Editor’s Note: For some reason, Newt Gingrich is considered the intellectual heavyweight among Republican thinkers. He is also a heavyweight when it comes to “crackpottery,” which is a phrase I’m hoping to have become part of the journalistic lexicon, although I have my doubts.


Eye of Newt

Soccer fans … fundamentalists … pro wrestling enthusiasts … people who enjoy Neil Young or think Jack Black is funny … evangelicals … moviegoers who dislike Woody Allen films. A large percentage of the American populace is incomprehensible to me.

I also don’t get conservatives. Because a columnist needs some grasp of how that half of the country thinks — and I don’t get it socializing with the leftist heathens who make up most of my circle of acquaintances — I’ve been trying to spend more time with right-wingers. And one question I regularly ask them is how they define conservatism.

This usually elicits the standard dogma touting the virtues of a small government that stays out of people’s business, which pretty much evaporates upon closer examination. This is often followed by an affirmation of reverence for the Constitution. Conservatives seem to believe it was carved in stone on Mount Sinai, and the Amendments were penned by Jesus, which explains why they’re ambivalent about separation of church and state, and warm to the idea of a Christian theocracy.

However, as fundamentalists often do with the Bible, conservatives take a cafeteria approach to the inconvenient parts of the Constitution. They despise activist judges, like those who found the constitutional right to privacy that legalized abortion, but, oddly, have no problem with activist jurists in the Citizens United case who decided corporations are people, thereby increasing the political clout of big business (ergo, Republicans). The Right also rejects a non-GOP president’s right to appoint Supreme Court justices and ignores their own obligation to vote on his appointments.

Right-wing hypocrisy is most glaringly obvious in the area of religious freedom. Indiana governor Mike Pence signed a bill supporting discrimination and denying gay people’s civil rights, based on bigots’ religious freedoms. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich, who has reportedly been promised a position in the Trump Administration, is making a mockery of the First Amendment — at least insofar as it applies to America’s Muslims.  

In the wake of the Nice terrorist attack, Gingrich conducted some last-minute politicking for the VP spot by advancing a Trump-like solution to the specter of terrorism in the U.S. He began by positing that Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization and values.

This self-evident proposition isn’t terribly controversial. With a death penalty for leaving the faith, stoning for adultery and amputations for less-serious crimes, Sharia is a primitive and brutal set of laws that’s incompatible with 21st century civilization anywhere in the world and ignores any sort of decent humanitarian values. It’s the appropriate legal code for a cult of death that celebrates cruelty and misogyny.

However, Newt’s prescription for dealing with the threat of Sharia — and, by extension, terrorism — is the sort of impractical, let’s-get-tough “crackpottery” that appeals to Trump partisans. Newt wants to test Muslim-Americans for their belief in Sharia, then deport the faithful.

When did our legal system start punishing people who’ve done nothing illegal for holding objectionable religious beliefs? We don’t arrest Trump supporter David Duke or the Westboro Baptist pro-life/anti-gay fanatics merely for being obnoxious bigots. Deporting Americans for “thoughtcrimes,” comes disturbingly close to George Orwell’s “1984” and shows scorn for the First Amendment. What sort of activist Supreme Court judges would Trump need to appoint for Newt’s plan to be ruled constitutional?

As a practical matter, belief in Sharia doesn’t necessarily equate to terrorism, and wouldn’t believers simply lie to their inquisitors anyway? If keeping my home in Fairfield County required me to say Jesus is the Son of God or the universe was created in 4004 B.C., then so be it. Many Muslim-Americans came here to escape oppressive Islamic societies, so this would encourage them to lie, whether they’re militants or not.

And there’s nothing conservative about expanding the size of government payrolls to staff the huge Sharia agency that would be required to interrogate 3 million Muslim-Americans. It also fails the “small government” test, when you consider how many enforcers it would take to go door-to-door to subpoena or drag Muslims to the Sharia panels to find out how literally they take their religion.

And wouldn’t this interfere with Trump’s scheme to round up all the Mexicans? Would Newt use an auxiliary police force, in addition to the Hispanic wranglers, or would he have to wait until all the illegal Spanish speakers had been caught? And would they get the Arabs to pay for it, or just roll the cost into the invoice Trump will be sending to Mexico for The Wall? Maybe they can fund it by expropriating the deportees’ homes.

Another problem with the Newt solution is that many American Muslims are longtime U.S. citizens, so what country would they be deported to? Or would they just load them into the same buses they’re using for the Mexicans, and dump them all in Tijuana?  

In 2017, President Trump can appoint Newt as Secretary of Transportation or Deportation or whatever. Once they’ve emptied the country of Hispanics and Sharians, I have my own list of people I’d like to see tested for potential expulsion: Scientologists … Southern Baptists … 700 Club members … and anyone who believes Fox News is fair and balanced, for starters. Once you’ve trashed the Constitution, it’s a slippery slope.


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