Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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Rick Santorum's End Times Theory About a Nuclear Iran

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 6:00 AM EST

During a campaign stop at an Elks Lodge in Salem, New Hampshire, on Monday, Rick Santorum fielded a question about his stance on immigration, to which he provided his rote response: If you're in the United States illegally, he believes, you're breaking the law and should return home to pursue the immigration process through the proper channels. Period. End of story. As a first-generation American himself, his black-and-white position had nothing to do with a lack of empathy or compassion, he explained, but merely his belief in justice and law and order. He stressed that he certainly had no antipathy towards our neighbors to the south.

Then he launched into a curious tangent: "I thank God for America that our southern border is Mexico," he said. "And it's not Libya, and it's not Tunisia, and it's not Iran. Mexican culture and American culture is Western civilization, and the basic values and understanding of our laws and our government are based in those Western civilization traditions. That is not the case in Europe, and you're seeing the effects of it. I have nothing at all against people in this hemisphere who want to immigrate."

But what about immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere? Santorum seemed to be implying that he was uncomfortable with immigrants from other parts of the world—namely Muslims—who do not share America's Judeo-Christian values. Santorum has previously stated that Islamic "Shariah law is incompatible with the Constitution"—and, as the event in Salem progressed, Santorum's view of a civilizational clash between the Muslim and Western worlds came further into focus.

While talking about Iran—whose nuclear facilities the former Pennsylvania senator recently said he would bomb if they weren't opened to international arms inspectors—Santorum noted that one of the regime's enrichment facilities is located near the city of Qom, home to the Jamkaran mosque, which houses an ancient well considered sacred to some Shia Muslims. According to local belief, Santorum said, the Mahdi—"he's the equivalent in some respects to a Jesus figure—was going to come back at the end of times and lead Shia Islam to the ruin of the world and peace and justice. That's what their end of times scenario is." He continued:

Well he comes back at a time of great chaos. So there are many who speculate that there are folks over in Iran who wouldn't mind creating a time of great chaos for religious reasons. And the fact they built this nuclear program in the city next to where this man is supposed to return leads one to the think that there may be more to it because they could have picked anywhere else in the...country...to do so...

Contrary to what Santorum suggests, this is not a mainstream theory, but a fringe one that holds that the Iranian regime is trying mightily to sow chaos in the world—through any means at its disposal—to usher in the arrival of the Shia messiah. The fact that there's an enrichment site near Qom is hardly evidence of an Iranian strategy to bring about the Islamic apocalypse. That Santorum suggests it is speaks only to his perception of the Muslim faith as one either intent on undermining American values or eradicating America outright.

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Newt Gingrich Flashes Fangs

| Sun Jan. 8, 2012 10:56 AM EST
Newt Gingrich.

Perhaps it's lack of sleep, or perhaps he realized that his above-the-fray strategy was failing to dampen Mitt Romney's aura of inevitability in New Hampshire, but Newt Gingrich flashed his fangs early in Sunday's NBC News/Facebook debate. After Romney exceeded his allotted time, emphasizing—as he has throughout the campaign—that he is not a career politician but a businessman whose conscience called him to service, Gingrich erupted: "I realize the red light doesn't mean anything to you because you're the front-runner. But can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?"

The fact is you had a very bad re-election rating. You dropped out of office. You had been out of state for something like 200 days preparing to run for president... You were running for president while you were governor. You were gone all over the country. You were out of state consistently.

You then promptly re-entered politics. You happened to lose to McCain as you had lost to Kennedy. Now you're back running. You've been running consistently for years and years and years. So this idea that suddenly citizenship showed up in your mind, just level with the American people. You've been running for—so at least since the 1990s.

Then, after coming out strong and showing a glimpse of classic, brawling Gingrich, the former House speaker reverted to his positive, professorial pose.

Since placing fourth in Iowa in the wake of a slew of attack ads launched by a pro-Romney super-PAC, Restore Our Future, Gingrich has vowed he would not go negative. He has vowed, however, to "engage in great clarity," as he put it the other day during a town hall meeting in Salem.

But while Gingrich may be reluctant to put his pugilistic side on full display, now, thanks to Sheldon Adelson, he may be able to leave most of the body blows to his surrogates. News broke on Saturday that the casino mogul had donated $5 million to a pro-Gingrich super-PAC, Winning Our Future, run by former Gingrich aide Rick Tyler. Winning Our Future is planning to roll out a blistering, 27-minute movie eviscerating Romney's record at Bain Capital. "I'm trying to save the people of New Hampshire from being embarrassed," Tyler told NBC. "When they see this movie, and see what a predator Romney is, they're going to be embarrassed."

Near the end of the debate, moderator David Gregory raised the escalating super-PAC wars, asking Gingrich whether his complaints about Restore Our Future's Iowa ads weren't hypocritical given the movie produced by the super-PAC backing his own candidacy. "I'm consistent because I think you ought to have fact-based campaigns," Gingrich responded.

Romney defended the ads launched by Restore Our Future, which is run by former Romney campaign staffers. He added, however, "Anything wrong I'm opposed to."

Gregory pointedly asked the candidates whether they would both ask their respective super-PACs to cease the attacks. Predictably, neither Gingrich nor Romney signaled that they would call for a super-PAC detente. "I agree with him: it takes broad shoulders to run," Gingrich remarked, referring to Romney's recent comments criticizing Gingrich for "whining" about the super-PAC onslaught.

So at least they agree on something.

Newt's Nuclear De-Escalation

| Sat Jan. 7, 2012 10:22 AM EST

When Newt Gingrich launched into his speech Friday night at Salem High School, it seemed as if his pledge to remain above the fray of negative ads and campaigning was about to fly out the window. He'd barely taken the stage when he threw a jab at his campaign trail nemesis, Mitt Romney, who earlier in the week Gingrich had called a "liar" for denying knowledge of a barrage of super-PAC attack ads that the former House speaker blames for undercutting his support in Iowa. 

"How many of you have noticed that the state line seems to have a really significant, almost mythic, impact on behavior?" he asked, referring to Massachusetts, where Romney had served as governor, to hoots from the audience. "On one side more taxes and bigger government, on the other side lower taxes and less bureaucracy… There really are very different psychological mindsets." He arrived at the point: "The only reason I raise that is that I think there's a remarkable difference between a Reagan conservative and a Massachusetts moderate."

Was Newt—as some in the media had predicted—about to explode in a supernova of anti-Romney vitriol? It seemed this could be the moment.

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