What Was Newt Gingrich Talking About?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 12 2010 6:26 PM

What Was Newt Gingrich Talking About?

Last night, after the premiere of his documentary "America at Risk," Newt Gingrich held court at a party at the Newseum and talked to me and National Review's Robert Costa. Costa quickly published Gingrich's answer to some questions about where President Obama's thinking came from.

 

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Gingrich says that [Dinesh] D’Souza has made a "stunning insight" intoObama’s behavior — the "most profound insight I have read in the lastsix years about Barack Obama."

"What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if youunderstand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piecetogether [his actions]?" Gingrich asks. "That is the most accurate,predictive model for his behavior."

I knew immediately that the quote would be explosive, and sure enough I saw three e-mails from the DNC today attacking it. But what was Gingrich saying? Below, I've put up the audio of our conversation. I clipped out some unrelated stuff right between the discussion of Haley Barbour's comments and the point where Newt continued, "Dinesh's article:"

 

 

As you can hear, we were having a conversation about D'Souza's article "How Obama Thinks." Let me first point out that some of D'Souza's article is nativist trash. Like this:

Here is a man who spent his formative years--the first 17 years of hislife--off the American mainland, in Hawaii, Indonesia and Pakistan,with multiple subsequent journeys to Africa.

Hawaii, while not part of the mainland (neither's Alaska, folks), is obviously part of the United States, and Obama spent 13 years there before heading to college. He spent four years in Indonesia and two weeks in Pakistan. Dinesh D'Souza spent the first 17 years of his life in India and arrived in America through a Rotary International Program, so why he'd play this game is a mystery to me. But here's his point:

It may seem incredible to suggest that the anticolonial ideology ofBarack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the President of the UnitedStates. That is what I am saying. From a very young age and through hisformative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for globaldomination and destruction. He came to view America's military as aninstrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father's positionthat capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder.Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind ofneocolonial power within America. In his worldview, profits are ameasure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, andAmerica's power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumesthe globe's resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates therest of the planet.

For Obama, the solutions are simple. He mustwork to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West. And hereis where our anticolonial understanding of Obama really takes off,because it provides a vital key to explaining not only his major policyactions but also the little details that no other theory can adequatelyaccount for.

Well, just read the thing. D'Souza uses a lot of duct tape to put this together -- his argument that one quote from the NASA administrator means that Obama has invented a "curious mandate to convert a space agency into a Muslim and international outreach (sic)," for example. It's the kind of analysis that puts greater import on quotes from speeches and interviews then from the theory and research that inform the thousands of staffers who actually import policy, which is fun, but a little wispy. It's not -- not -- a wink at any conspiracy theories. But it is a knowing attempt by Gingrich to shift the Overton Window and make sure a heretofore crazy-sounding idea -- that the president's view of the world comes from 1960s anti-colonialism and Marxism -- gets discussed by serious people. And it will!

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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