White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was "trying to appeal to the fringe" in his weekend statement that President Obama displayed "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior"
and conned the American people.
Gingrich, who is mulling a 2012 GOP presidential bid, talked about the influence of Kenya on Obama's worldview in a story posted Saturday in the National Review Online.
"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 NRO. "That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."
He went on to say: "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. I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating -- none of which was true. In the [Saul] Alinsky tradition, he was being the person he needed to be in order to achieve the position he needed to achieve. . . . He was authentically dishonest."
Gibbs appeared on the NBC, CBS and ABC morning shows mainly to talk about extending the Bush tax cuts to the middle class. On ABC's "Good Morning America," host George Stephanopoulos asked him to respond to Gingrich's provocative comments.
"It is hard to comprehend. I don't even have, quite frankly, George, the slightest idea what he's talking about," Gibbs said.
"No idea what he's talking about?" pressed Stephanopoulos.
"I don't," Gibbs said.
Asked whether the remarks were appropriate, Gibbs said, "You know, I think Newt Gingrich knows that he's trying to -- 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 had held the position of speaker of the House.
"But, look, it's political season and most people will say anything, and Newt Gingrich does that on a generally -- on a regular basis."
Gingrich seemed to want to play to a segment of America that does not believe Obama was born in the U.S. or is a Christian. The reference to Saul Alinsky, the legendary Chicago community organizer, is a coded way to suggest that Obama is a socialist.
Obama's father was a Kenyan, but Obama never visited the country until he was an adult, visiting family to discover his "roots" and to see his father's homestead and grave. He returned to the country briefly with Michelle before they were married and for a few days in 2006, when he was a senator from Illinois. During that 2006 visit to Nairobi, Obama scolded the Kenyan government for not moving fast enough to clean up corruption.