In his 12th-century chronicle, The Two Cities, Bishop Otto of Freising retells the story of Bishop Tiemo of Salzburg, who as prisoner of the Emir of Memphis in 1100 was said to have broken to pieces idols that he’d been ordered to worship and was tortured to death for his pains. Otto, who had gotten a good Parisian education, knew better: “That [Tiemo] suffered for his faith in Christ a most reliable tradition affirms, but that he demolished idols is difficult to believe because, as is well known, the Saracens universally are worshipers of one God.”

By contrast, Newt Gingrich, who got his PhD in modern European history from Tulane, on Monday told the folks at John Hagee’s church in San Antonio, “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

OK, so maybe, as his spokesman tried to claim, Newt misspoke, and instead of suggesting that radical Islamists are secular atheists meant to place an “or” before “potentially.” The fact is that he has gone so far off the rhetorical deep end that he has even conservative columnists like Jeff Jacoby scratching their heads. His potential presidential bid is rapidly turning into its own no-fly zone.

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