I’m still marveling at Newt Gingrich’s latest spin on his multiple extramarital affairs – namely, his bid to blame it on patriotism. As the presidential aspirant explained to a Christian Broadcasting interviewer last week (a quote that I mentioned in a late posting on Friday), “There’s no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”Embattled politicians have long sought to wrap themselves in the American flag, but Gingrich’s passion play may well be the most creative iteration of all. I bet some of his fellow rogues wish they had thought of it. For instance, John Edwards: “Oh beautiful Rielle, her spacious eyes, her amber waves of mane, how I love her mountains majesties above her fruited plain. Oh Reille, I shed my grace on thee, and crowned your good with motherhood, from sea to shining sea.”And Rudy Giuliani: “In the very first scene of The Godfather, some guy says, ‘I believe in America.’ Well, so do I. As mayor of New York, I was working so hard and so passionately for America that I forgot I had a second wife at home when I marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade with my future third wife. And yes, my second wife charged me with serial adultery when she filed for divorce in 2002, but we all know that in the dust and rubble of Sept. 11, 2001, my sole impassioned mistress was America.”And Eliot Spitzer: “America was built on the transactional genius of the capitalist system, and, as Client 9, I was proud to repeatedly experience the immutable laws of supply and demand.”Heck, Gingrich could also be a role model for anyone who runs afoul of societal norms. For instance, how about the guy in the Philadelphia suburbs who was jailed Saturday on charges of reckless driving, reckless endangerment, and other offenses after he ran down four teenage pedestrians? The teens were all hospitalized, but, under Newt’s Law, the driver can always say, “I was distracted by a roadside American flag, and my eyes got so misted with tears that I never saw those kids.”Or maybe this is the only quote that counts, courtesy of Samuel Johnson, the 18th-century British man of letters: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”——-Two months ago, in the wake of the Arizona shopping center shootings, the Obama White House pledged that the president would soon weigh in on the need for sensible gun reform – namely, tougher laws that would bar nutjobs from buying weapons. This was welcome news, since Obama hadn’t said squat about the issue since the day he took office.Yesterday, Obama finally responded – by writing an underwhelming guest column in an Arizona newspaper. He spent the first six paragraphs reassuring gun owners that he respects sacred American gun rights; he even correctly boasted that “my adminsitration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners – it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.”He then tiptoed toward the crucial issue: “(W)e should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few – dangerous criminals and fugitives, for example – from getting their hands on guns in the first place.” He said he’s “willing to bet” that gun owners would support the idea of toughening background checks and making the system “faster and nimbler” to ensure that unbalanced people can’t “buy a gun so easily.” He said that we owe the Arizona victims, and the 2000 other Americans who have since died from gun violence, “nothing less than our best efforts to seek consensus” on common-sense reform.And that was it. No specific legislative launch. No pledge to lead on the issue. Not a word about banning the high-capacity clips that enable shooters to whack 30 or more innocents without the need to reload. Even Dick Cheney has suggested such a ban, and two national polls say that roughly 60 percent of Americans would support one. Meanwhile, a third national poll has reported that more than 80 percent of Americans favor stronger background checks of those with mental problems.But yesterday, Obama’s key line was: “I want this to at least be the beginning of a new discussion…”A “discussion?” What is he, a seminar leader? He’ll never move the needle on this winning political issue if he persists in firing blanks.——-Last Wednesday in this space, I previewed Peter King’s new passion play, the House hearings that target the Muslim-American community. On Thursday, as the first session unfolded, I waited to see whether he’d back up his stated claim that “80 to 85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists,” but, naturally, he never offered a shred of proof. And on Friday, I wrote a newspaper column about the hearings; it ran yesterday.King, on day one, never called any witnesses to buttress his other broad claim, that the Muslim-American community has failed to cooperate with counter-terrorism authorities. It’s just lucky for him that he didn’t call FBI director Robert Mueller.While writing my Sunday column, I had to leave these Mueller quotes on the cutting-room floor. Here he was, in a briefing on Feb. 27, 2004: “Since September 11th, we have had substantial assistance and cooperation from the Muslim American community, the Arab-American community, the Sikh American community, within the United States. And for that, I am – all of us are tremendously thankful. Special agents in charge around the country meet often with the leaders of the Muslim-American communities. I periodically meet with the leadership here in Washington.”And here he was in April ’08, during House testimony: “I reaffirm the fact that 99.9 percent of Muslim-Americans or Sikh-Americans, Arab-Americans, are every bit as patriotic as anybody else in this room, and that many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.”
Samuel Johnson, meet Peter King.