Speaking before the flock of evangelical pastor John Hagee, the master of political hyperbole has outdone himself this time:
Newt Gingrich stood before thousands of evangelical churchgoers Sunday night to deliver a dire warning that nation’s Christian roots are under attack.
“I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9,” Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” [emphasis added]
Hang on–can Gingrich really believe this? The secular atheism, maybe (although the U.S. remains a highly religious country, especially relative to its industrialized peers). But an America dominated by Islamic radicals? That’s the kind of thing you’d hear from a second-tier A.M. radio Glenn Beck wannabe.
So why would Gingrich talk this way? Perhaps it’s just his showman impulse at work. Gingrich has spent the past few years earning good money as a television commentator, author and DVD producer, and he’s previously tapped into the conservative mania over creeping Sharia-ism in America. This quote would be consistent with the theory that Gingrich–whose horrendous poll numbers cast his electability into real doubt–sees the presidential campaign primarily as a giant self-promotional opportunity.
Another theory would be that Newt simply to distract people. The more attention he draws for his commentary about religion in America, however outrageous, the more evangelical Republicans–who are crucial to his prospects in Iowa–are likely to embrace him. And the less people will discuss his three marriages and two affairs, or his naked flip-flops on Libya policy.
But we can’t know what’s on Gingrich’s mind. Perhaps he really does believe that, in less than 60 years, America will be dominated by Islamic radicals. How would that work, though? Bearded mullahs chairing Congressional hearings and deciding Supreme Court cases? (Hey, people say we already have a Muslim in the White House, after all!) Would NATO jets patrol the new Caliphate to defend it from whatever Crusader rabble still remains by the 2070s?
That vision may be an easy sell on the fringes of the far right. I don’t see how Gingrich can really believe it, or think that such talk makes him more credible as a future president.