Alex Massie

Newt: Ronald Reagan is as Dangerous as Neville Chamberlain

Text settings

There are many reasons why Newt Gingrich remains a preposterous candidate for the Republican party's presidential nomination. Among them the fact that just about anyone who has ever had dealings with him - including a majority of his wives - hate him. Here's Elliott Abrams

dredging up some gems

settling some scores from the 1980s back in the days when Newt thought Ronald Reagan a dangerous pinko-namby-pamby:

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.”

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.”

Nor, I think, can you be the kind of chap who argues that "it is precisely at the vision and strategy levels that the Soviet empire today is superior to the free world." Can someone please fetch this from the C-SPAN archives?

[Chamberlain, of course, is being traduced by Newt. That is a different matter.]

UPDATE: Bob Dole piles in - Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleInternational