Gingrich and Reagan
In the 1980s, the candidate repeatedly insulted the president.
In the 1980s, the candidate repeatedly insulted the president.
By Elliot Abrams
In the increasingly rough Republican campaign, no candidate has wrapped himself in the mantle of Ronald Reagan more often than Newt Gingrich. “I worked with President Reagan to change things in Washington,” “we helped defeat the Soviet empire,” and “I helped lead the effort to defeat Communism in the Congress” are typical claims by the former speaker of the House.
The claims are misleading at best.
As a new member of Congress in the Reagan years — and I was an assistant secretary of state — Mr. Gingrich voted with the president regularly, but equally often spewed insulting rhetoric at Reagan, his top aides, and his policies to defeat Communism.
Gingrich was voluble and certain in predicting that Reagan’s policies would fail, and in all of this he was dead wrong.
The fights over Reagan’s efforts to stop Soviet expansionism in the Third World were exceptionally bitter. The battlegrounds ranged from Angola and Grenada to Afghanistan and Central America. Reagan’s top team — William Casey at CIA, Cap Weinberger at DOD, and George Shultz at State — understood as he did that if Soviet expansionism could be dealt some tough blows, not only the Soviet empire but the USSR itself would face a political, technological, and financial challenge it could not meet.
Few officials besides Ronald Reagan predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union entirely, but every one of us in positions of authority understood the importance of this struggle.
But the most bitter battleground was often in Congress. Here at home, we faced vicious criticism from leading Democrats — Ted Kennedy, Christopher Dodd, Jim Wright, Tip O’Neill, and many more — who used every trick in the book to stop Reagan by denying authorities and funds to these efforts. On whom did we rely up on Capitol Hill? There were many stalwarts: Henry Hyde, elected in 1974; Dick Cheney, elected in 1978, the same year as Gingrich; Dan Burton and Connie Mack, elected in 1982; and Tom DeLay, elected in 1984, were among the leaders.
But not Newt Gingrich. He voted with the caucus, but his words should be remembered, for at the height of the bitter struggle with the Democratic leadership Gingrich chose to attack . . . Reagan.
The best examples come from a famous floor statement Gingrich made on March 21, 1986. This was right in the middle of the fight over funding for the Nicaraguan contras; the money had been cut off by Congress in 1985, though Reagan got $100 million for this cause in 1986.
Here is Gingrich:
“Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet empire’s challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing, and without a dramatic change in strategy will continue to fail. . . . President Reagan is clearly failing.”
Why? This was due partly to
“his administration’s weak policies, which are inadequate and will ultimately fail”
...partly to CIA, State, and Defense, which
“have no strategies to defeat the empire.”
But of course
“the burden of this failure frankly must be placed first on President Reagan.”
Our efforts against the Communists in the Third World were
so those anti-Communist members of Congress who questioned the $100 million Reagan sought for the Nicaraguan “contra” rebels “are fundamentally right.”
Such was Gingrich’s faith in President Reagan that in 1985, he called Reagan’s meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
“the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Neville Chamberlain in 1938 in Munich.”
Gingrich scorned Reagan’s speeches, which moved a party and then a nation, because
“the president of the United States cannot discipline himself to use the correct language.”
In Afghanistan, Reagan’s policy was marked by
“impotence [and] incompetence.”
Thus Gingrich concluded as he surveyed five years of Reagan in power that
“we have been losing the struggle with the Soviet empire.”
Reagan did not know what he was doing, and
“it is precisely at the vision and strategy levels that the Soviet empire today is superior to the free world.”
There are two things to be said about these remarks. The first is that as a visionary, Gingrich does not have a very impressive record. The Soviet Union was beginning to collapse, just as Reagan had believed it must. The expansion of its empire had been thwarted. The policies Gingrich thought so weak and indeed “pathetic” worked, and Ronald Reagan turned out to be a far better student of history and politics than Gingrich.
The second point to make is that Gingrich made these assaults on the Reagan administration just as Democratic attacks were heating up unmercifully. Far from becoming a reliable voice for Reagan policy and the struggle against the Soviets, Gingrich took on Reagan and his administration. It appears to be a habit: He did the same to George W. Bush when Bush was making the toughest and most controversial decision of his presidency — the surge in Iraq.
Bush was opposed by many of the top generals, by some Republican leaders who feared the surge would hurt in the 2008 elections, and of course by a slew of Democrats and media commentators. Here again Gingrich provided no support for his party’s embattled president, testifying as a private citizen in 2007 that the strategy was “inadequate,” contained “breathtaking” gaps, lacked “synergism” (whatever that means), and was “very disappointing.” What did Gingrich propose? Among other things, a 50 percent increase in the budget of the State Department.
Presidents should not get automatic support, not even from members of their own party, but they have a right to that support when they are under a vicious partisan assault. Today it is fair to look back and ask who had it right: Gingrich, who backed away from and criticized Republican presidents, or those chief executives, who were making difficult and consequential decisions on national security. Bush on the surge and Reagan on the Soviet empire were tough, courageous — and right. Newt Gingrich in retrospect seems less the visionary than the politician who refused the party’s leader loyal support on grounds that history has proved were simply wrong.
— Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan Administration and deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush Administration.
Newt Gingrich bad-mouths Ronald Reagan in 1988
In 1988, he warned George H. W. Bush not to run as “a continuation of Reaganism.”
William Jefferson Gingrich
|By R. EMMETT TYRRELL, Jr.,
How long have I been saying it? At least for 15 years, but in private I have been aware of it longer.
Newt Gingrich is conservatism’s Bill Clinton, but without the charm. He has acquired wit but he has all the charm of barbed wire.
Newt and Bill are 1960s generation narcissists, and they share the same problems: waywardness and deviancy. Newt, like Bill, has a proclivity for girl hopping. It is not as egregious as Bill’s, but then Newt is not as drop-dead beautiful. His public record is already besmeared with tawdry divorces, and there are private encounters with the fair sex that doubtless will come out.
If I have heard of some, you can be sure the Democrats have heard of more. Nancy Pelosi’s intimations are timely. Newt up against the Prophet Obama would be a painful thing to watch. He might be deft with one-liners but it would be futile. There are independent and other uncommitted voters to be cultivated in 2012 — all would be unmoved by Newt’s juggling of conservative shibboleths.
Newt and Bill, as 1960s generation self-promoters, share the same duplicity, ostentatious braininess, a propensity for endless scrapes with propriety and the law. They are tireless hustlers. Now Newt is hustling my fellow conservatives in this election. The last time around he successfully hustled conservatives in the House of Representatives and then the conservatives on the House impeachment committee.
He blew the impeachment and in fact his role as Speaker. He backed out in disgrace.
He now says Republicans in the House were exhausted with his great projects. Nonsense, I knew many of them, and they were exhausted with his atrocious leadership.
Today Mitt Romney has 72 Congressional endorsements. Newt has 11. Possibly the 11 have yet to meet him.
He is not a leader. He is a huckster.
Now he has found his key for hustling conservative electorate. He is playing the liberal media card and saying he embodies conservative values. Like Bill with his credulous fans, Newt is hoping conservatives suffer amnesia. Possibly some do. Perhaps they cannot recall mere months ago when this insufferable whiz kid was lambasting the great Congressman Paul Ryan for “right-wing social engineering” — more evidence of Newt’s not-so-hidden longing for the approval of the liberal media.
After his Ryan moment Newt’s campaign was a death wagon, and it will be so again — hopefully before he gets the nomination. Conservatives should not climb onto his death wagon. He is a huckster, and I for one will not be rendered a contortionist trying to defend him. I did so in his earliest days and learned my lesson.
After Newt’s and Bill’s disastrous experiences in government both went on to create empires, Bill in philanthropy and cheap thought, Newt in public policy and cheap thought. As an ex-president Bill has wrung up an unprecedented $75.6 million since absconding from the White House with White House loot and shameless pardons. I do not know how much Newt has amassed, but he got between $1.6 million to $1.8 million from Freddie Mac, and he lobbied for Medicare Part B while receiving, according to the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney, “Big Bucks Pushing Corporate Welfare.” Now after a lifetime in Washington he is promoting himself as an outsider.
Contending with Newt for the Republican nomination are Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney. All three are truer conservatives than Newt. I like them all.
But John Bolton, former ambassador the United Nations, and John Lehman, President Reagan’s secretary of the navy, are for Mitt, and they are solid conservatives. Governor Christie and the economic pundit Larry Kudlow laud Mitt on taxes, on spending, and on attacking crony capitalism. Mr. Kudlow calls Mr. Romney “Reaganesque.” Ann Coulter seems to loathe Newt. That is good enough for me.
Back in 1992 I appeared with Chris Matthews on some gasbag’s television show. Was it Donohue? At any rate, I said candidate Clinton had more skeletons in his closet than a body snatcher. It was a prescient line then, and I always got a laugh. I can apply the same line today to Newt, though he has skeletons both inside and outside his closet.
Conservatives should not be surprised by the scandals that lie ahead, if they stick with him.
Those of us, who raised the question of character in 1992, were confronted by an indignant Bill Clinton, treating the topic as a low blow.
To listen to him, character was the “c” word of American politics. It was reprehensible to mention it. By now we know. Character matters. Paul, Santorum, and Romney have it. Newt has Clinton’s character.
Mr. Tyrrell, Jr. is founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator.
DeLay: Gingrich ‘Sort of Like Clinton’
On The Michael Berry Show, former House majority leader Tom DeLay criticized Newt Gingrich’s tenure as speaker.
“He’s not really a conservative. He’ll tell you what you want to hear. He has an uncanny ability, sort of like Clinton, to feel your pain and know his audience and speak to his audience and fire them up. But when he was speaker, he was erratic, undisciplined.”
- Tom Delay on Newt Gingrich
When asked how Gingrich was erratic, DeLay replied:
“We’d have leadership meetings almost every day. And every day, Newt had a new agenda.”
Listen to the full interview below.
Tom DeLay Says Newt Gingrich Is Another Bill Clinton
Newt Rewrites His Reagan Connection
By Mark Shields
In 1995, when Newt Gingrich first became speaker of the House, Bob Dole was already on the threshold of becoming the longest-serving Senate Republican leader in U.S. history.
Relations between the two GOP leaders, which were never chummy, were not helped by Gingrich's openly disparaging Bob Dole as "the tax collector for the welfare state."
(Mo: Although, ever the gentleman, it was Senator Bob Dole, who loaned Speaker Gingrich the $150,000 to pay his ethics fine.)
Barely two years later, after having been chosen Time magazine's Man of the Year, Gingrich had plummeted in public esteem to where, in a CBS-New York Times poll, just 14 percent of voters had favorable personal feelings toward the speaker.
This prompted an apocryphal Washington exchange between a perplexed Gingrich and Dole.
"Why do people take such an instant dislike to me?" asked a perplexed Gingrich, to whom Dole bluntly explained: "Because it saves them time."
Watching the last televised candidates debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa presidential caucuses, and hearing Newt Gingrich once again invoke the name and record of President Ronald Reagan as well as his own close relationship with Reagan, reminded me that Dole wasn't the only one on the receiving end of Gingrich's barbs.
At the Reagan presidential library this fall, Gingrich boasted of how "I helped Reagan create millions of jobs while he was president." And after modestly acknowledging his own less significant role than Reagan's, added, "We helped defeat the Soviet empire."
Unmentioned by Gingrich then, or in any of the 2,414 debates during this campaign, was his 1985 criticism of President Reagan's historic meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev as "the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with (British Prime Minister) Chamberlain at Munich in 1938."
In an interview on CNBC, Gingrich recently emphasized his close identification with the nation's 40th president: "I've done a movie on Ronald Reagan called 'Rendezvous With Destiny.' Callista and I did.
"We've done a book on Ronald Reagan. You know I campaigned with Reagan. I first met Reagan in '74. I'm very happy to talk about Ronald Reagan."
Just like when Newt went to the House floor during the Gipper's second White House term and declared the president's Soviet policy a "failure." Here is what Gingrich said:
"Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet empire's challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing and without a dramatic, fundamental change in strategy will continue to fail. ... The burden of the failure frankly must be placed first upon President Reagan."
This was after Gingrich, as reported in the Congressional Record, had found Reagan responsible for our national "decay":
"Beyond the obvious indicators of decay, the fact is that President Reagan has lost control of the national agenda."
Students of Newt-speak will recognize that by "decay," Gingrich was generally referring to factors such as crime, illegitimate births and illiteracy.
These blatant contradictions between what Congressman Gingrich actually said at the time about President Reagan and what Candidate Gingrich now offers as fictitious reminiscences of his unwavering allegiance to Reagan remind me of one of the former speaker's own broadsides against Washington, D.C.
"In this cold and ruthless city, the center of hypocrisy is Capitol Hill."
- Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich is quite obviously an expert on both subjects.
COPYRIGHT 2011 MARK SHIELDS
DOLE GOES NUCLEAR
"I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late. If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.
Gingrich served as Speaker from 1995 to 1999 and had trouble within his own party. Already in 1997 a number of House members wanted to throw him out as Speaker. But he hung on until after the 1998 elections when the writing was on the wall. His mounting ethics problems caused him to resign in early 1999. I know whereof I speak as I helped establish a line of credit of $150,000 to help Newt pay off the fine for his ethics violations. In the end, he paid the fine with money from other sources.
Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall. He loved picking a fight with Bill Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press. This and a myriad of other specifics helped to topple Gingrich in 1998.
In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty ice-bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it.
In my opinion if we want to avoid an Obama landslide in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president we could have confidence in."
Here is an interesting piece that delves into the history of manic depression in Gingrich's family:
The Inner Quest of Newt Gingrich
The Inner Quest of Newt Gingrich