Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery.

A few months ago, I wrote that Andy McCarthy had crafted a "perfect mission statement for the torture wing of the GOP," in response to his argument against building the Islamic Center near Ground Zero that "in Mecca and Medina, there are not only no Christian churches, no synagogues, there are no non-Muslims, they’re closed cities." I wrote:

[T]entatively accepting McCarthy's odious premise that all Muslims can be associated with terrorism, I can't think of a more perfect mission statement for the torture wing of the GOP: Islamic extremists are monsters. We should be more like them.

Despite McCarthy's rank Islamophobia and flirtations with birtherism, his brand of culture-war counterterrorism is incredibly influential in GOP national security circles. So it wasn't a surprise to see Newt Gingrich parrot McCarthy's line:

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for "religious toleration" are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.

My first observation here is that Gingrich so admires the intolerance of his declared enemies that he wants to imitate it. The second is that Gingrich's attempt to hold Muslims collectively accountable for the actions of a relative handful of extremists doesn't simply reinforce al-Qaeda's narrative that America is at war with Islam as a whole; it skirts dangerously close to accepting the terrorist-friendly premise that "innocents" as we generally understand the term don't actually exist.

Last night Rachel Maddow did a segment where she referred to four FOX news stories -- Van Jones, ACORN, the New Black Panther Party Case, and the smearing of Shirley Sherrod -- as examples of Fox attempting to frighten white people into thinking black people are "coming after them."  But this omits FOX's breathless hyping of the Cordoba House story, furthering baseless rumors about the builders, such as tying the organization to the Muslim Brotherhood or the lie that the center will be unveiled on the anniversary of 9/11.

Any account of the GOP's rather startlingly racialized political strategy of late has to take into account its attempt to turn the building of a Mosque into a culture-war rallying cry, as part and parcel of that same strategy. You don't have to be black to be "Willie Horton" anymore. Black people have always been a part of the American political calculus, but for the first time, American Muslims are getting similar treatment. That's because even President Bush seemed to understand that demonizing American Muslims was terrible national-security policy and even worse ethics. The GOP has gone backward.

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