Jeffrey Lord, former White House political director under Ronald Reagan, is slamming a piece in National Review Online that accuses Newt Gingrich of spewing "insulting rhetoric" about Reagan while he was president.
The National Review piece, written by former Reagan Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams, has gained significant traction as many conservatives have come forward to question Gingrich's electability. The former House Speaker has repeatedly cast himself as a "loyal lieutenant of Reagan's bold conservatism" against the more timid, "Massachusetts moderate" Mitt Romney.
Writing in the American Spectator, Abrams, Lord says, has "been swept up in the GOP Establishment's Romney frothings over the rise of Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries."
But no more, he says, because Abrams has been "caught red-handed in lending himself to this attempted Romney hit job."
Some of the top examples Abrams cites come from a statement Gingrich made on the House floor in 1986. Lord obtained a copy of the speech, which he said Abrams is "grossly misrepresenting" as "some sort of anti-Reagan jihad:"
Specifically, Abrams implies that Newt Gingrich was spewing mindless vitriol about Reagan on the House floor. Not only not so, it was quite to the contrary. Of President Reagan, Gingrich says:
• "Let me be clear: I have the greatest respect for President Reagan. I think he personally understands the threat of communism." Gingrich then goes on -- at Newtonian length -- praising Reagan for Reagan's understanding of Lenin, Reagan's understanding of the real "purposes of a Soviet dictatorship" and much more. He lists and applauds Reagan repeatedly for the President's appreciation of "the threat in a more powerful Soviet empire" and the threats posed by Communist Cuba and Nicaragua. He ranks Reagan with the great cold war presidents in protecting freedom.
In short, time after time after, Newt Gingrich -- true to form -- is there on the floor of the House relentlessly praising and crediting Ronald Reagan. Is it any wonder that years later Nancy Reagan would speak so publicly and warmly about "Ronnie" passing the conservative torch to Newt? Is there any wonder that Michael Reagan has stepped into the middle of this current brawl to endorse Newt?
• Abrams quotes Newt for saying in this speech that Reagan's policies towards the Soviets are "inadequate and will ultimately fail." This is shameful. Why? Here's what Newt said -- in full and in context:
"The fact is that George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Irving Kristol, and Jeane Kirkpatrick are right in pointing out the enormous gap between President Reagan's strong rhetoric, which is adequate, and his administration's weak policies, which are inadequate and will ultimately fail."
In other words, Newt was picking up on a concern, prominent in the day and voiced by no less than Reagan's then ex-UN Ambassador Kirkpatrick, not to mention prominent Reagan supporters Will and Kristol and the late-Mondale aide turned conservative Krauthammer, that Reagan's anti-Communist policies could be stronger if better institutionalized and not tied as much to the Reagan persona. The entire speech focused on suggestions of how to do just that -- to effectively institutionalize Reagan's conservative beliefs in the government. Is Abrams seriously accusing Jeane Kirkpatrick and George Will of being anti-Reagan? Of spewing "insulting rhetoric" at a president everyone in Washington knew they staunchly supported? Really? Of course not. But in apparent service to the Romney campaign, in order to make Newt Gingrich appear to be doing just that, Abrams apparently quite deliberately cut out the original Gingrich reference to Will, Kirkpatrick, Krauthammer, and Kristol.
You can read Lord's full analysis here.