The CNN Republican presidential candidates' debate on Monday was so soporific that the "breaking news" was Michelle Bachmann's announcement of her pending announcement that she's running -- which seemed more than a little redundant, given that having one's hat in the ring was a prerequisite for being onstage in the first place.
But the lack of hard news must not discourage us from acknowledging the extraordinary courage the GOP hopefuls displayed in focusing on a grave and imminent threat facing America: that Shariah law, the legal and moral code derived from the Koran, may soon become the law of our land.
Inside the GOP funhouse, Islamophobia is common, of course. A Newsweek poll last summer indicated that a majority of Republicans believed President Obama wants to impose Islamic law across the globe.
At the New Hampshire debate, Herman Cain got things going when, to great applause, he bravely took us where no Democrat has dared, declaiming, "I don't believe in Shariah law in American courts. I believe in American law in American courts. Period!" (This marked the evening's first use of the powerful rhetorical device we'll call the "period with an exclamation point.")
Newt Gingrich, already on record as calling for a federal ban on Shariah, went even farther, addressing prospective Gingrich appointees directly with the warning, "If you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration. Period!" (The "period" technique again proved successful in rousing the crowd.) Newt, the GOP's go-to guy for brilliant ideas, then linked the Shariah threat to Nazism, thus deftly positioning himself for the general election. Once the nomination is his, he can, without having to pivot, blame President Obama for doling out key jobs to disloyal, Nazi-like Muslims.
Mitt Romney earned high marks from some non-crazies when he allowed that "Of course, we're not going to have Shariah law applied in U.S. courts." But perhaps the erstwhile Massachusetts governor was more a profile in pander than courage -- last time around the expert shape-shifter was more of a Cainsian, reportedly nixing the idea of a Muslim serving in his cabinet on more than one occasion.
Pre-debate, other Republican hopefuls found myriad ways to stand up to Shariah's assault on American jurisprudence. In March, former Pennsylvania governor Rick Santorum denounced Shariah at a political dinner in New Hampshire by equating it with Jihad and then stating, "Jihadism is evil and we need to say what it is." Never mind that Shariah and Jihad, or holy war, are as different as music and architecture -- Santorum is willing to sacrifice his own integrity to protect us from Shariah's menace.
And don't forget that Santorum also deserves recognition for clawing Samson-like at that other pillar of Obama tyranny, the Affordable Care Act. He thus became the first politician, indeed the first human, to express the insight that's been staring us in the face: The American heroes of D-Day helped win World War II so their descendants could participate in Paul Ryan's abstemious Medicare voucher program.
Michele Bachmann chose to weigh in after Osama bin Laden's death by sharing her fervent hope that "this is the beginning of the end of Shariah-compliant terrorism."
Sarah Palin, whose very name is an anagram of "Sharia plan," offered this tortured sentence:
"Whether it be just affecting a segment of the population, a demographic, certainly not in its entirety all over our country, Americans will not stand for this because Americans are smart enough to know Shariah law, if that were to be adopted -- allowed to govern in our country, it will be the downfall of America."
Though barred from the debate, self-proclaimed Zen candidate Gary Johnson told supporters last December that he had his "ear to the ground" on the Shariah issue.
Seven years ago, Tim Pawlenty's governorship of Minnesota foreshadowed all of this. The state's Housing Finance Agency developed Shariah-friendly mortgages -- menacing loans that replaced interest charges with higher up-front monthly payments! After a year during which three people took advantage of the plan, T-paw boldly terminated it, his spokesman offering that "The United States should be governed by the U.S. Constitution, not religious laws."
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the highlight of the CNN debate proved to be Mitt Romney's update on Stanley Cup action -- Boston 4, Vancouver 0 -- proving ice hockey remains the only legit field of play in the Granite State.
Follow Michael Sigman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/majorsongs