THE LATEST IN A SERIES OF PATRIOTISM TESTS…. In the context of the renewed debate over Bush administration torture policies, I’m almost surprised we haven’t heard more offensive attacks on Americans’ patriotism. Newt Gingrich apparently hopes to pick up the slack.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) argued that Obama had already missed his opportunity to exert leadership on the issue by backtracking on his administration’s initial opposition to any sort of hearings or prosecutions.

“The pressure from the anti-American left rattled him and he opened Pandora’s box,” said Gingrich.

Got that? If President Obama voices even tepid support for possibly holding Bush administration officials accountable for alleged crimes, he’s necessarily rattled by the “anti-American left.”

Those of us who take the rule of law seriously aren’t just wrong, the disgraced former Speaker argues, we literally don’t love our country as much as he does.

It’s hard to overstate how tiresome this is. The right’s approach to the political discourse, too often, hasn’t progressed at all since 2002. If you disagree with Republicans about national security, you necessarily can’t be patriotic. You’re either with Newt or you’re with the nation’s enemies.

Indeed, it probably never occurred to Gingrich to consider how ridiculous these kinds of attacks are. If you support torture, you’re pro-America; if you support the rule of law, you’re anti-America. If you believe war crimes should be ignored, you’re pro-America; if you believe in accountability, you’re anti-America.

Why this clown continues to help speak for the Republican Party in the 21st century is further evidence of a party with a very serious leadership problem.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. 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.