- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
This new ad from the Gingrich campaign is making the rounds:
If you don’t feel like watching, it compares Romney to previous Massachusetts wusses Michael Dukakis and John Kerry and ends with the narrator snarking, "Just like John Kerry, he speaks French too," before showing a clip from the now infamous Olympic committee video.
BOOM! Mr. "We look to the cities and small towns of America, not the capitals of Europe" just got served a dose of his own xenophobic pandering.
But wait, does Gingrich really want to go down this route? He has his own dark Francophone past, as the AFP’s Stephane Jourdain reported last month:
And Gingrich, former speaker of the House of Representatives, spent several years in Orleans as a youth when his father was posted there as a soldier, during a period when France still hosted US military bases.…
From 1956 to 1958, Gingrich lived in Orleans between the ages of 14 to 16.
He tells how he had a revelation when visiting the ossuary memorial at the World War I battlefield of Verdun with his father in 1958.
"As a young man, I planned on becoming a zoo director or a vertebrate paleontologist," Gingrich writes in a book. "Yet during one special weekend as a teenager, I learned a powerful lesson that sparked my dream of entering public office and becoming a leader of our nation."
In his biography "The gentleman of Georgia," he recalls, "That last day was probably the most stunning event of my life. It was a sense of coming face to face with an unavoidable reality."
In the book, author Mel Steely tells how Gingrich lived for several months in a hotel while he attended an American high school. Later he and his family went to live in a chateau in the Loire valley.
Newt "had enough French to survive" when he would go off exploring the city on his own, the author said.
Oh, I’d say that’s not giving him enough credit. Newt not only had enough French to "survive" when venturing into town for a baguette — he had a strong enough command of the language to write a doctoral thesis on Belgian colonial policies in the Congo that cites multiple French-language original sources.
So either Gingrich never actually read Pierre Wigny’s seminal 1955 work "Dix Anées historiques et perspectives d’avenir au Congo," as he claims in a footnote on page 250, or the Belgian senate’s 1947 "Rapport de la Mission Sénatoriale au Congo Belge," as he claims on page 245, or his French is a hell of a lot better than Romney’s (and probably Kerry’s). J’accuse!