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Chicago's Amb. Richard Williamson: Gingrich overstates his Reagan ties

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WASHINGTON--Chicago attorney Richard Williamson, a foreign policy advisor to the Mitt Romney campaign--who served in the Reagan White House--said Friday that Newt Gingrich "overstates" his relationship with former President Ronald Reagan.

The issue of who is the stronger Reaganite has emerged in advance of the Tuesday Florida primary.

Williamson is a former UN ambassador and Special Envoy to the Sudan. In a Romney campaign conference call with other former Reagan staffers he said, "it was an honor and a privilege to serve with President Reagan, to know him, and to support his transformational presidency. And we see in Mitt Romney many of the same characteristics of a steady hand, reliability, consistency. And I think that Speaker Gingrich, by exaggerating his role in the Reagan Revolution, evinces an effort to be grandiose and for political reasons, try to overstate the role he played in supporting Ronald Reagan.

"He was a backbencher. He took opportunities to criticize President Reagan's efforts to the four of us, who all were involved in foreign policy matters and defense matters. It was particularly disturbing that he give a major speech in '86 attacking President Reagan's approach to the Soviet Union--to the Evil Empire, to Afghanistan, etc. And Speaker Gingrich exaggerated his critique. He didn't help the Reagan policies in that way. Yes, he voted, as the Republicans in the House overwhelmingly did, but it would be inaccurate to claim that he was a major player and frankly, inaccurate to claim that he was a consistent supporter. And that was my experience and I think it was my colleagues now."

below, from the Romney campaign.....

Ambassadors Rich Williamson And Gerald Carmen, Secretary John Lehman, And Under Secretary Dov Zakheim
"Newt Gingrich Criticizes President Reagan" Press Conference Call
January 27, 2012

Click HERE To Listen To The Entire Call

Highlights Of The "Newt Gingrich Criticizes President Reagan" Press Conference Call:

AMBASSADOR RICH WILLIAMSON: "Thanks very much. I guess I'd just open by saying all four of us feel that it was an honor and a privilege to serve with President Reagan, to know him, and to support his transformational presidency. And we see in Mitt Romney many of the same characteristics of a steady hand, reliability, consistency. And I think that Speaker Gingrich, by exaggerating his role in the Reagan Revolution, evinces an effort to be grandiose and for political reasons, try to overstate the role he played in supporting Ronald Reagan. He was a backbencher. He took opportunities to criticize President Reagan's efforts to the four of us, who all were involved in foreign policy matters and defense matters. It was particularly disturbing that he give a major speech in '86 attacking President Reagan's approach to the Soviet Union--to the Evil Empire, to Afghanistan, etc. And Speaker Gingrich exaggerated his critique. He didn't help the Reagan policies in that way. Yes, he voted, as the Republicans in the House overwhelmingly did, but it would be inaccurate to claim that he was a major player and frankly, inaccurate to claim that he was a consistent supporter. And that was my experience and I think it was my colleagues now. John Lehman would like to make some comments, John?"

SECRETARY JOHN LEHMAN: "Well, first, the reason that I have been actively supporting Governor Romney is I've spent a lot of time with him. And he is, without question, the Republican who really gets it in defense. He has a strategic mindset. He understands the way of the world works. And he understands the importance of strong deterrence. He has been able to grasp, I think very quickly, what is so severely wrong with the way we're procuring weapons, which is just out of control and is unilaterally disarming us. So I've also spent a lot of time in the past, when I was in the government, speaking with Newt Gingrich. And frankly, I don't think he has any grasp of strategy. I think that he just not had a real interest in national security affairs in any depth and he has, while portraying himself as a big Reagan supporter, I know during the Reagan administration he was a constant critic--working with the Democrats, opposing a 600 ship Navy, opposing the aircraft carriers and making speeches like that March 21st '86 speech, saying that Reagan's approach to the Cold War was a failure. And so, we--his leadership has always been very erratic on virtually all subjects but especially on defense and we cannot have an erratic leader in these perilous times. We need someone who really gets it in national security affairs and has the...steadiness and decisiveness to take us through these many threats we have in the future."

UNDER SECRETARY DOV ZAKHEIM: "It's Dov Zakheim here. I'll echo what my colleagues just said. What attracted me to Governor Romney frankly is that he's grounded. I mean this is a person who really has both feet planted on the ground. Who's very practical, who understands national security, who understands international relations, who knows the importance of our allies, who knows why a defense posture that is viable and strong is critical, not only to deterring enemies but frankly to reassuring allies. And they're both very, very important. And that's why he supports a strong national defense posture. Now, the whole idea of practicality--just--it doesn't work with me when I think of Mr. Gingrich. I was also in the Reagan administration. I spent six plus years there. He just wasn't a factor other than what you just heard from John Lehman--sort of a gadfly that criticized Mr. Reagan on occasion. But if you read the memoirs of Cap Weinberger or George Schultz, you won't even see Newt Gingrich's name mentioned at all. He simply was not a major factor. And so somebody who is not reliable about their own past is not going to be a reliable leader of this country at a time when we must have steady, grounded, practical leadership, leadership that understands the importance of allies. That understands the importance of national security. Leadership that simply doesn't go off in one direction or another and Mr. Romney offers that."

AMBASSADOR GERALD CARMEN: "Well, let me maybe simplify the way I look at it. For both of us were in the Reagan administration in the White House and in the agencies, we learned very quickly that when a President takes over, every American life and, in fact, every life in the world is at stake. Nothing takes the place of good judgment. If Newt has shown one thing, it's that he does not have good judgment. His whole life is an example of one mistake after another. And of course that just goes on to his contention to be close to the Reagan administration. So I just think the main thing is, who has the judgment to be president? Certainly Governor Romney has shown over and over again as others have said that he's knowledgeable, calm, strong, he has it all. Who in the world would ever trust the United States to Newt's judgment?"
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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 27, 2012 11:11 AM.

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