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Gingrich pokes at Schwarzenegger and Kissinger for foreign accents

March 08, 2012|By Michael Finnegan

Reporting from Jackson, Miss. — By Newt Gingrich’s telling, President Obama is a secular socialist running the most radical administration in U.S. history – a weakling abroad and a threat to the religious freedom of pious Christians at home.

Gingrich’s portrayal of Obama is a staple of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. On Thursday, the former House speaker distilled his case in a blistering string of accusations that opened his day of campaigning in Mississippi, where bashing Obama is catnip to Republicans.

Gingrich’s campaign will likely be doomed if he fails to defeat rival Rick Santorum in the Mississippi and Alabama primaries Tuesday. The viability of Gingrich’s candidacy has been in doubt for weeks as he has racked up losses to Santorum and Mitt Romney in states scattered across the nation.

So it was that on Thursday, Gingrich ripped into Obama’s patriotism and religious bearings in a rambling effort to draw support from Mississippi’s evangelical Christians.

In a morning rally that filled less than half of a hotel banquet room – the crowd was a small fraction of the hundreds of supporters who showed up at a Santorum event across town on Wednesday evening – Gingrich said that, unlike Obama, he believes in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

“Now that is a pretty big difference,” he said, drawing a flare of cheers. “You know, the Declaration of Independence is the key document in explaining who we are and what we’re doing.”

Gingrich digressed from expounding on its flawed execution – “we had slavery; women had a secondary role” – by poking fun at two foreign-born Americans, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Henry Kissinger.

“I once taught a course, and we had a clip of Schwarzenegger speaking in broken English about how glad he was that he could speak English so well,” said Gingrich, a former assistant college professor. When the laughter faded, he went on to offer two reasons why Kissinger spoke English with a German accent decades after his arrival in the United States.

“In order to learn a language without an accent, you have to listen, and Dr. Kissinger hasn’t found that all that exciting,” he said. “And the second is: He knows that his fees would go down dramatically if he sounded normal.”

Winding back toward Obama, Gingrich said the “most important single sentence in American history” was the line saying that all men are created equal and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

“Now the reason this matters is we are the only society in history that says power comes from God to each one of you personally, so you’re personally sovereign,” he said. “You loan power to the state. The state never loans power to you. Now this is the opposite of Obamaism. Because Obamaism is a repudiation of the Declaration of Independence.”

Under Obamaism, he said, “power resides in Washington.” As examples, he cited the 2010 laws that overhauled healthcare and imposed new rules on banks and investment firms.

Gingrich moved on to gun rights. The Constitution’s 2nd Amendment “says the right to bear arms shall not be abridged, because the presumption is the right to bear arms came from God as part of your inalienable rights,” he said. “In that setting, what the Obama administration is doing, in declaring war on the Catholic church and every right-to-life institution, is in fact a fundamental break of the Declaration of Independence.”

Gingrich, Santorum, Romney and other Republicans have criticized Obama’s administration for requiring religious institutions, such as Catholic hospitals, to include contraception in their health plans for employees.

Turning to foreign policy, Gingrich suggested a tougher approach to Iran, citing its threat to stop oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz.

“In the short run, the answer to the Iranians is the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy,” he said. “And we should make very clear to them that trying to close the strait would be an act of war, and that their government would cease to exist, and we’re not going to play games, because it’s too dangerous.”

Obama criticized GOP presidential candidates on Tuesday for what he called their “bluster” on Iran and urged them to explain any rationale they have for going to war, along with the likely consequences.

Gingrich said the key to his long-term approach to Iran would be to decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil by increasing domestic energy production – and reducing gasoline prices along the way.

“I would actually have an American foreign policy, based on American interests and American values, and relying on American institutions,” said Gingrich, who also pledged to “run an American campaign” for the presidency.

michael.finnegan@latimes.com


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