the very beginning, when the original Know Nothing Party formally joined the party in 1856.

Posted by: TCinLA on July 22, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

It's like the retort conservatives used when I was a kid: The Soviet government doesn't allow protests, so why should we?

They were openly jealous of the Soviet Union, yet liberals were the unpatriotic ones.

Has there ever been a more un-american phrase than: "America, love it or leave it!"

Still boggles my mind.

Posted by: jerseyboy on July 22, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Jose Padilla wrote: "You're overthinking this. Newt's just using this as an apportunity to bash Muslims."

Even that is giving Newtie too much credit. He'd leap at the opportunity to declare that the moon is made of green cheese if it would get his name in the news. Lunar green cheese conspiracy theory simply hasn't gained enough traction yet.

Posted by: Mandy Cat on July 22, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

@biggerbox asked: Did Newtie grow up in a barn?

No. He grew up in a trailer park, proving that while you can take the boy out of the trailer park, you can't take the trailer park trash out of the boy.

This guy originally started his career in the 70s as a self-proclaimed "Rockefeller Republican." When he discovered that didn't work, he looked at what did, and became a "conservative," then became a "wingnut." He is the embodiment of a political whore.

Posted by: TCinLA on July 22, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

And I suppose it never occurs to Newt that American Muslims might be here partly because they WANT religious freedom denied in other countries, you know, sort of like the Quakers and Catholics and Jews and Methodists who came here in colonial times???

Religious freedom has always drawn people to our land. But maybe Newt doesn't think Muslims deserve the same freedom as Quakers? Or rather, if he were in America in 1700, he'd also be against Quakers, because in truth, he's NOT for religious freedom.

Posted by: ashenden on July 22, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Mr. Gingrich would apply the same standard to the Vatican State? After all, they don't permit any religion other than Mr. Gingrich's Catholicism to be practiced there. Logically, it seems, he should be calling for a ban on Catholic churches until there is religious freedom in the Holy See.

Posted by: RobNYNY1957 on July 22, 2010 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, here in Bedford, Virginia we've got a D-Day Memorial that is quite wonderful. A triumphant and towering arch. A series of statues depicting the Normandy Invasion at its most feverish [including a reflecting pool/beach with simulated gunfire hitting the water!].

This year they added busts of the leaders of the three major Allied powers. FDR, Churchill and Stalin.

You should hear the unhinged caterwauling over there being a commie statue in the Commonwealth. These rubes actually believe it's the doing of our socialist president and not the Memorial's board.

Amazing.

Posted by: chrenson on July 22, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I love this. If moderate muslims are targeted for their faith, and prevented by a hostile political mob from building a mosque on their own land in a gross violation of the nation's principles of religious liberty and free exercise ... why exactly should those people be moderates? And why should muslims worldwide think that the United States is anything other than an enemy of ALL of Islam? So much for coopting Al Queda's propaganda.

Or is that what Newt is actually spoiling for - a faith-based fight with ALL of Islam?

Posted by: Bokonon on July 22, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

including a reflecting pool/beach with simulated gunfire hitting the water!

Sounds like they need a few mutilated corpses to go along with the "simulated gunfire" to make it SUPER realistic!

Probably no caterwauling for those, what with the popularity of showing cadavers on teevee and in museums these days.

Truly amazing.

Posted by: cr on July 22, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Indonesia is the Islamic country with the most believers in the world. It is littered with Christian churches and allows Christian missionaries to work. So maybe we should give up our resistance to Islamic missionaries here. It also protects Christians from Islamic terrorists. Maybe we should consider protecting Moslems here from Christian terrorists instead of allowing the FBI and the Homeland Dept to persecute them outside the law.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on July 22, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

[Islamists]... demand our weakness and submission...

Heck, lots of people (possibly including Gingrich) pay good money for being whipped into submission. Here's Mooslems willing to do it for free and he's bitchin' an' moanin'.

Posted by: exlibra on July 22, 2010 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Churches in Saudi Arabia have absolutely nothing to do with America. Poor grinch is going against the constitution here.

The man has problems

Posted by: Shivabeach on July 22, 2010 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Fascinating read about Cordoba's history at
http://www.cordoba24.info/english/html/geschich...

Some highlights
-Roman Heritage
-Conquered by the Moors in 711
-785 marks the beginning of the construction of the world-famous Mezquita mosque
-first city with a central water supply, paved streets and street lighting
-Al-Hakam II built schools and a library with 500,000 volumes
-in 929 became the worlds's largest city with about one million residents and 1000 mosques
-named as the origin of Islamic law
-1236 Ferdinand III entered the city and retook the power.
- became a center of activity against the remaining Muslim population
-Dozens of churches and monasteries were erected over the following period.
- the Reconquista (recapture) got its peak with the erection of the Christian cathedral in the very center of the Cordoba mosque.
-1486 Christopher Columbus decided to live in Cordoba

Draw what conclusions you may, but it's fair to say that Corboda was once the "big apple" of the Muslim world.

Is it a coincidence that the Corboda House would be built in such close proximity to ground zero?

Posted by: mandanahan on July 23, 2010 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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