Well, that isn't that crazy. He's one of those people that makes me nuts by often making sense but just as often being a complete nitwit. (Which, of course, is another way of saying that I agree with him half of the time. You know how that works.)
Anyway, he often blindly defends the Israeli government/military in a manner that I find off-putting. But he's making a play for tolerance here, which is buying him a few benefit-of-the-doubt points in my carefully maintained ledger.
The big issue here is the election-year xenophobia and downright racism being trotted out to get cheap airtime and press and to secure the votes of xenophobes, racists, racist xenophobes and xenophobic racists.
I'll find you some dumb letters about this soon, but New Gingrich is dumb enough for everybody. Well, that's not true. He isn't dumb. He's very smart. Which means that he's lying most of the time. Because he says the same things the dumb people say.
Cohen's column, from the WaPo, is here. One of my favorite bits is how he calls out the use of the scary and ill-defined "they". You know who "they" are. Well, you don't, really. But you do know that "they" are out to getcha. And they will, unless you help to get them first. Or at least vote Republican. You can read that bit for yourself, but here's a nice bit about cultural relativism.
Gingrich noted that there "are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." True enough. However, it is not the government of Saudi Arabia that seeks to open a mosque in Lower Manhattan, but a private group. In addition, and just for the record, Saudi Arabia does not represent all of Islam and, also just for the record, the al-Qaeda terrorists who murdered nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, would gladly have added the vast Saudi royal family to the list of victims. In recompense, the Saudis would just as gladly apply some dull swords to the necks of al-Qaeda's leaders. It is the way of the desert, or something like that.
I would also note that women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Applying Gingrichian logic, it follows that no Muslim women should be allowed to drive in the United States and its possessions and territories -- or, for that matter, use a BlackBerry, since the United Arab Emirates is about to block some of its key functions. I'm sure Gingrich would agree.
The truth here is not that some racist and/or xenophobic people ("they", perhaps?) are afraid of The Terrorists opening up shop near Ground Zero. It's that they're afraid that a center which is meant to promote dialogue and understanding will actually do so. They're afraid that once we see that they are just like us (only, like, different) that we won't be able to call them "they". We need "they" because we are defined by having enemies. And if we don't, then they won't have anything with which to frighten people into doing Newt Gingrich's bidding.