In the Arena

Another Great Press Release

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The Romney campaign has another very effective press release, excerpting an article that Elliott Abrams, the former Reagan Assistant Secretary of State For Trading Arms for Hostages, has written about Newt Gingrich’s criticisms of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy. It will come as no great surprise that Gingrich was impatient with Reagan for not obliterating the Soviet Union more quickly. Some excerpts and an additional observation below the fold:

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.

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.”

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.”

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 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.

Sure sounds like good old imperious, peremptory, impatient Newt Gingrich to me. But it’s funny, Newt also sounds like imperious, impatient, neoconservative Elliott Abrams to me–and like Newt himself–when it comes to Barack Obama’s policy toward Iran. Abrams is also another of those, like Mitt Romney, who incorrectly describes Obama’s Middle East policy as a “return to the 1967 borders” without adding “with mutually agreed upon land swaps.” I saw him Abrams do that, and be corrected, at the AIPAC convention last spring.

And while Abrams has fired a direct torpedo at Gingrich’s Reagan fetishism, it should be noted that the gunner and target share an entirely dangerous, and sometimes illegal, penchant for warmongering.