Gingrich wants to turn back the clock

GINGRICH WANTS TO TURN BACK THE CLOCK…. Newt Gingrich no doubt remembers his heyday, back in the halcyon days of the 1990s. He led a House GOP army, he became Speaker, and he gained national notoriety. All the while, Gingrich convinced the political establishment that he was some kind of forward-thinking intellectual, recently dubbed a “visionary” by none other than David Broder.

It’s interesting, then, that as 2009 approaches, and the political world has undergone a series of shifts, Gingrich remains stuck in his foregone glory days. TNR’s Michelle Goldberg notes that the former Speaker has hooked up with a far-right outfit called the National Committee for Faith and Family, which is peddling a new full-length documentary called Rediscovering God in America. The trailer features Gingrich insisting, “There is no attack on American culture more destructive and more historically dishonest than the relentless effort to drive God out of America’s public square.”

As part of the project, Gingrich has hooked up with David Barton, a math teacher turned GOP activist turned self-proclaimed amateur historian, who travels the country talking to groups about the “proof” that the United States is a “Christian nation,” and the separation of church and state is little more than a nefarious myth.

What’s surprising is not that Gingrich would associate with Barton, whose work he’s been praising for years. What’s surprising is that, at a time of serious collapse on the right, Gingrich is hitching his bid for renewed relevance to the most exhausted culture war tropes.

Gingrich, after all, likes to imagine himself an innovator. And yet, at a time when he seems to be hoping to take advantage of Republican disarray to return to the political fray, he’s doing it in the most tired way imaginable. There he was on the O’Reilly Factor a couple of weeks ago, warning of “gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us.” Visitors to his website are asked to sign a petition on behalf of an issue surely disturbing the sleep of a crisis-ridden nation — insufficient references to God in the new Capitol Visitor Center. […]

One has to wonder — is this really all they’ve got?

It is rather odd. In the midst of a global economic crisis, two wars, a climate crisis, and a dynamic new Democratic president offering sweeping proposals on everything from healthcare to international use of power to energy policy, Newt Gingrich is wondering, “Hey, does anybody want to talk about religion in the public square and gay fascism?”

It’s possible that Gingrich is planning a presidential campaign and assumes this is the way to curry favor with the religious right. But it seems even more likely that Gingrich is simply stuck in the past, and has nothing new to contribute to modern challenges.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.