Jonathan Chait

Gingrich, D'Souza, And The Mainstream-Kook Convergence

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Newt Gingrich's recent interview with National Review is the most recent maker in the slowly disappearing line between the conservative mainstream and the paranoid fringe. In the interview, Gingrich asserts:

Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview.

Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

“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.”

Kenyan anti-colonialism! This is the most promising framework to meld together the ravings about's Obama's socialism emanating from the mainstream right with the ravings about Obama's foreign roots emanating from the crackpot right. Fourth Branch looks at D'Souza's Forbes article. Here's the start of the fisking:

I can’t begin to list everything wrong with the Forbes article, but here are some of the high points: (the quotations in italics are from D’Souza’s article):

1. The President’s actions are so bizarre that they mystify his critics and supporters alike. Consider this headline from the Aug. 18, 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal: “Obama Underwrites Offshore Drilling.” Did you read that correctly? You did. The Administration supports offshore drilling–but drilling off the shores of Brazil.

 With Obama’s backing, the U.S. Export-Import Bank offered $2 billion in loans and guarantees to Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras to finance exploration in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro–not so the oil ends up in the U.S. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil…

Why support oil drilling off the coast of Brazil but not in America? Obama believes that the West uses a disproportionate share of the world’s energy resources, so he wants neocolonial America to have less and the former colonized countries to have more.

This claim is completely false. First, President Obama had nothing to do with the decision of the Export-Import Bank (“ExIm”) to give $2 billion in loans and guarantees to Petrobas for offshore Brazilian oil drilling. When the loan was approved, ExIm’s board had five members- three Republicans and two Democrats. All five individuals were appointed by… President Bush. I have not located a single quote from President Obama saying anything about the ExIm decision (for or against). Furthermore, ExIm has a very good reason for the transaction: the loan proceeds are to be used to purchase US owned equipment and services (thereby increasing US exports- the very mission of ExIm).

So, D’Souza’s first example of Obama’s anti-colonial views is something that Bush appointees approved which will benefit the US and of which Obama had nothing to do.

Gingrich was once the most powerful Republican in America and remains an influential figure within the party. D'Souza has done stints at the most prestigous conservative think-tanks. The line between man and kook is getting harder and harder to discern.

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