I almost hate to have to bring it up again, but he won’t go away.

Newt just doesn’t get the message. He’s been hated on profusely by the GOP for dragging his baggy baggage into their presidential nomination scrum, and then his election campaign staff resigned en masse complaining that Gingrich is a grifter not a legitimate candidate. It makes you wonder who they thought they were going to work for. It’s not as if the name is unfamiliar.

But he keeps on keeping on. So when the GOP unloaded its clown car of candidates for its first real – first really real – debate, Newt was there. But first, what are we to make of this debate, these candidates? Gingrich isn’t the only pathetic joke to show up – we’ve got Bachmann, Santorum, Cain, Paul! Paul seems like a sweet old man who hasn’t been outside his apartment or turned on a TV set in twenty years, but at least he seems somewhat sincere in his beliefs. The others? My god. It’s hard to know whether ignorance or crazy gets the upper hand there.

And then you get the real candidates, Pawlenty and Romney. The take-away from the debate is that Pawlenty’s showing was so weak and unmemorable that it pretty much cinched that as the already growing sense of his public persona. Romney of course emerges as the frontrunner – by elimination if nothing else – but the word already is that he’s not going to be able to get the nomination not only because of Romneycare but now because he’s broken away from the GOP’s lockstep orthodoxy on global warming.

So anyway, one of the big questions was how much Islamophobic bigotry are the candidates going to throw out in the debate to rile up the rubes? The answer – not terribly much. But it did make an appearance, mainly pizza salesman Herman Cain trying to both back-peddle on some of his previous crazy ignorance. Ignorant crazy? Can someone make that into one word for me? Anyway, along with stumbling over some stale urban legends about sharia law, Cain offers to make a distinction between peaceful Muslims and militant Muslims and says that maybe he would after all, despite earlier comments, allow Muslims to work for his administration, but only after they answered “certain questions.” What questions? Probably not like ones asked Cain at the debate, like whether he prefers deep dish or thin crust pizza. (Dude answered “deep dish.” He doesn’t know jack about pizza either.)

Anyway. You can’t single out a religion for loyalty oaths, you know. Pesky Constitution. Which reminds me – I’m going to start mentally substituting “authoritarian” for every time a conservative says “constitutional” – like “constitutional conservative” – and see if that makes more sense.

So Romney has another one of his “I’m the sensible one” moments and points out that all this sharia fear-mongering is pointless nonsense, and more: “Our nation was founded on a principle of religious tolerance. That’s in fact why some of the earliest patriots came to this country and why we treat people with respect, regardless of their religious persuasion.” Whoa. That’s actual history.

But I’m getting sidetracked. So then the history professor, that’s Newt Gingrich, remember. That was his improbable dayjob. So then the history professor has this to say:

“Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I’m in favor of saying to people, ‘If you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period.’

“We did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists,” Gingrich continues. “And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.”

The first comment is just dumb. Of course loyalty to the U.S. is a prerequisite for serving in the administration. But that’s not what folks were talking about. They were talking about loyalty tests for certain religions. But the rest is batshit crazy. We did this in dealing with the Nazis?! Muslims are like communists?!?

No, Newt. We did not do this with the Nazis. In World War II, the group we singled out for potentially conflicted loyalty were the Japanese-Americans who we placed in internment camps, an action that did not make us any safer and soiled and damaged our nation’s claim to respect rights and human dignity. That was an embarrassment we’re still suffering from. Nazi sympathizers did exist, but they weren’t so much infiltrators and saboteurs as they were prominent businessmen, industrialists, and clergy.

No, Newt. We did not do this with the communists. Although there were unquestionably Soviet spies in the U.S. after World War II, the anti-communist hysteria was not about them so much as producing a climate of fear to promote the agendas and careers of demagogues like Senator Joe McCarthy, and accomplished nothing other than the intimidation of legitimate dissent and ruined the lives of many people simply on the suspicion that they might hold unpopular political beliefs. It also is credited with hampering the actual investigation into foreign espionage on American soil. Once again, there is a reason McCarthyism is a swear, not a success.

You would think Newt doesn’t know anything about history. And I suppose I’ll continue to feel compelled to show that he doesn’t until he finally just goes away for good.

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