Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Newt in the Congo"

So there I was, refining the master plan for world domination with the, as Calvin Trillin puts it, Sabbath Gasbags, droning on in the backround when it struck me that there was a non-trivial chance that the former Speaker could be President of the United States.

Naturally my first thought was "What does this do to/for Tiffany?" (there was a reason we posted "Gingrich Closes Tiffany’s Account, Stock Declines (TIF)" back on July 25)

The stock had almost recovered from the earlier news of the account closing when the implications of Newt's ascendancy filtered into the consciousness of the smart money a few weeks ago: Blind Trusts, designers thrusting jewelry upon you etc. Here's the chart, starting the day before the July 26 post:

Here's Foreign Policy's Passport blog:
Current primary frontrunner Newt Gingrich is often referred to as one of the leading "intellectuals" of the Republican Party. Gingrich has encouraged this view, even suggesting that the $1.6 million in consulting fees he received from Freddie Mac were for his services as a "historian."
In recent years, Gingrich's historical output has been mainly confined to a series of co-authored war thrillers and alternate histories. But he does indeed hold a Ph.D. in history from Tulane University and taught the subject at West Georgia College during the 1970s.
Curious about whether Gingrich's background as a historian does, in fact, shed any light on his current views, I decided to give a read to his 1971 doctoral thesis on the unlikely topic of Belgian Education Policy in the Congo: 1945-1960.
Several bloggers -- notably Morehouse College professor and African politics blogger Laura Seay -- have discussed the thesis before, particularly in reference to Gingrich's comments last year that President Obama's policies are evidence of "Kenyan, anticolonial behavior."   
Indeed, even considering that he was at a southern university in the early 1970s, Gingrich's attitudes toward colonialism seem remarkably benign, often drifting into "White Man's Burden" territory:
It would be just as misleading to speak in generalities of ‘white exploitation' as it once was to talk about ‘native backwardness.' We need to know what kind of exploitation, for what reasons, and at what price. However this is a most difficult task since political pressures encourage Black xenophobia. It would be only too easy for the leaders of developing countries faced with massive domestic problems, to divert public attention toward the ‘white man's guilt.'...
Within the beliefs of twentieth century American liberalism, European colonialism is an unacceptable political policy, but what did it mean to the natives? Did the colonial powers perform a painful but positive function in disrupting traditional society and so paving the way for modernization?
It should be noted that Gingrich here is not discussing the brutal period in the late 19th and early 20th century when the Congo was ruled as a "free state" under the direct ownership of King Leopold II, during which as many as 5 to 10 million Congolese may have been slaughtered and many more maimed and dismembered.  Gingrich does concede that the free state was "the most clearly abusive government in nineteenth century colonialism."...MORE
If you want to know more about the Congo under Leopold here's an online version of Mark Twain's masterpiece of political satire:

King Leopold's Soliloquy:
A Defense of His Congo Rule

If you want to know more about Newt's thinking I hear he's written a few books.
If you want to know more about Newt, here's one of my favorite descriptions:
[Gingrich] is amazingly similar to Bill Clinton - both are pot smoking, draft-dodging adulterers from poor Southern families.
The story about him divorcing his dying wife while she was in the hospital isn't true though.
She initiated the action and is still very much alive.