Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Weigel on Gingrich on D'Souza


David Weigel @ Slate:

Every time [Dinesh D'Souza] publishes a new mess, it gets the full Pastor Jones treatment in the respectable press. That's had basically no effect on his ability to get published or his ability to get onto the stage at conservative conferences. But it is good for liberals. D'Souza was the first modern conservative author to discover -- the hard way -- that if you want to be a pundit, there is no downside to making a reprehensible argument. The downside comes for the people who may agree with your politics but not your argument.

D'Souza's latest crackpot theory is that US President Barack Obama's "rage" is rooted in Marxist "Kenyan anti-colonialism."

President Barack Obama, right, meets in the Oval Office with Rev. Al Sharpton and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to discuss education reform May 7, 2009. At left is Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. (Pete Souza/White House/Pinnacle Images).
President Barack Obama, right, meets in the Oval Office with Rev. Al Sharpton and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to discuss education reform May 7, 2009. At left is Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. (Pete Souza/White House/Pinnacle Images).
Newt Gingrich jumped into the D'Souza mud-puddle with both feet.

Why? That's a question Weigel doesn't attempt to answer, even though he poses it in the article's subtitle ("Why is Gingrich pushing Dinesh D'Souza's crazy theory about Obama's 'Kenyan anti-colonialism?'")

Since Weigel didn't answer it, I will.

Gingrich desperately desires to court the support of Obama "birthers" and other fringe conspiracy aficionados for his various ongoing projects, not to mention his prospective 2012 presidential campaign.

BUT!

Gingrich also desperately craves "intellectual respectability." He's a former professor, given to long-winded historical analysis (sometimes in fictional form) that usually manages to be simultaneously banal and bizarrely revisionist. He craves recognition from The Smart People as one of their own.

The raw "birther" thesis -- that Obama's mother secretly traveled to Kenya to give birth, simultaneously arranging for a fake birth certificate and fake newspaper birth announcements, not to mention a suitably pregnant body double, in Hawaii so that her Manchurian Child could someday become President of the United States and turn the country into Disneyland as imagined by Frantz Fanon -- is ... well ... somewhat deficient on the "intellectual respectability" end of things.

D'Souza's forthcoming The Roots of Obama's Rage (the article Gingrich endorsed is a Forbes excerpt) is a repackaging of the "birther" thesis. D'Souza discards the old wrapping (easily disproven factual claims) and stuffs the thing in a spiffy-looking gift bag (from a university bookstore, perhaps), surrounding it with a tissue of the conservative equivalent of postmodern "discourse" psychobabble.

It's still bullshit, but now it's highbrow bullshit, see? Gingrich believes he can endorse it without The Smart People necessarily assuming that that endorsement means he also handles poisonous snakes while praying, secretly thinks he's the reincarnation of Charlemagne, or occasionally wakes up in an alley, soaked in his own urine, with a bottle of MD 20/20 still clenched tightly in one fist and his other arm around a naked close blood relative of indeterminate gender.

Personally I don't think he can pull it off. But I'm not surprised that he's trying. The 2012 GOP presidential nomination will go to the candidate who can court the center while simultaneously giving the wingnuts a convincing wink and nod.

memeorandum thread

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