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NRO: For a 'Bold Reagan Conservative,' Gingrich Said Mean Things About Him

NRO: For a 'Bold Reagan Conservative,' Gingrich Said Mean Things About Him

"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."

Few argue against Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's skills as a communicator. Throughout his campaign resurgence, the former Speaker has dubbed himself a "bold," "Georgia Reagan conservative" and his opponent Mitt Romney a "timid Massachusetts moderate."

Not only can the phrase be criticized for inciting divineness within the party and longstanding regional tensions within the country, some now say Gingrich was not even loyal to President Reagan when he was in office.

Elliot Abrams, former assistant secretary of state for the Reagan administration and deputy national security adviser for the George W. Bush administration, published a blistering article in the National Review Online (NRO) Wednesday saying that while Presidents should not get automatic support from members of their own party, when Reagan and Bush faced partisan criticism while making difficult and ultimately correct decisions on national security, Gingrich was no where to be found with loyal support and rather "often spewed insulting rhetoric" back at the Republican administrations.

Abrams writes that when the Reagan administration was facing vicious criticism from then Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill and leading Democrats as they fought to repel Soviet expansionism in the Third World, there were a number of Republicans they turned to on Capitol Hill for loyal support.

Gingrich was not one of them.

Abrams writes on Gingrich's support of President Reagan:

"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 “pathetically incompetent,” 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.” [Emphasis added]

Questions have been posed in the past about the validity of the "Reagan conservative" label which Gingrich often gives himself.

Glenn Beck has raised alarm to Gingrich's belief that FDR was his favorite President of the 20th century over Reagan, and the "timid Massachusetts moderate" himself has called out how close Gingrich really was to the 41st President.

During last week's CNN debate Romney interjected into a back and forth with Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, when the former Speaker began to praise his own work with President Reagan.

“Mr. Speaker, it was — you talk about all the things you did with Ronald Reagan and the Reagan revolution and the jobs created during the Reagan years and so forth," said Romney. “I mean, I looked at the Reagan diary. You’re mentioned once in Ronald Reagan’s diary. And in the diary, he says you had an idea in a meeting of young congressmen, and it wasn’t a very good idea and he dismissed it. That’s the entire mention.”

The super PAC that is supporting Mitt Romney, Restore Our Future, has began running ads in Florida reflecting the same criticism of Gingrich's connection to Reagan:

Abrams alleges that Gingrich was not only not close to President Reagan, he was a thorn in his side and has since been proven wrong in all his quarrels against the Reagan administration:

"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. "

Michael Reagan may believe that Gingrich exemplifies as a "Reagan conservative," but the candidate has done little to elaborate on this self-identification aside from applying the label on himself over and over again. On two Sunday news programs this past week Gingrich again compared himself to Reagan, adding a little flair on NBC's Meet the Press when calling himself now a "Reagan populist conservative."

"Ronald Reagan did very well for a long time, and people understood that he was never in Washington, even when he was president," the former Speaker of the House said when asked on CNN's State of the Union whether he would qualify as a Washington elite . "I ran for Congress to change things in Washington. I worked with President Reagan to change things in Washington. As Speaker of the House, we did change things."

Based on Abrams' comments Wednesday, it may be more than fair to question that cooperation with the former President. At the very least, when it came to foreign policy.

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