Ben Smith's been digging into whether Newt Gingrich's call -- "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia" -- echoes a similar statement from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. His research has yielded some edifying results. The good news, for Gingrich, is that he wasn't, technically, remixing the words of one of the world's best-known fascists. Here's the bad news:
"Newt is more to the right of Mussolini on this," emailed Victoria de Graziathe, director of Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Europe, who wrote that Mussolini positioned himself as an Islamophile "to bug the British, also because he was an anti-Semite, also because he liked Nietzsche and Nietzsche was interested in the Koran."
There's much more, so go read the whole thing.
For my part, I've been deeply puzzled over the whole "no mosques at Ground Zero until there's a synagogue at Mecca" line, and not just because there's already a mosque in the neighborhood.
Aye, verily, all nations that aspire to be part of modern civilization should be welcoming of people of all religious faiths. But there's at least one nation that took those aspirations, put them on paper, and made it law: the United States. It makes zero sense for us to hold our principles hostage, demand that other nations that do not measure up to our standards hew to the ideals we whimsically abandon, and then pretend that that is some sort of bargain. That's the sort of thing that someone very daft or very disingenuous would say. But you have to be dafter or more disingenuous than Benito Mussolini, as it turns out!
Mussolini Update [Ben Smith/Politico]