Televangelist Pat Robertson isn't the powerful political force he once was, but as the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, he's still an influential voice on the Christian Right. Yesterday, on his television show, The 700 Club, Robertson delivered a warning to a weary nation: Muslims are the new Nazis:
Robertson: I was thinking, you know, if you oppose Muslims, what is said? Well, you're a bigot, right? Terrible bigotry. I wonder what were people who opposed the Nazis. Were they bigots?
Co-host: Well, in that day I think they were looked down upon and frowned upon.
Robertson: Why can't we speak out against an institution that is intent on dominating us and imposing Sharia law and making us all part of a universal caliphate? That's the goal of some of these people. Why is that bigoted? Why is it bigoted to resist Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and to say we don't want to live under Nazi Germany?
Not to nitpick here, but people who opposed the Nazis were not "looked down upon and frowned upon" as bigots. This was a few decades ago, so it's understandably a little obscure, but the United States actually went to war with Nazi Germany. There was a movie about it and everything.
As you'd probably guess, this is hardly the first time Robertson has compared a large and diverse group of people to Nazis:
Almost immediately after President Obama's recent Middle East address, in which he reaffirmed his administration's commitment to a two-state solution in Israel, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R–Minn.) sprang into action. Blasting the president's "shocking display of betrayal towards our ally," the tea party icon attacked the speech (which did not actually represent a policy shift) in robocalls and online ads that appeared the key primary states of Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire.
Bachmann's support for Israel isn't simply an embrace of an ally in a historically volatile region; it's rooted in biblical prophecy. As Bachmann explained in a 2010 speech, she believes that if the United States turns its back on Israel, "a curse" will be placed on the land. As proof, she cited Genesis 12:3, in which God says to Abraham, "The one who curses you I will curse." It was an uncommonly explicit blurring of policy and theology from a prominent politician—but for Bachmann, who's expected to formally enter the presidential race in the coming weeks, it was hardly an isolated incident.
On Tuesday, GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain dropped by Glenn Beck's radio program to argue that his previous promise to not appoint any Muslims to his Cabinet had been "misconstrued." As he put it: "I did not say that I would not have them in my cabinet. If you look at my career, I have hired good people regardless of race, religion, sex gender, orientation, and this kind of thing."
Cain's position now is that only radical Muslims would be prohibited from serving in his administration. That sounds reasonable. Except he told Laura Ingraham in April that he's never met a Muslim who didn't fit his definition of a radical—and in the same interview, alleged that Rep. Keith Ellison (D–Minn.), who's Muslim, has pledged his loyalty to Allah, not the Constitution. But even if Cain's original statement, and subsequent defenses of it, were misconstrued, he still hasn't adequately explained the rest of what he told Think Progress back in April.
When asked for examples of the "creeping attempt...to gradually ease" Islamic sharia law into the American judicial system he explained:
One judge did it up in New Jersey, and ruled in a case. Then last week we heard about a judge down in was it Texas? It might have been Texas where a judge said there was a dispute in a mosque and he was gonna consider 'eclesiastical' law in his deliberations, because of a dispute that was going on inside a mosque. This is the United States of America. Just because it's going on inside a mosque doesnt mean you execute the laws based on what's going on in the [mosque]."
Cain is right: This isthe United States of America. But everything else here is inaccurate. In the civil case in question—which was in Florida, not Texas—the judge (a Republican) ruled that he was going to use "ecclesiastical" law because both parties had agreed, per their mutually agreed-upon contract, to settle their dispute through ecclesiastical Islamic law, in the form of a Muslim arbitrator. That's totally normal; Christians and Jews also take advantage of independent arbitrators to settle disputes. If the government were to ban the use of such forums, it would mark a dramatic encroachment on the First Amendment's freedom of religion—I'm fairly certain that Herman Cain doesn't want to run for President on the platform of restricting Christians' free exercise rights. The actual trial, the judge noted, would be conducted according to Florida civil law; he was simply assessing whether the arbitration process had been handled properly.
Anyone can make a gaffe, which is how Cain is spinning his "no Muslims" comment. But the more serious problem isn't that Cain misspoke; it's that he has taken an extreme, unconstitutional position based on a conspiracy theory that could have been debunked in 30 seconds.
The GOP presidential field looks like it's starting to gel, but, via Byron York, Rep. Peter King (R–N.Y.) says we might see one more familiar face:
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose presidential campaign fizzled in 2008, is leaning toward another race for the White House, according to a close associate. New York Republican Rep. Peter King, who has known Giuliani for more than 40 years, says the former mayor "is very close to saying he's going to run."
"If he were to make the decision today, he would run," says King.
Giuliani wouldn't be the most perplexing name floated for the GOP presidential nomination. That honor belongs to Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), who you'll probably have to Wikipedia, or perhaps King himself, who told supporters he would consider running if he thought it would be good for the Nassau County Republican Party.
But I'd be pretty skeptical of the latest Rudy rumor (there have been rumblings for a while), for the very simple reason that there doesn't seem to be any conceivable way Giuliani, thrice-married and previously supportive of abortion and gay rights, would win the Republican nomination. If anything, his odds in 2012 might be even worse than his chances in 2008, when he flopped fantastically. Since then, he's launched a second career consulting for South American police forces and lobbied for an Iranian dissident group that's considered a terrorist group by the State Department (which at least one law professor has suggested would count as material support for terrorism). Meanwhile, his signature issue—his handling of 9/11—almost certainly lost any vestigal relevance when Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan last month. Oh, and then there's this guy.
In late January 2001, the day after George W. Bush was sworn into office, a group of conservative politicos including recently retired House Speaker Newt Gingrich gathered at Grover Norquist's Washington, DC, office for a meeting with influential faith leaders.
That, in itself, was hardly newsworthy. Bush had swept into office on the backs of values voters. But the gathering wasn't catering to evangelical Christians; the purpose was to discuss a variety of issues of concern to American Muslims—everything from political appointments, to civil liberties, to a Ramadan postage stamp. It was organized by the Islamic Institute, a think tank founded by Norquist, the conservative anti-tax crusader, and the guest list was culled from the ranks of Muslim–American organizations and community leaders. By some estimates, Muslims had turned out in huge numbers for Bush; at least one prominent Republican credited them with making the difference in Florida.
But those days are over, and if the rhetoric from the current crop of candidates is any indication, there's little hope for a rebound in 2012. Since 9/11, Republicans have turned a once-promising—and rapidly growing—voting demographic into a punching bag. Lately, Republican lawmakers across the country have further antagonized their Muslim constituents by pushing quixotic legislation to ban Islamic sharia law from being used in state courts. Even the founder of the group Muslims for Bush, Colorado GOPer Muhammad Ali Hasan, left the party, citing frustration with its newfound anti-Muslim "bigotry."
Now, as Republicans head full-steam into the nominating process, they face a choice: Tone down the rhetoric, or risk permanently alienating a community that's expected to double in size over the next two decades.