In a speech Thursday before the conservative American Enterprise Institute, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich charged that the United States had failed to take George W. Bush's 2002 "axis of evil" speech seriously when it ignored the opportunity to attack Iran and North Korea following the invasion of Iraq.

Treating Bush's rhetorical phrase as though it had referred to a formal military alliance equivalent to the Axis Powers during World War II, Gingrich claimed, "If Harry Truman had done that, the world today would be communist. If Franklin Roosevelt had done that in ‘41, either the Japanese or the Germans would have won. If Lincoln had done that, we would have become two and then multiple countries."

Gingrich, who appears to be entertaining presidential aspirations, has recently been jumping on the anti-Islamic bandwagon. Last week, he came out against the building of an Islamic community center a few blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center, saying, "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia."

He later reaffirmed this position in even stronger language, decrying "the idea of a 13-story building set up by a group many of whom, frankly, are very hostile to our civilization."

Gingrich has also been doing his best to stir up fear of Sharia law. He recently told Newsmax, "Radical Islamists are people who want to impose on the rest of us Sharia, which is a form of medieval law which would fundamentally end America as we've known it."

During his AEI speech, according to Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating, "Gingrich cited a number of examples of sharia encroachment, which he described a 'mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and the world.' These included an Islamic loan program in Minnesota, the Islamic finance program at Harvard, and a court decision in New Jersey that was eventually overturned and of course, the much-discussed Ground Zero mosque. There was also the U.S. military's failure to immediately label the Ft. Hood shooter as an Islamic terrorist, and the fact that Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father's warnings were not taken seriously."

Keathing comments sarcastically, "Given that, as Gingrich acknowledged, Abdulmutallab's name found its way onto a database with 'half a million' other names, one might infer that there are an awful lot of people the U.S. is keeping tabs on. If only we would spend billions on a massive top-secret effort to sort through all that intelligence."

"Victory over radical Islam is a long process," Gingrich told AEI. "That is why I used the Cold War as an analogy. ... I believe [Bush] was right but in fact could not operationalize what he said. That is, there was an Axis of Evil: Iran, Iraq, North Korea. Well we're one out of three. And people ought to think about that."

"If Bush was right in January of 2002," continued Gingrich, "and by the way virtually the entire Congress gave him a standing ovation when he said it, then why is it that the other two parts of the Axis of Evil are still visibly, cheerfully making nuclear weapons? It's because we’ve stood at the brink, looked over and thought, 'Too big a problem.'"

Steve Clemons, writing at The Washington Note, suggested that Gingrich's speech should be seen in the context of what Brian Katulis at the Center for American Progress calls "the brewing tension inside Republican circles between those who on one hand want to put forward a constructive, national-interest driven strategy that has at its core a patriotic commitment to reinventing American power and those on the other who engage in blustery, pugnacious nationalism that either clobbers other countries in efforts to remake them or walls them off from America."

Gingrich made it obvious on Thursday that he is of the second camp.

This video was posted at YouTube by ThinkProgress on July 29, 2010.

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