My primary response to the AT&T Yahoo! "Palin poll" on Wednesday was a fear that the divisiveness of the results would encourage a Republican political strategy concerned with "maintaining (if not aggravating) that division." Within the Republican ranks, it may still be the case that the "Great Divider" is Newt Gingrich, even if he does not currently hold office. As I observed last February in response to a PBS NewsHour broadcast, his divisive tactics during the Clinton Administration have achieved the sort of historical status that becomes the stuff of pundit commentary. There is little about Gingrich that surprises me any more, but I had to raise my eyebrows when I discovered that he was now using Al Jazeera as an instrument for his strategies.
As reported on the Al Jazeera English site, Gingrich decided to use the network as a platform for going head-to-head with the current Administration over diplomatic questions concerned with Iran:
The former speaker of the US House of Representatives has said that the US should "sabotage" Iran's oil and gas infrastructure as part of its efforts to bring down the government.
In an interview with Al Jazeera's Avi Lewis for the Fault Lines programme, Republican Newt Gingrich said targeting Iran's refinery would spark an economic crisis that would destabilise the government in Tehran.
He said the US should "use covert operations … to create a gasoline-led crisis to try and replace the regime".
"I think we have a vested interest, the world has a vested interest, in a responsible Iranian government, just as we have a vested interest in a responsible North Korean government," he said.
Gingrich, of course, has a history of playing with matches near flammable material that predates his attack on the Clinton Administration. His first major move, which I wrote about over a year ago, involved "delivering a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, which, at the time, was 'depopulated' except for the C-SPAN cameras." At that time I was writing about Walter Benjamin's concept of "the cult of the audience" and its relation to "the corruption by which fascism is seeking to supplant the class consciousness of the masses." Benjamin was writing about Adolf Hitler, but my point was that he may as well have been anticipating Gingrich. As I observed on Wednesday, such parallels with the rise of the Third Reich also constitute the foundation of my fears about Sarah Palin. The combination of Gingrich's skill at long-term planning and Palin's inimitable media style make for a "dynamic duo of demagoguery" (an object of alliteration not seen since the days of Spiro Agnew); and any alarmism I expressed on Wednesday has now been fueled by Gingrich's latest move!