Newt Gingrich, a serial adulterer and disciple of New Age futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler, makes a singularly unlikely Crusader. Yet apparently at some point in the past year or so Gingrich looked in a mirror and saw Don John of Austria looking back at him.
An epiphany of that kind would explain Gingrich’s perverse determination to depict the contrived controversy over the “Ground Zero Mosque” as a contemporary Battle of Lepanto. A more reasonable explanation would be that Gingrich, one of the most penetrably insincere figures in American politics, is trying to distill irrational populist resentment into a propellant for a presidential campaign.
Four women and eleven men have been convicted of “mingling” at a party, in Saudi Arabia. Sentence? According to the AP, “flogging and prison terms.”
The men, who are between 30 and 40 years old, and three of the women, who are under the age of 30, were sentenced to an unspecified number of lashes and one or two year prison terms each.
The fourth woman, a minor, was sentenced to 80 lashes and was not sent to prison.
We don’t really need to ask why this was done. We all know. The Sauds follow the Old Time Religion, and it’s pretty darn strict. (The AP explains it as follows: “Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam that prohibits unrelated men and women from mingling.”) It is also amazingly illiberal, in almost all of the senses of the word.
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Last week, Lew Rockwell posted an item about officers “subduing” and arresting two people who had the audacity to stand where President Obama’s motorcade wanted to go.
I recalled this yesterday as I read an October 1900 newspaper article, which reported an indignity that VP candidate Theodore Roosevelt suffered when newsboys threw mud at him “and greeted him with insulting language . . . as he departed from the church at which he had attended.” The story was a small item several pages into the paper and there is no indication that the boys were “subdued” or arrested, or that they got into any trouble at all. Instead, the mud-spattered TR just huffed off on his way.
The story included no quotes from experts on how terrible it is that our youth would show such disrespect for a great political leader and no editorializing.
Today, of course, this would be the top news story for a week, Chris Matthews would rend his garments over the blasphemy against our civic religion, and the kids would likely be tazed or killed, and, if they lived, charged with felonies.
Another newspaper article from the same month mentioned that trick-or-treaters stopped by the White House and were greeted by President and Mrs. McKinley. The kids weren’t participating in a photo op, but were just knocking on the front door as they would at any other house. Because you could do that, because the president was not a god.
For more details of the good old days when people treated presidents like the ordinary jerks they are (and how far we’ve fallen), I highly recommend Gene Healy’s The Cult of the Presidency.
(Cross-posted at The LRC Blog.)
UPDATE: Norman Horn points out that The Cult of the Presidency is now available online for free in PDF, Kindle, and ebook formats.