Sunday, September 12, 2010


Here's Newt Gingrich, speaking to a National Review interviewer:

"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 asks. "That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

Bob Cesca thinks Newt's gone birther. I disagree. "Kenyan," in this case, is a euphemism for the N-word; "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior" is also the self-styled historian's way of showing he's a really brainy Doctor of Thinkology, able to invoke the scary, swarthy Africans from half a century ago (because, hey, anyone can talk about the Black Panthers), thus engendering in his fan base a frisson of Negro-fear and a thrill at his erudition.

But I'm more interested in the rest of what Gingrich says about Obama, because I think it says much more about Gingrich himself than about the president:

"I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating -- none of which was true,” Gingrich continues. "In the Alinksy tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve ... He was authentically dishonest."

Is that really in the Alinsky tradition? Like most lefties, I haven't read Alinsky's allegedly canonical lefty text -- only righties seem to read him these days (and apparently they all read him, or at least invoke him as if they've read him). To me, "being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve" doesn't sound like the behavior of an activist -- it sounds like the behavior of a follower of a human-potential movement. It invokes standing before the mirror every morning reciting some affirmation learned in a weekend seminar conducted by a slick huckster.

It also sounds like many of Newt Gingrich's own pronouncements, in the many, many puff pieces done about him over the years.

Years before Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich always sounded like a guy who wanted to be the Tony Robbins or Werner Erhard of politics -- a guy who talked about how a few ideas (all of them his) could transform the world. I think he sees Obama that way because he sees himself that way -- and it just kills him that Obama's gotten as far as he has, even if he's struggling now. Gingrich is still a cult leader without a cult.

More from Newt:

"[Obama] is in the great tradition of Edison, Ford, the Wright Brothers, Bill Gates -- he saw his opportunity and he took it," Gingrich says. Will Gingrich take it back in 2012? "The American people may take it back, in which case I may or may not be the recipient of that, but I have zero doubt that the American people will take it back. Unlike Ford, the Wright Brothers, et cetera, this guy's invention did not work."

Again, this is Newt talking about himself. He's always seen himself as the guy with the great ideas. He's reassuring himself that Obama may have gotten further than Gingrich ever has, but he's failing now. Gingrich is uttering soothing words to himself.

In reality, Obama seems to me to be a guy with no big overarching thesis about the world -- he actually has less of a worldview than I'd like him to have. I don't want a cult leader, but I wish he had a more fixed ideology, apart from wanting everyone to play nice. In any case, he's certainly nothing like Gingich's caricature -- but Gingrich can't help that, because he just sees the whole world that way.


UPDATE: What did I say about Gingrich's self-image? Here's a line from a biography of Gingrich on one of his own Web sites:

Gingrich is widely recognized as a transformational leader, unparalleled in his ability to create and lead successful large-scale change.

He's absolutely looking at Obama and comparing him to himself.

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