WHEN THE RIGHT HOLDS AMERICA TO LOW STANDARDS…. Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has — big surprise — declared his opposition to a proposed Muslim community center a couple of blocks from 9/11’s Ground Zero in Manhattan. That, in and of itself, isn’t especially interesting.

It’s why Gingrich opposes the Cordoba House that matters. From his blog post on the subject:

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. […]

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia.

So, by Newt Gingrich’s estimation, Saudi Arabian officials are wrong to squelch religious liberty in their country — so we should be equally wrong in ours. Gingrich sees Saudi Arabia discriminating and showing a lack of tolerance for spiritual diversity and, in effect, concludes, “Let’s follow their lead.”

This conservative worldview comes up from time to time, and it always amazes me. You’ll recall, for example, that during the debate over whether the U.S. should utilize torture — that there was even a debate continues to be remarkable — it was not uncommon for the right to demand a single standard. If terrorists and America’s enemies used torture, the argument went, then we should, too.

Since the problem with this line of thinking is apparently not as obvious as it should be, let’s make this clear: the United States is supposed to be held to the highest standards. Our country should strive to be a beacon of hope and liberty, a shining light for others to aspire to. We’re not supposed to lower ourselves to the levels of those we find offensive.

This continues to be a glaring point of contention between the left and right. Liberals see terrorists engaging in torture and authoritarian governments denying their people the freedom of religion, and we say, “We’re better than that.”

The right sees the same landscape and thinks, “No, we’re not.”

For America to endorse the construction of the Cordoba House would be a reminder to the world of how we, unlike less-free countries, celebrate our diversity and refuse to treat our neighbors as second-class citizens. It’s genuinely sad that Gingrich and his ilk prefer to see us aim lower as a nation.

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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.