Newt Gingrich Has Seen ‘Casablanca’ More Than 20 Times But Never Got The Point
Casablanca is the story of an embittered but ultimately noble anti-fascist who's inspired to resume the good fight against Nazis. Who better to commemorate the film’s upcoming 80th anniversary than that crawling piece of slime Newt Gingrich? A lot of people, actually, but nonetheless, the former House speaker shared his thoughts about the Humphrey Bogart classic in the Fox News op-ed, "Politics Has Been My life But Casablanca At 80 Still Has Much To Teach Us.”
I have seen "Casablanca" more than 20 times. Whenever I am in a place with a piano player, I ask if they can play "As Time Goes By," the iconic song which haunts the film. The lyrics always get to me. Just read them and see if they don’t get to you too ...
Can you imagine working in a piano bar and some Newt Gingrich-looking motherfucker (who’s actually Newt Gingrich) asks you to play “As Time Goes By”? They probably grudgingly bang it out like an annoyed Schroeder playing “Jingle Bells.”
Gingrich then just transcribes the entire lyrics, as if that’s why we love the song. "Woman needs man, and man must have his mate” reads like an entry from Tarzan’s journal without music and vocal accompaniment. You need to hear and, better yet, see Dooley Wilson perform the song.
It is a lovely song. Gingrich probably put it on every mix tape he gave one of his mistresses.
This passage in particular stood out for its lack of self-awareness:
The supporting actors are all amazing. Only three members of the cast are American. Virtually all the rest were refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe.
So, in the stirring scene in which "La Marseillaise" is sung to drown out a group of Nazis singing "Die Wacht am Rhein," the cast members have authentic tears running down their checks, because they were all real refugees who were deeply emotional about being forced out of their homelands by real Nazis.
Gingrich derided presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her proposed generous policy toward Syrian refugees. He also has a shameful history demonizing Muslims. After the 2016 terrorist attack in Nice, France, he declared: "Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in sharia, they should be deported.”
If made today, Gingrich would likely condemn Casablanca as a very “woke” movie. It wasn’t just a fluffy romance; it had a specific point of view and was arguably just as didactic as Don’t Look Up. Some argue that Casablanca, filmed just months after Pearl Harbor, was merely propaganda intended to sell the war to American audiences. However, the screenplay by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch — three Jewish men — directly confronts American isolationism during the escalating Nazi threat. Bogart’s Rick Blaine represents an America that believes it can turn its back on the world’s problems. His philosophy is cynical, self-interested, and classic libertarian: "I stick my neck out for nobody. The problems of this world are not in my department. I’m a saloon keeper.“
Today, this Rick might say the same about vaccine or mask mandates. Why should he inconvenience himself for anyone else? That’s the chump’s path. However, Casablanca is about Rick’s heroic redemption. He eventually sacrifices his love and his personal safety for the greater good. He doesn’t do his own research about Nazis, either. He knows they are bad news. Even the corrupt French police Captain Louis Renault gives up a life of comfort to join Rick fighting Nazis. Susan Collins can’t even affirmatively state that she won’t support Donald Trump’s 2024 run.
In the moving scene Gingrich cites, Rick abandons his isolationist stance. He subtly but clearly sides with the those singing "La Marseillaise.” His sympathies are with the oppressed. Gingrich might delude himself but he’s never been on the side of compassion, generosity, and decency. He’s no Bogie.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."