WASHINGTON -- The epochs of Newt Gingrich's public life are defined by the books that have revolutionized him -- generally of the type that sell well at airports. There is Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" trilogy, Alvin Toffler's "The Third Wave," Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich," Steven Covey's "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and various foundational texts of Total Quality Management and Lean Six Sigma.
These idea crushes are mostly harmless. Sometimes they are not. Gingrich has embraced Dinesh D'Souza's slapdash thesis about Barack Obama's Kenyan, anti-colonial ideology as "the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior." And Gingrich has recently been captured by the theory, developed in books such as Andrew McCarthy's "The Grand Jihad," that Shariah law is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and the world as we know it.
Does this seem an exaggerated description of Gingrich's view? Here is the former speaker: "Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and the world as we know it." Gingrich often precludes the possibility of exaggeration.
The Republican front-runner set out his argument about Islamic law in a speech last year to the American Enterprise Institute. America's problem, Gingrich argued, is not primarily terrorism; it is Shariah -- "the heart of the enemy movement from which the terrorists spring forth." Shariah law, in his view, is inherently brutal -- defined by oppression, stonings and beheadings. Its triumph is pursued not only by violent jihadists but by stealthy ones attending the mosque down the street. "The victory of Shariah," he concludes, "would clearly mean the end of the government Lincoln was describing."
It was not a casual theme. Gingrich Productions has generated a movie on the topic called "America at Risk: The War with No Name." Gingrich has called for a "federal law that says Shariah law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States" -- leaving the impression of a threat as real in Topeka as it is in Riyadh.
So Gingrich would be America's first officially anti-Shariah president. And he knows exactly what Shariah really means. It is totalitarianism.
Who else shares this interpretation of Shariah law? Well, totalitarians naturally do. Gingrich joins Iranian clerics, Taliban leaders and Salafists of various stripes in believing that the most authentic expression of Shariah law is fundamentalism and despotism.