It has been very painful watching the Republican Presidential field, for many reasons. First, of course, is the sheer amazement that this group of goofballs could be taken seriously as candidates for any political office, let alone the highest office in the land. But beyond that, there’s been the nagging question whether they are really as uninformed as they seem, or whether they are pandering to a base devoid of civic and scientific literacy. The question is: are they intellectually or morally vacuous?
The answer is pretty clear when you talk about Michelle Bachmann or Herman Cain. They’re delusional and none too bright. You can’t really blame them–their rise, such as it is, is entirely the fault of the people who actually support them.
But what can we say about the flavor of the day, Newt Gingrich?
Gingrich recently spoke to a Christian Right group in Iowa, and bemoaned what he characterized as an effort to make America a “secular” country. This is a man who taught history at the college level, a man who–however morally sleazy–is acknowledged to be highly intelligent. This is, in short, a man who clearly knows that he’s spouting utter nonsense.
The American constitution is a wholly secular document–not because the Founders were “anti-religion” (although many of them would certainly be considered anti-Christian by today’s religious zealots–Jefferson wrote a bible that excised all references to deity, and Adams felt that attributing divinity to Jesus was “an awful blasphemy” ), but because they believed that government and religion didn’t mix.
Whether one agrees or not with America’s decidedly secular foundation is not the point. The point is that any historian worth the name is aware of the facts of our founding, the attitudes of our Founders, and the decidedly non-religious nature of our legal system. Newt’s speech can only be understood as a breathtaking willingness to pander. Granted, no one who has watched him over the years could mistake him for a moral/ethical being, but even so, this degree of smarminess is breathtaking.
And I thought no one could out-pander Mitt…..