Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, known for his over-the-top oratory prowess and willingness to speak his mind, said he agrees with the concerns a handful of members of Congress have about an Islamic militant group possibly infiltrating the U.S. government.
In an online interview with Politico Tuesday, he also compared the religious zeal of former GOP presidential rival Rick Santorum to that of such terrorists.
"The question ought to be asked across the board – what's the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, what are its various networks and to what degree, does it now influence the government of the United States?" Gingrich said, when asked about the appropriateness of accusations recently levied at Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Gingrich said "the level of hysteria attacking these five members of Congress," including another former presidential hopeful, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, indicates there's something going on. He also said no one in the "elite culture" in the United States was prepared to cope with radical Islam, but praised Santorum for his consistency on the issue.
"Sen. Santorum has had a consistent record, I think partially because he's so deeply, religiously motivated himself," Gingrich said. "He understands, he respects the fact that somebody that comes from a different background could believe that passionately and that intensely and he takes them at their word. We have nobody in our elites who is prepared to come to grips with this because it violates the fundamental norm of our elites, which is everything is negotiable."
Gingrich also cited a recent article written by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, which echoed his concerns about the lack of political will to examine radical Islam.
When asked about the upcoming Republican National Convention, Gingrich said he's willing to take on any role offered to him, but advocated for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to have a prominent speaking slot.
"Gov. Palin absolutely should speak, I believe she will speak," he said. "She represents an intensity of support among our base that is vital. I hope that she will agree to be a major surrogate this fall and will criss-cross the country not just for Gov. Romney, but also for Senate candidates."
As for himself, Gingrich said he "doesn't worry about being left out."
"Let me put it to you this way without being immodest – under any circumstance I will be on television during the four days of the convention," he said. "That's from the podium, hanging out with [the press], doing a press gaggle or being at a major state breakfast."
He even weighed in on the future of the Democratic Party, praising Hillary Clinton as the standard-bearer, if it's a role she desired.
"She's very smart. The country would be better off today if she were the president than with Obama, because she's at least in touch with reality and she's not a left ideologue," said Gingrich, an old foe of both Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
"The Clintons as a couple, I think, despite Obama's temporary moment, remain the most impressive Democrats in the country for a generation," he said.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.