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Gingrich Draws Fire For Remarks About Obama’s “Kenyan Worldview”

Newt Gingrich’s comments that President Obama seems to possess a “Kenyan, anti-colonialist worldview,” which I wrote about yesterday, is drawing fire from both sides of the political aisle. This morning on MSNBC, for example, former George W. Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card blasted the remarks:

Former White House chief of staff Andy Card said Monday that Newt Gingrich’s recent claim that Barack Obama has a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview is not “helpful” to Republicans trying to win in November.

Gingrich floated the birther-like suggestion on Saturday in an interview with the National Review.

“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]?” the former GOP House speaker posited. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

Asked about the comment on Monday during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Card first tried to dodge the question before conceding that Gingrich’s rhetoric is harmful to the party.

“I don’t think they help,” he said of the comments. “I don’t think the statements that Newt Gingrich made are helpful, no.”

Card tried to credit Gingrich with providing other good ideas to Republican politics, but when asked if he was “disappointed” by the former speaker’s comments, the former Bush hand said, “Yes, I’m disappointed.”

“I don’t think I’m surprised because Newt has lots of opinions and he’s not afraid to express them,” Card said.

The White House and the Democrats were also fairly quick to strike back:

Mr. Gingrich’s comments drew sharp rebukes from the Democratic National Committee, which accused him of stoking the false rumors about Mr. Obama’s heritage and birthright.

“This crushes the hopes of those who thought Gingrich could bring ideas instead of smears to what the G.O.P. was offering,” said Hari Sevugan, the committee’s press secretary. “He’s not a reasonable man that some thought he could be. He’s proven he’s just like the rest of them. With a worldview shaped by the most radical and fringe elements of the Republican Party, which are more dominant with each passing day.”

The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “I don’t even have – quite frankly, George – the slightest idea what he’s talking about.”

Mr. Gibbs added that Mr. Gingrich “knows that he’s trying to appeal to the fringe of people that don’t believe the president was born in this country.”

“You would normally expect better from somebody who held the position of speaker of the House,” Mr. Gibbs said.

Of course, Gingrich has been a bomb thrower from the days when he was a back-bencher Congressman from Georgia with the idea of taking over the House GOP Caucus and putting the GOP in control of Congress, ideas which most would’ve thought insane at the time. Sometimes, it served him well. More often than not, as now, it just causes him to go off on topics with an air of pseudo-intellectualism.

In addition to the criticism directed at Gingrich, Dinesh D’Souza is also coming under fire for his comments in the Forbes article that started the whole controversy. Daniel Larison takes to his blog at The American Conservative to rip apart what he clearly considers an intellectually weak argument on D’Souza’s part:

Dinesh D’Souza has authored what may possibly be the most ridiculous piece of Obama analysis yet written. He takes a number of decisions Obama has made on a grab-bag of issues, declares that they are “odd,” and then proceeds to explain the “oddness” he has perceived by cooking up a bizarre thesis that Obama is a die-hard anticolonialist dedicated to his father’s anticolonialist legacy. That must be why he aspired to become President of the world’s remaining superpower and military hegemon-because he secretly loathes the exercise of Western power and wants to rein it in! It must be his deeply-held anticolonialist beliefs that have led him to escalate the U.S. role in Afghanistan, launch numerous drone strikes on Pakistan, and authorize the assassination of U.S. citizens in the name of antiterrorism. Yes, zealous anticolonialism is the obvious answer. Even for D’Souza, whose last book was a strange exercise in blaming Western moral decadence for Islamic terrorism, this is simply stupid. Perhaps most painful of all is D’Souza’s condescending claim that ignorant Americans aren’t familiar with anticolonialism, and that because he is an Indian he can educate all of us about it.

Even if Obama were anticolonialist, it wouldn’t actually explain why he is “anti-business,” but then you would have to believe that he is strongly anti-business in the first place. D’Souza’s initial assumption that Obama is “the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history” is not much more than assertion. Viewed from most places in the country, Obama does not appear anti-business at all, but rather he seems pitifully captive to business interests in the worst way. One can find this reassuring or disturbing, but that is the reality.

It is hardly necessary to delve deeply into the Kenyan past or trace the roots of anticolonialist thought to discern why Obama, a thoroughly conventional center-left Democrat, favors raising taxes on wealthier people. This is a standard part of the Democratic agenda and has been for the last decade. Having opposed tax cuts for wealthier Americans earlier in the decade, Democrats are continuing to be against them. This is not mystifying. What is a little mystifying is why so many conservative pundits and writers feel the need to construct preposterous, overly-complicated Obama theories to explain what is perfectly obvious and straightforward.

And, not surprisingly, Adam Serwer is even more harsh in his own assessment of the D’Souza/Gingrich argument:

D’Souza’s grasp of policy is shallow as a puddle of piss in a dark alley, but it’s safe to say that someone self-identifying as an “anti-colonialist” would not be escalating an American war in central Asia or claiming the authority to use the entire planet as a target range for flying robots armed with cruise missiles.

If Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist for supporting financial regulation, than Scott Brown is a Kenyan anti-colonialist. If Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist for supporting the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero, then Michael Bloomberg is a Kenyan anti-colonialist. If Obama is a Kenyan anti-colonialist for supporting health-care insurance reform, then Ben Nelson is a Kenyan anti-colonialist. The Center for American Progress is a Kenyan anti-colonialist think tank, MoveOn is a Kenyan anti-colonialist advocacy organization, and Peter Orszag is a Kenyan anti-colonialist intellectual.

All of which to say is there’s no need to parse the ethnic origins or political philosophies of Obama’s parents to understand the ideology of Barack Obama. He is a center-left Democrat who supports mainstream Democratic policies. But some conservatives don’t want to talk about policy. They are unable to engage in an argument with liberalism on substantive terms; they know only argument by epithet. They want to talk about the fact that our blackety black president is blackety black. It has been two years since a black man was elected president of the United States, and for a group of conservatives clinging to their cultural superiority, this was a moment of apocalyptic existential crisis, a moment that refuted all they had come to know and understand about themselves, about black people, and about this country. D’Souza is writing for them, the same kind of audience he has always written for.

And Steve Benen points out why this is a big deal:

I care about this, not because Gingrich is a lunatic, but because Republicans and the media establishment continue to treat Gingrich as a sane, credible visionary. I think it’s fair to say most reasonable people would charitably describe his attacks on America’s leaders as idiocy, but the problem is, it won’t make any difference.

Given the way the political establishment is “wired” for Republicans, there simply aren’t any consequences for this kind of abject stupidity. In the first year of the Obama administration, the most frequent guest on “Meet the Press” was Newt Gingrich. Despite having left office more than a decade ago in disgrace, he remains a leading figure welcome in polite society.

There’s literally nothing the man can say to lose his platform to spew nonsense.

As if to prove this point, Gingrich appeared on Fox News Sunday yesterday, and didn’t get a single question about what is clearly a controversial statement.

Less than a month after equating an entire religion with Nazism, Gingrich has now fed into the hot racial climate surrounding some of the worst lies about the President. Why anyone still takes him seriously is beyond me.

Update: David Frum isn’t buying the argument that Gingrich’s words were just an example of him over intellectualizing:

Newt Gingrich no longer leads the congressional Republicans. Of course he wants to see Republicans elected (and to receive credit for helping to elect them). But as he prepares to run for president, he has other priorities – and other problems. Gingrich endorsed TARP. He has acknowledged that human activity is warming the globe. He attempted to work with Hillary Clinton on healthcare reform and with Al Sharpton (!) on education. He endorsed Dede Scozzafava in the NY-23 special election. As Speaker, he joined Bill Clinton to pass the S-Chip program, a big expansion of the healthcare entitlement. And then there is the tangled complexity of his personal life. Gingrich must feel very vulnerable to the kind of attack from the right that has slammed so many Republicans this year.

So it’s his mission now to present himself as the most ferocious right-winger in the race. Confident (over-confident) that he can best Sarah Palin among business-minded and ideas-minded Republicans, he wants to deny her or some other Tea Party style challenger any footing to attack him as a compromise-minded moderate. Calling President Obama a Kenyan fits into that strategy.

As for the underlying D’Souza article that inspired Gingrich, what is there to be said? When last was there such a brazen outburst of race-baiting in the service of partisan politics at the national level? George Wallace took more care to sound race-neutral.

Here’s the question, though, for the rest of us: Why do Forbes (which presumably has many choices of cover material) and Gingrich imagine that such a message will resonate with their conservative audience? Nothing more offends conservatives than liberal accusations of racial animus. Yet 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. That’s an insult to every conservative in America.

Conservatives object to the Obama administration as too expensive, too regulatory, too intrusive, too beholden to Democratic special interest groups, and too apologetic about America’s role in the world. It’s a libel to claim that we object to the administration as too black or too alien. Bad enough when the libel is issued by liberals. Much worse when it is heard from our own writers, from magazines that speak to us, from political leaders who would speak for us.

Indeed

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    No, he won’t pay a price because he knows that the so-called “rational” Republicans will tolerate anything so long as they get a tax cut.
     
    The GOP is a sick, twisted, depraved and increasingly evil force in American politics.  Many Republicans know it.  Will they do anything beyond writing the occasional ivory tower intellectual denunciation?  Absolutely not.
     
    Why won’t they?  Maybe someone can answer that question.

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  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Less than a month after equating an entire religion with Nazism, Gingrich has now fed into the hot racial climate surrounding some of the worst lies about the President. Why anyone still takes him seriously is beyond me.

    Not to mention the fact that he is a terrible novelist who has written what are quite possible the worst sex scenes this side of Star Trek fanfic.  Really, he doesn’t get made fun of for that enough.

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  3. Wayne says:

    Attack the messenger if you want which is a typical liberal tactic. However  it doesn’t answer the question if Obama has a Kenyan Worldview.  By the way one doesn’t have to be born in a country to have its worldview.

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  4. An Interested Party says:

    Of course the messeger can be attacked as the message is a load of horsesh*t…anyone who is so worried about the question of the president’s supposed “Kenyan Worldview” can feel free to answer it with some proof…

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  5. John P says:

    @ Wayne, it is impossible to respond to the question since Gingrich does not define and support his thesis. It would be as if I said “Notre Dame lost this weekend, therefore they are clearly committed to losing. How do you respond?” Even there I draw a parallel between my contention and a irrefutable fact.

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  6. mantis says:

    Attack the messenger if you want which is a typical liberal tactic.
    That’s right.  When a public figure shares an opinion in public, responding to it is “attacking the messenger.”  You’re not supposed to disagree with wingnut bullshit!  Just take it, and shut up.
    However  it doesn’t answer the question if Obama has a Kenyan Worldview.
    It also doesn’t answer the question of whether Obama has a Martian world view.  Way to avoid the issue, OTB!
    By the way one doesn’t have to be born in a country to have its worldview.
    Or live there, or exhibit attitudes resembling said wingnut-constructed “worldview,” or anything else.  All one has to do is be accused by wingnuts, and its true!  QED.

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  7. Steve Plunk says:

    I don’t see Newt’s rhetoric as all that inflammatory.  Obama’s worldview is something to behold.  Of course I’m an sick, twisted, depraved Republican becoming more evil every day.  Right?  I mean seriously, if we question the President’s foreign policy views we have to be sick.  Marginalizing opponents like that is usually a sign there’s not many facts available to refute the point.

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  8. John P says:

    @ Steve Having a disagreeable worldview is different than creating a theory and subscribing someone’s decisions to that undefined (and really, undefinable) theory. I highly doubt that any of us understand what that means and unless Gingrich independently defines “Kenyan worldview”, then supports his claim by matching that agreed-upon definition to a wide range (see: non-arbitrary) of the President’s actions we really can’t even begin to have the discussion.
     
    Therefore, you don’t have the ability to question anyone’s policy if your line of questioning doesn’t begin with a valid and vetted thesis.

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  9. sam says:

    “Marginalizing opponents like that is usually a sign there’s not many facts available to refute the point.”
     
    Better check that beam in your eye. All you’ve done here recently is try to argue that Obama is not a “real American”.  If that’s not an attempt to marginalize, I don’t what is.
     

    Of course I’m a sick, twisted, depraved Republican becoming more evil every day. Right? I mean seriously, if we question the President’s foreign policy views we have to be sick

    More whining. How typical of you to translate the debunking of your arguments into some charge that someone is looking down on you. Your lack of self-awareness is astonishing.
     

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  10. Brian Knapp says:

    I mean seriously, if we question the President’s foreign policy views we have to be sick

    Which foreign policy views exactly?

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  11. D. Robert White says:

    In his ridiculous assertion that “Kenyan” and “anticolonialist” describe “the most accurate, predictive model of [the president's] behavior,” Gingrich just confirms that the most “accurate, predictive model” of the behavior of someone from rural Georgia is “ignorant,” “narrow,” “pandering,” “racist,” and “neanderthal.”  

    If one’s character and behavior necessarily derive from one’s geographic origins, should we assume that every man from rural Georgia is an amoral philandering lecher, incapable of faithfulness to a single wife, even if she lies in the hospital near death from cancer? 

    Makes me blush to hail from the same state. 

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  12. Tano says:

    It’s a libel to claim that we object to the administration as too black or too alien

     
    Clearly it is not a libel to claim that some conservatives criticize the administration as too alien. I mean, we are talking about the Gingrich / D’Souza thesis here. How more explicit can it be?
    The problem is the “we” in that quote. Conservatives are not of a single mind on how to oppose Obama. Some conservatives are not racists. Others are. When people say things like in the quote above, they are trying to define conservatism in their own terms, ignoring how other conservatives feel. I guess that is part of the struggle for the soul of a movement. But it doesn’t make the quote accurate.

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  13. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    If you disagree with Gingrich, fine.  I guess you have read Obama’s book Dreams of my Father.  Obama’s grandfather was a Mau Mau.  He was captured by the British colonials and treated harshly.  Less harshly than Mau Maus treated white settlers but harshly just the same.  Hence Obama returns the bust of Winston Churchill.  I noticed Andy Card did not say Newt was wrong, just that the subject would not help the GOP.  In fact, I have not seen anyone argue with what Gingrich has to say.  I would ask what the components of Kenyan anti colonialism are?  Seems they have a main theme common with those to which Obama adheres to.  Seems Kenyan anit colonialism is sort of Marxist.  That seems to elude most who post here.  Obama’s close associates and that means life long, have been Marxist, communists or socialists.  The more radical the better.

    Mantis, you calling someone a wingnut is such BS.  Dude, look in the mirror.  There you will see the standard by which wingnuttyness is defined.  You are so full of it, the smell comes over the internet.

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  14. narciso says:

    I’d say residual neutralism of the kind embraced by Sukarno is closer to the mark, I know it’s a crazy belief, but find a better explanation for all he has done, in the last two years.

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  15. Janis Gore says:

    We can be pretty certain that Mr. Gingrich would have felt more kinship with John Edwards.

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  16. Steve Plunk says:

    Sam,  What you are calling marginalizing on my part was my explaining the belief that Obama hasn’t had a typical American experience and his world views support that.  I made a rational argument instead calling names like sick, twisted, depraved, and evil.  Calling my words ‘whining’ is another example of what the left does these days instead of debate.  I was poking at Michael for his unreasonable statement regarding Republicans.
     
     
     
     

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  17. sam says:

    “What you are calling marginalizing on my part was my explaining the belief that Obama hasn’t had a typical American experience and his world views support that.”
    You weren’t “explaining” anything. You were asserting that, among other things, his having grown up in Hawaii deprived him of “the American experience”. That’s so stupid, I was surprised anyone could write it was a straight face. But I’ve come to the point where I’m not surprised at anything you can say.
     

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  18. sam says:

    @Zels

    Mantis, you calling someone a wingnut is such BS. Dude, look in the mirror. There you will see the standard by which wingnuttyness is defined.
     

    Actually, moron, Mantis, myself, Herb, Michael R, and the rest of us are moonbats. Idiot.

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  19. ponce says:

    Who outside the right-wing cabal that makes money fleecing Republican rubes supports Gingrich these days?
     
    Or is he just that, a creature exclusively of the wingnut entertainment business?

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  20. sam says:

    David Frum ties the nobody’s-gonna-outsegkenyan-me can firmly to Newt’s tail:
     

    Of course [Gingrich]  wants to see Republicans elected (and to receive credit for helping to elect them). But as he prepares to run for president, he has other priorities – and other problems. Gingrich endorsed TARP. He has acknowledged that human activity is warming the globe. He attempted to work with Hillary Clinton on healthcare reform and with Al Sharpton (!) on education. He endorsed Dede Scozzafava in the NY-23 special election. As Speaker, he joined Bill Clinton to pass the S-Chip program, a big expansion of the healthcare entitlement. And then there is the tangled complexity of his personal life. Gingrich must feel very vulnerable to the kind of attack from the right that has slammed so many Republicans this year.

    So it’s his mission now to present himself as the most ferocious right-winger in the race. Confident (over-confident) that he can best Sarah Palin among business-minded and ideas-minded Republicans, he wants to deny her or some other Tea Party style challenger any footing to attack him as a compromise-minded moderate. Calling President Obama a Kenyan fits into that strategy.

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  21. wr says:

    Zels — The word “hence” implies causation. You simply string two facts together – Obama’s father had a bad experience with the British; Obama returns a bust – and make the claim that since you’ve put them in the same paragraph, you’ve proven something about the president’s way of thinking. You might as well have written that Obama’s father suffered under the British, hence Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review, then claimed that proved he was a Marxist and it would have had as much rhetorical sense to it.

    And while we’re on the subject of rhetoric, admitting you have no idea what a “Kenyan liberationist is,” then imagining it means exactly what you think Obama  is, thus proving to yourself that Obama is indeed a KL is about as shoddy a bit of reasoning I’ve ever read.

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  22. IreneNY says:

    Newt should be a has-been, discredited long ago, but somehow these GOP charlatans never die – and the media keeps giving them attention no matter what drivel comes out of their mouths. 

    To the rational conservatives out there – aren’t you embarrassed at the circus that your party has become. You may not like Obama’s policies but it seems whatever new mantle some wing-nut gives him, it’s adoped and attached to the socialist, Marxist, Nazi, Kenyan, alien label that precedes it. Your party is becoming a joke and for the life of me I can’t imagine this group of do-nothings running the country.

    Let’s hope this ridicuous moniker dies a quick death. How can we ever get anything done in this country when we’re talking about ridiculous trash like this?

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  23. Janis Gore says:

    Obama does have an exotic background, which provides fodder for attacks.  But I do wonder what the “American” experience means anymore.

    I’ve a nephew who was born of  black dirt-farming north Texas grandparents who hasn’t lived in-country for years.  He was in China for several years and is now in Copenhagen.

    My friend, the schoolteacher, is a few miles up the road.  Her son has been in Singapore, will return to California for a year, then it’s off to Saudi Arabia for a few.

    They’re young capitalists.

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  24. Janis Gore says:

    Probably should change that to blackdirt-farming.  The boy is white.

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  25. wr says:

    Janis — Please pardon my California ignorance, but what is it about blackdirt farming that makes it different from regular farming?

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  26. ratufa says:

    I’ll ask this question again:

    What has Obama actually *done*, in terms of significant actual policy, that is un-American? I’m asking because pretty much all of the criticisms I hear about Obama’s supposed un-American actions are either about relatively unimportant things (e.g. protocol violations when bowing to foreign leaders) or have very weak support (e.g. D’Souza’s criticism of the Export-Import Bank loan to Brazil, the claims about “apology tours”, that he is somehow on the side of the terrorists, etc). When people say that Obama’s major domestic policy actions are un-American, it seems like they are mostly using “un-American” as a synonym for “Liberal”. What has Obama done domestically that a liberal American President, such as FDR, wouldn’t have done (or seriously considered doing) during a major economic crisis?

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  27. Janis Gore says:

    Just local color, wr.  Some is red, some is yellow.  My mother grew up chopping and picking cotton.

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  28. wr says:

    Thanks, Janis!

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  29. Franklin says:

    What has Obama actually *done*, in terms of significant actual policy, that is un-American?

    Don’t expect a response.  I’ve asked this question nearly word-for-word in three other threads (and I take it this isn’t your first time either) and no one can provide an answer.
    The correct answer is that he has continued some of the unconstitutional war procedures of his predecessor.  But you won’t hear any neocons admitting as much.

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  30. [...] Gingrich Draws Fire For Remarks About Obama’s “Kenyan Worldview” (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  31. Newt is no historian or he would have know the Luo were not a part of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya.  That’s why I say <a href=’http://rawdawgb.blogspot.com/2010/09/newt-slimy-idiot-with-phd.html’>Newt – a slimy idiot with a PHD</a>

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  32. george says:

    So is Gingrich saying that the GOP has a pro-colonialism viewpoint?

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  33. [...] Gingrich Draws Fire For Remarks About Obama’s “Kenyan Worldview” (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  34. [...] Gingrich Draws Fire For Remarks About Obama’s “Kenyan Worldview” (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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