It might seem weird that Newt Gingrich admitted on CNN that there's "no proof" that President Obama gutted welfare reform (as a Romney ad claimed) especially since it was Gingrich himself who suggested to Romney's advisers that the candidate attack Obama on welfare. Talk about being an underminer. But for Gingrich, it's not about proof, but about feelings, the mood of the conservative Internet that he is so good at reflecting.
Gingrich, who prides himself on having been an Internet pioneer, was the Republican presidential candidate most plugged into the conservative Internet. Sure, Ron Paul had his army of "END THE FED" commenters, but it was Gingrich who consistently showed an awareness of the sometimes obscure fixations of right-wing bloggers. He spoke about Agenda 21, for example, the conspiracy theory that bike lanes and other sustainable development programs are part of a United Nations secret plan to create a new world order. He's no longer running for president, but Gingrich still reads the Internet, and he showed how well he understands the base in his interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper about welfare reform Wednesday night. When Cooper pressed Gingrich on the fact that Obama's change to welfare rules allows states to waive the work requirement only if they have alternatives that are better at getting people jobs, Gingrich admitted that was true—for now. As Think Progress' Pat Garofalo quotes him, Gingrich said, "We have no proof today, but I would say to you under Obama’s ideology it is absolutely true that he would be comfortable sending a lot of people checks for doing nothing," Gingrich said. "I believe that totally."
This perfectly reflects the conviction held by some conservatives that Obama is a not-so-secret redistributionist radical, and that his worst redistributing is yet to come. You can see this fear in the movie Obama's America 2016. Dinesh D'Souza, whose work inspired the film, explained to The Christian Post in July that in running for a second term, "Obama's goal is to shrink America." D'Souza continued:
He wants to redistribute money away from the rich and toward the poor. But we are not talking about the rich and the poor in America solely. We are talking about a redistribution of income away from the rich countries – America included – toward the poor countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, and so on. This is where I think we misunderstand Obama when he talks about the 99 percent. We think he means the 99 percent only in America. He doesn't. He actually means worldwide.
Gingrich tied this theory of Obama's worldview into an earlier Romney attack ad focused on Obama's comment that "If you own a business, you didn't build that." Obama was talking about infrastructure when he said "that," but Republicans say "that" referred to the businesses. Gingrich said of Obama's speech, "It was almost as though he was psychologically attacking work and achievement at the same time he was shifting the regulations, and candidly, this is not an administration that you're going to find any conservative give the benefit of the doubt to." Romney spend much of his early campaign saying Obama is a nice guy who's just in over his head. Gingrich understands the Republican base much better.
That wasn't the only conservative meme Gingrich showed his fluency in this week. Wednesday night, Gingrich said that it was "baloney" for CNN's Wolf Blitzer to compare Michele Bachmann to Joe McCarthy, for suggesting that Huma Abedin was a Muslim Brotherhood plant inside the State Department. Republican leaders condemned Bachmann for her claims, but Gingrich understands those leaders don't necessarily reflect the conversation regular people are having online. It's "group think that says don't even ask these questions," Gingrich said, reflecting another talking point on conservative blogs. What? He's just giving voice to the concerns of the American people!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.