Remember when the tea partiers were flush with the fresh face they had managed to put on their regurgitated conservatism, shouting out their battle cry at town hall meetings on health-care reform, angrily denouncing the evil socialist Obama administration's attempts to impose a dictatorial state on the unsuspecting public? It was all under the banner of one word. Say it with me! Freeeeeeeeeedom!
It was almost enough to make you wanna paint your face blue and don a kilt. Almost.
Now look who has become the tea partiers' standard-bearer: The most openly right-wing authoritarian Republican in the field, Newt Gingrich.
Just how authoritarian is Gingrich? Well, here he is on Bill O'Reilly's show in 2009, arguing that what we really need are Singapore-style drug laws:
O'REILLY: I don't know whether you know this, but I did one of my papers at Harvard on this -- on how to reduce demand for drugs. But the United States has never figured it out. You can't lock up drug users, I mean, that doesn't work. And you can't force them into rehab, you have to want rehab, and even if you want it, it's very hard to get off hard drugs and alcohol. Very hard.
What you can do, though, is sanction people along the way. And this is what they do in Singapore. If you're caught possessing drugs -- and that means drugs in your bloodstream, they have a little hair thing, and they put it in there -- then you have to go to mandatory rehab. And they have centers where you go.
Now, they have no drug problem in Singapore at all, number one, because they hang drug dealers -- they execute them. And number two, the market is very thin, because when they catch you using, you go away with a mandatory rehab. You go to some rehab center, which they have, which the government has built.
The United States does not have the stomach for that. We don't have the stomach for that, Mr. Speaker.
GINGRICH: Well, I think it's time we get the stomach for that, Bill. And I think we need a program -- I would dramatically expand testing. I think we have -- and I agree with you. I would try to use rehabilitation, I'd make it mandatory. And I think we have every right as a country to demand of our citizens that they quit doing illegal things which are funding, both in Afghanistan and in Mexico and in Colombia, people who are destroying civilization.
In case you wondering, here's a rundown on the wonderful drug laws in Singapore:
Mandatory Death Penalty for Many Narcotics Offenses: Singapore police have the authority to compel both residents and non-residents to submit to random drug analysis. They do not distinguish between drugs consumed before or after entering Singapore in applying local laws. In Singapore, detained U.S. citizens have been surprised that they had been arrested for violations that would not have resulted in arrest in the United States.
There are no jury trials in Singapore. Judges hear cases and decide sentencing. The Government of Singapore does not provide legal assistance except in capital cases; legal assistance may be available in some other cases through the Law Society.
This wasn't just a fluke from three yearss ago. Here's Gingrich less than two months ago saying exactly the same thing:
GINGRICH: I don't have a comprehensive view. My general belief is that we ought to be much more aggressive about drug policy. And that we should recognize that the Mexican cartels are funded by Americans.
Q: Expand on what you mean by "aggressive."
GINGRICH: In my mind it means having steeper economic penalties and it means having a willingness to do more drug testing.
Q: In 1996, you introduced a bill that would have given the death penalty to drug smugglers. Do you still stand by that?
GINGRICH: I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure. Look at the level of violence they've done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there's nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, 'These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American.' If you're serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we're going to have drugs in this country.
Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that. They've been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country.
Well, there's a reason the libertarians hate Gingrich. For good reason.
And that's not even the most insidious of Gingrich's authortiarian proposals. We all remember how he gave a speech proposing a presidency that would ignore court rulings, and how he threatened to have Capitol police arrest judges who issued rulings he didn't like. This was, of course, a profoundly authoritarian proposal, one that immediately invited his fellow conservatives to concoct other uses for such a policy, such as overturning abortion rights and gay marriage laws.
Just goes to show: These tea partiers were never about freedom -- except maybe the freedom to screw over everyone else.