Last weekend conservative activists converged at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University for "The Awakening," a two day conference devoted to issues of serious concern to the United States going forward—like the threat of Islamic law to the Constitution, the coming monetary collapse, and the abortion "Holocaust." Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was there scheduled to attend*; so was fellow GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich; Mike Huckabee couldn't make it but sent along pre-recorded remarks. In other words, kind of a big deal.
But the event's most illuminating speech may have come from Ryan Sorba, a "pro-family activist" who became a minor icon on the far-right in 2010 after condemning the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference for including gay people. At Liberty, Sorba took the occasion to criticize conservatives for using the word "gay," and instead suggested a handful of substitute words that he feels carry less baggage. Via the Florida Independent, here's Sorba's advice:
"Stop. Using. The word. Gay. Because if we continue to use this term that is grounded in an identity, we're conceding the premise that it is an identity and the rest of the debate we're on their ground. We're arguing on their terms. He who defines the terms controls the debate and by extension public opinion. What we need to do is state that look this is either same-sex attraction, or maybe they're engaging in same-sex intercourse or sodomy—whatever word you're comfortable using. And that's it."
Anyways, Sorba's right about one thing: Anti-gay activists are losing the debate. A majority of Americans support gay marriage, and 78 percent of Americans supported the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I'm just not sure that swapping "same-sex sodomy" for "gay" is really going to push back against the arc of history.
Republican politicians like to talk a lot about American decline. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, for instance, recently warned that Democrats have "declared war on marriage, on families, on fertility, and on faith." (Fertility!). Newt Gingrich went even further, suggesting that Obama's agenda "would mean the end of America as it has been for the last 400 years."
Now, it looks like the new era of American Unexceptionalism is starting to take its toll in the Republican Party.Here's Politico's Jonathan Martin:
Interviews on both sides of the Capitol have revealed widespread concern about the lackluster quality of the current crop of candidates and little consensus on who Republican senators and House members would like to see in the race.
While the days when congressional insiders could determine a party nominee are long gone, their open grumbling lays bare a broadly held sentiment within the GOP.
"I don't see anyone in the current field right now, and people say that to me, as well. I'm reflecting what I hear," said California Rep. David Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee.
We just don't make smart, charismatic presidential candidates like we used to.
So what's the solution? Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has been floated as a potential candidate—and he's expressed dissatisfaction with the current field—but I'm not sure Americans are going to rally behind someone who thinks gays should be banned from teaching in public schools. Marco Rubio's been called the "Cuban Barack Obama," but he's only been in the Senate for three months. Martin's sources say they're considering "a to-be-determined business executive or military leader"—but Dwight D. Eisenhower's dead (not to mention term-limited), and David Petraeus says he's not interested.
It's still, of course, very early. Mike Huckabee is leading the polls in Iowa and he's probably not running; Donald Trump is in third. But it's never a good sign for your electoral chances when party bigwigs are publicly bashing your candidates before the first debate has even been held.
One week after bragging that he would not permit Muslims to serve in his administration, GOP presidential candidate and pizza magnate Herman Cainalleged that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has pledged his loyalty to Islamic law, rather than the Constitution. Per the Allen West Theorem—which states that anytime someone says anything that ridiculous, the freshman Florida congressman probably said it first—we'll just note that Allen Westsaid this first.
Other people who probably won't be a part of the Herman Cain administration: Herman Cain, who trailsPresident Obama in his home state of Georgia.
South Carolina came one step closer to becoming the third state to ban Islam law from being enforced in state courts.
Nebraska State Sen. Mark Christensen introduced his state's anti-Sharia bill after a meeting with his local chapter of ACT! for America, reports Salon's Justin Elliott. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies ACT! as a "hate group."
Former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasnerwants to be the next United States senator from the Sunshine State, which is why he was in the Orlando area on Wednesday warning tea party activists about the threat of "progressive Sharia-compliant Islam." We have no idea what that phrase even means, and Hasner, for his part, hasn't clarified.
The New York State Senate held hearings on the threat of Islamic extremism to the Empire State. To demonstrate just how seriously they take the threat of Islamic extremism, senate GOPers selected as their star witness Frank Gaffney, who once wrote an entire column arguing that the Defense Department's missile defense logo is a gateway to Islamic law (heaven forbid Gaffney ever finds out about these). Also testifying: Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who told the committee that 99-percent of American Muslims are "outstanding Americans."
Big news on the conspiracy theory front: On Wednesday, an Oklahoma House committee approved a bill requiring presidential candidates to present a valid, long-form birth certificate before their names can appear on the ballot in the Sooner State. More than a dozen states have considered "birther" bills since the beginning of 2009, but yesterday's vote puts Oklahoma on track to become the first state to actually enact such a law. The vote means the bill, which has already passed the state Senate, just needs to be approved by the full House before it can go to Republican Governor Mary Fallin's desk.
The bill's sponsor, Republican state Sen. Ralph Shortey, explained to The Oklahoman that under the proposed legislation, President Obama's certificate of live birth would be insufficient—even though not all states provide long-form birth certificates. He also took pains to note that this isn't a birther bill:
"A lot of people are classifying this as a birther bill which I don't think it is," Shortey said. "The concern has stemmed from the questions that have arisen from President Obama."
It's a bill that arises out of concerns that the President of the United States is ineligible for office because he was born in a different country, and therefore requires him to present a valid birth certificate, which he has already done. But it's not a birther bill; where would anyone get that idea?
Editor's Note (5/10/11):Well, it kind of seems official. On Monday, a spokesman for Newt Gingrich announced that on Wednesday Gingrich would announce on Twitter and Facebook that he is running for president. (How suspenseful!) And in the days since commentators have been dissecting the former House speaker's past: his messy personal life (two divorces, three marriages), his erratic policy pronouncements, his combative politicking. But given that Gingrich has thirty-plus years of extreme conduct, many of his past excesses end up being truncated and compacted into characterizations. ("Known for his often controversial remarks...") The full Newt is often given short shrift. But a month ago, Tim Murphy and David Corn set out to chronicle Gingrich's 33 years of rhetorical extremism. They ended up with a long list. A very long list.
Newt Gingrich, a preseason 2012 Republican contender, likes to present himself as an ideas man. He is a former college professor and the architect of the ideology-driven 1994 Republican Revolution. But for all his references to Camus and Clausewitz, there's another side to the former House speaker—a verbal bomb-thrower who's never met a political crisis he couldn't analogize to the annexation of the Sudetenland.
Gingrich was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978. He learned quickly that a back-bencher in the minority party could distinguish himself and gain attention in Washington by employing extreme rhetoric. Ever in attack-mode, Gingrich swiftly moved up the ranks within the House GOP caucus. Democrats accused him of practicing "skinhead politics," and a 1989 Washington Post profile declared him "notorious" and "defiant." But his political thuggery worked, and he led the GOPers in their historic retaking of the House and became speaker. He did not last long in the post. After a rocky stint—marked by a government shutdown, his party's sex-and-lies impeachment crusade against President Bill Clinton, and several ethics controversies involving Gingrich—the GOP lost seats in the 1998 election, and Gingrich resigned as speaker and left the House. (During this time, he was having an extramarital affair with a congressional aide who would eventually become his third, and present, wife.)
In his post-House years, Gingrich, at times, toned down the rhetoric. He worked with Hillary Clinton on health care IT issues. He sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to highlight their joint support for climate change action. After the 2008 election, he called for policymaking that would unite Democrats, Republicans, and independents. He blasted a candidate for GOP chairman who circulated a parody song called "Barack the Magic Negro." Still, he wasn't able to escape the siren call of overheated oratory. He repeatedly bashed the "secular left" for attempting to destroy the country, and as he has moved closer to declaring a presidential bid, he increasingly has returned to the hooligan ways of his past.
So here's a rather incomplete guide to Gingrich's greatest (or worst) hits of the past 33 years. As he might say, it's the most accurate, predictive model for his future behavior.