Sunday, May 23, 2010

Extrapolating Newt

Think Progress reports on two exchanges between Republican politicians and the media: the first, from the May 15 Fox News Sunday with host Chris Wallace and former House Minority, then Majority, Leader Newt Gingrich; the second, with HLN host (and "The View" co-host) Joy Behar and former U.S. Representative Susan Molinari of Staten Island, NY two days later.

WALLACE: You also write this, and let’s put it up on the screen. “The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” Mr. Speaker, respectfully, isn’t that wildly over the top?

GINGRICH: No, not if by America you mean the historic contract we’ve had which says your rights come from your creator, they’re unalienable, you’re allowed to pursue happiness. I mean, just listen to President Obama’s language.
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BEHAR: Susan, when Bush was called a Nazi, the right wing went berserk on him. And yet, Gingrich just throws the word around as if it’s nothing. What is up with him? What is he, losing his marbles?

MOLINARI: This has always been — let me distance myself from that remark first of all in all seriousness. To compare anything that is going on in this country to the atrocities of Nazi Germany in any way, shape or form is just crazy. And you know that Newt was so smart. He got the Republican majority back in a generation, contract with America. And then, you know, moved quickly into a government shutdown and complained about his seat on President Clinton’s plane.

This is Newt. He can be really smart sometimes and sometimes he can just say some absolutely outrageous things. I would be like to be in that corner of saying that is outrageous.

Later in the show, Molinari tried to change the subject, saying, “let’s just take Newt off the table because that’s just not even worth talking about.” “Let’s put him under the table,” replied Behar. “Right. Exactly. Thank you,” responded Molinari.


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Molinari deserves a lot of credit for taking on Gingrich for comparing his country (does he consider it his country?) for comparing it to Nazi Germany, or at least to Weimar Germany. Newt's criticism is not limited to Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi. To suggest that any administration (or "regime" as Rush Limbaugh terms it) as presenting a Nazi-like threat to the U.S.A. implies something dark and disturbing to the nation and its people as they are.

But this is low-hanging fruit, criticizing the reactionary former Georgia congressman for trying to make a connection between the President of the United States and Nazism. Not low-hanging fruit for Molinari, given that these days Republicans have to fear being written out of their party if they veer too far from the far-right orthodoxy; but for the rest of us, for whom comparing our president to Adolf Hitler is slightly invidious. In a less controversial vein, though, Gingrich argued

by America you mean the historic contract we’ve had which says your rights come from your creator, they’re unalienable, you’re allowed to pursue happiness.

Here Newt obviously was referring to that great and important preamble

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Except for one thing. Alert the tea partiers! And alert much of the Republican right, for whom wrapping oneself up in the Constitution, without elaboration or explanation or appropriate context, is much in vogue.

This preamble comes not from the United States Constitution- the supreme law of the land- but from the Declaration of Independence, an act of defiance against the British crown. At first glance, Newt merely was inferring that our rights come from the Declaration of Independence, an eccentric point of view, but one which puts him, not coincidentally, on the right side of God (to the American people; God may choose to render a different verdict after Newt's ultimate demise). The preamble of the United States Constitution less conveniently reads

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Newt presumably was referring to the portion, italicized above, of the Declaration's preamble. But he may have had another intent.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

Could it be that Gingrich was making a cryptic reference to the invitation to "the People to alter or to abolish" Barack Obama's administration "and to institute new Government?" (Note the upper case "G" in the original.) Perhaps this is making too much of his statement but it would be consistent with some of the rhetoric emanating from the Tea Party movement and others on the extreme of the Republican Party.

Or, in line with Occam's Razor, perhaps Newt Gingrich was merely doing what so many in his party do these days: thoughtfully or otherwise, accurately or otherwise, throwing some red meat at the wall and seeing what sticks. At least on one day, in one venue, Susan Molinari was having none of it.



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