Has Newt Gingrich gone too far?
The former speaker of the house is getting blasted for his comments over the weekend about President Obama, telling the National Review Online that the president is a con man who has a “Kenyan, anticolonial” worldview.
The comments are part of a pattern of extreme positions lately. Last month, Mr. Gingrich compared backers of the Ground Zero mosque to Nazis, and has said that if Republicans take back Congress in November they should consider a government shutdown over the budget.
He is considering a run for the presidency in 2012 – and was recently in Iowa, where he called Obama “the most radical president in American history – which may explain some of the attempts to grab headlines.
But the divisive rhetoric has also earned criticism from those on both sides of the aisle. And it has hurt his reputation as a fiery conservative who is also a man of ideas, someone more likely to rely on intellectual heft rather than appeal to voters’ basest fears or instincts.
“This crushes the hopes of those who thought Gingrich could bring ideas instead of smears to what the GOP was offering,” said Hari Sevugan, press secretary of the Democratic National Committee, about the most recent comments.
Andy Card, the former White House chief of staff under George W. Bush, said in an MSNBC video Monday morning that the comments could hurt Republicans up for election in November. “I don’t think the statements that Newt Gingrich made are helpful, no,” he said, when pressed.
Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, meanwhile, says the comments leave him confused.
“I don’t even have … the slightest idea what he’s talking about,” he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s Good Morning America. Gingrich is "trying to appeal to the fringe of people who don't think the president was born in this country,” he added.
Gingrich’s comments came in reference to a Forbes article by conservative Dinesh D’Souza, which suggests that the president shares an anticolonial ideology with his father, a Luo tribesman from Kenya who Obama barely knew.
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich told the Review, adding that “this is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.”
Gingrich’s comments – and Mr. D’Souza’s article – are fueling the storyline that some conservatives are banking on for the November elections: Obama as someone who isn’t American, by birth or beliefs, and who doesn’t belong in the Oval Office. But it’s an argument that leaves some Republicans uncomfortable.
“It’s [Gingrich’s] mission now to present himself as the most ferocious right-winger in the race,” conservative commentator and former speechwriter David Frum wrote in his blog Monday, before going on to excoriate Gingrich’s comments and the D’Souza article. “Here is racial animus, unconcealed and unapologetic, and it is seized by savvy editors and an ambitious politician as just the material to please a conservative audience,” adds Frum. “That’s an insult to every conservative in America.”