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September 07, 2006

Newt Comes Through

Your day really won't be complete if you don't spend a few moments reading Newt Gingrich's extraordinary comparison of the War on Terror and the Civil War. You have to appreciate the gumption it took to survey the mess of World War II metaphors, judge them insufficient to the magnitude of al Qaeda's threat, and reach back to the deadliest war in American history, fought entirely on American soil.

The first and greatest lesson of the last five years parallels what Lincoln came to understand. The dangers are greater, the enemy is more determined, and victory will be substantially harder than we had expected in the early days after the initial attack. Despite how painful it would prove to be, Lincoln chose the road to victory. President Bush today finds himself in precisely the same dilemma Lincoln faced 144 years ago. With American survival at stake, he also must choose.

"With American survival at stake." What do you even say to that? If every single American civilian stood in a line, defenseless and paralyzed, and waited for al Qaeda members to kill them, the terrorist organization would still fail. They'd run out of bullets, exhaust their bombs, tire their trigger fingers and arms. There is simply no sense in which al Qaeda poses a threat to America's future. On the other hand, they may spur so many hysterical commentators to grotesquely distort our past that none of us will ever have the stomach to mention American history again. But that's a different danger. Meanwhile, Tristero makes a good point:

it sure sounds to me like Newt Gingrich, former representative of Georgia, actually compared the Confederate Army to al Qaeda, the leaders of the Confederacy to Iran's mullahs, and Jefferson Davis to Saddam Hussein.

I suppose I should take this as good news, that white folks in the South, like Newt Gingrich, are finally coming to terms with the truth of the Civil War, that it really was about slavery and not "state's rights," and that the racist Confederacy was, in fact, a 19th century Axis of Evil comprised of people who hated American values and wished to destroy us. But for some reason, I don't think so: I think Newt never fully thought through the implications of his ridiculous analogy or is hoping no one notices he just insulted one of the most rock solid of the Republican bases.

So which is it, Newt? And how well do you think the Davis-Hussein comparison is going to go over in South Carolina?

September 7, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

it sure sounds to me like Newt Gingrich, former representative of Georgia, actually compared the Confederate Army to al Qaeda, the leaders of the Confederacy to Iran's mullahs, and Jefferson Davis to Saddam Hussein.

If Jefferson Davis weren't only related to my great-great-great-granddad by marriage to a cousin*, I'd be terribly offended. But since said forebear had the good sense to leave Tennessee after the Civil War and I wasn't brought up on a diet of revisionist propaganda, Gingrich has it about right in my oh-so-humble opinion.

*Yes, it's true, I've seen the documentation. Like I said, I'm glad they pulled up and went out West.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 7, 2006 1:30:46 PM

Haven't you heard?* Right-wingers were against slavery, were interventionist during WWII, and opposed McCarthyism, all while supporting our great leaders like Lincoln, FDR, Truman, and JFK. Also, I think it was the North that had slavery, not the South. So Gingrich's argument makes complete sense....

*Of course, it helps if you only read sensible conservative blogs.

Posted by: calling all toasters | Sep 7, 2006 1:44:34 PM

No doubt after reading the op/ed, Newt qualifies as a fool and scoundrel, but he isn't Southern. He is an army brat who ended up in Georgia.

From Wikipedia:

"He was born Newton McPherson in Dauphin, Pennsylvania, the son of Newton Searles McPherson and Kathleen Daugherty. His parents separated soon after Newt's birth, and his mother raised him by herself until she married Robert Gingrich, who adopted Newt.
...

Gingrich's adopted surname has been generally pronounced "Ging-ritch" since his entry into public life. However, his adoptive family has always pronounced the name "Gin-grick," as would be customary in the Pennsylvania Dutch ethnic milieu."

Posted by: Emma Zahn | Sep 7, 2006 1:45:32 PM

Now now, they may see a genuine threat. Perhaps they expect Al-Qaeda to take control of Pakistan and its nuclear bomb in the near future, thanks to their incompetence.

Posted by: Omar K. Ravenhurst | Sep 7, 2006 1:46:03 PM

Note the reference in this ridiculous article to the "Kerry-Gore-Pelosi-Lamont bloc." The real rhetorical purpose of this piece of shit is not genuine historical analogy, but rather more partisan point-scoring. Dishonest to the bone, as usual.

Posted by: Farinata X | Sep 7, 2006 1:54:22 PM

To be clear, Gingrich's politics have spread suffering and inequality and have curtailed freedom.

But if you haven't heard him speak, you should. He is brilliant. People with whom you vehemently disagree, and whom you do not trust, can be intellectually powerful, and Gingrich is one of them. He has been doing exactly this, verbally repudiating racism and inverting the valence of traditional poltical symbols, for years. He has thought this through, all right.

Posted by: Joel | Sep 7, 2006 2:11:49 PM

"There is simply no sense in which al Qaeda poses a threat to America's future."

Perhaps this is true. I don't think being blase about it the correct task to take though. To look at another historical analogy, there was now way the the barbarians posed a threat to the might of Rome by any conventional analysis of strength, but Rome was sacked and the Empire fell.

There is also the undeniable technological arc that is making destruction cheaper and easier to obtain. I think we ignore that trend at our peril.

There is room for dispute and disagreement about how severe the threat Al Qaida poses, but I certainly don't think Newt's premise that it is a mortal threat is untenable. I happen to think it somewhat less then that, but on that could in time become quite severe. Still, simply throwing away this premise in derisive terms doesn't serve anyone.

As for the second bit, that if some historical parallels can be drawn between the Civil War and the War on Terror than all parallels must be drawn between the two that is just stupid. The Conferate States and England both posed threats to our nation at different times. That doesn't mean that Jefferson Davis is in any way like George III, even if some lessons from the Revolutionary War were useful in fighting the Civil War.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Sep 7, 2006 3:18:30 PM

Al Qaeda poses an existential threat to America - if the leaders of America are willing to toss the Bill of Rights and ignore the Consititution in order to fight them.

Of course, I can't really blame Al Qaeda for that.

Posted by: maurinsky | Sep 7, 2006 3:26:30 PM

The barbarians DID pose an existential threat to Rome - in the days of Atilla they were sacking Byzantine cities and extracting ridiculously huge "tributes" that emptied the treasuries of whole kingdoms. This was decades before the Empire fell. When we see Egypt and Turkey bankrupting themselves buying off Al Qaeda, when they loot Athens and Bombay, then and only then will the Roman comparison be apt.

Posted by: Kylroy | Sep 7, 2006 5:02:31 PM

There is room for dispute and disagreement about how severe the threat Al Qaida poses, but I certainly don't think Newt's premise that it is a mortal threat is untenable. I happen to think it somewhat less then that, but on that could in time become quite severe. Still, simply throwing away this premise in derisive terms doesn't serve anyone.

The ONLY "existential" threat that bin Ladenites pose to America is if they manage to goad us into doing something apeshit stupid, like tossing out our best traditions. Aside from alertness and sharp police work, our best defense is to cultivate some courage and perspective among the citizenry. This is precisely where real leadership is needed, and most sorely lacking. Instead, we have opportunists like Gingrich, who'd rather piss on their country, and stoke their own ambitions. We don't need enemies. In fact, that's the very last thing we need -- fear is never a friend to representative government.

Posted by: sglover | Sep 7, 2006 5:33:10 PM

"With American survival at stake." What do you even say to that? If every single American civilian stood in a line, defenseless and paralyzed, and waited for al Qaeda members to kill them, the terrorist organization would still fail.

Shit oh fuck.

It's even worse than that. THis is a 'war" of ideology, and there's no real way America should lose - IF it actually pushed the values it rhetorically spouses - freedom, democracy, AND freedom of religion. There's no reason why you couldn't have a Muslim democracy in the same way that you had a Christian American democracy, up to about a decade ago.

But the US is conspicious in saying one thing and doing the exact opposite, and everyone hates hypocrites.

Al Qaeda can't win the greater ideological struggle. But the US certainly can lose it, and is doing so magnificently.

Posted by: Phoenician in a time of Romans | Sep 7, 2006 6:14:10 PM

Of course, I can't really blame Al Qaeda for that.

Yes you can. What do you think they were trying to accomplish? They managed to get a good win when the patriot act was passed, when we invaded Iraq and when the government decided it could break any law it wishes in the name of fighting terror.

Posted by: DuWayne | Sep 7, 2006 6:43:18 PM

DuWayne - the blame for those things lies with the Bush adminstration and the weak minds of Congress who let the Patriot Act pass. We don't have to use special means to capture a bunch of backwards fundamentalists, and we don't have to go outside the bounds of American law to keep America safe.

Basically, the Bush administration response to 9/11 was to give the bad guys what they want - bright, shining evidence that America's freedom is just a lie.

Posted by: maurinsky | Sep 8, 2006 10:14:02 AM

DuWayne - the blame for those things lies with the Bush adminstration and the weak minds of Congress who let the Patriot Act pass.

Believe me I do. But I can also happily blame Alqaeda for it - it was their goal to disrupt and change our way of life - our principle - and they succeeded. And to be clear, the American people are complicit as well, if we're trying to get comprehensive in the blame game - we allowed, no demanded the patriot actget rammed through.

Posted by: DuWayne | Sep 8, 2006 11:30:21 AM

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