Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich backed Dick Cheney’s critique of the Obama administration’s anti-terror policy Sunday, calling it one of several ‘big mistakes’ being made in national security by the Democrats.
But he broke ranks with the former vice president over Colin Powell, saying that the former Secretary of State belonged in the party and that Republicans should be the party of the ‘big tent’ even if fights broke out in that tent from time to time.
“I don't want to pick a fight with Dick Cheney, but I think, the fact is the Republican Party has to be a broad party that appeals across the country and that does so--I mean, we have the governor of Vermont, we have the governor of Rhode Island,” Gingrich said.
“These, these are not states that are traditional Southern, right wing states --- to be a national party you have to have a big enough tent that you inevitably have fights inside the tent … I think Republicans are going to be very foolish if they run around deciding that they're going to see how much they can purge us down to the smallest possible base."
Asked if he’s thinking about running for president in 2012, Gingrich said he’d be glad to accept an invitation to discuss that possibility “in early 2011. I'm not going to think about it till 2011.”
In a lengthy appearance with Illinois Democrat Senator Dick Durbin on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Gingrich also insisted that the Guantanamo detention center should remain open “until the war is over,” that the existence of Gitmo is not a recruiting tool for terrorists, and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should admit she was wrong in saying the CIA misled her about the use of waterboarding,
Noting that the detainees at Gitmo constitute a serious threat to Americans Gingrich quoted FBI director Robert Mueller as warning that these terrorists cannot be simply put in U.S prisons “because there'll be an active threat to convert other people” and that “we're now down to the worst of the worst.”
Gingrich recalled that the Bush administration released over 500 people and noted that “one out of every seven actually went back to war against us and is out actively trying to kill Americans today. ”
Gingrich said President Barack Obama made a “very big mistake” in announcing the closing of Guantanamo. “It was a campaign promise, it is not a national security plan,” Gingrich said. “I think, frankly, they should keep Guantanamo open.”
Addressing liberal claims that the Gitmo’s continued use is a terrorist recruiting tool, he noted that there were over 550,000 troops who served in Iraq and said that “the 3,100 Americans who were killed on 9/11 were killed before there was a Guantanamo. The recruits who were going into Iraq were going into Iraq long before Guantanamo was a serious factor. The people fighting today in Pakistan are fighting Pakistanis. The people--the Taliban who's fighting in Afghanistan, they're not running around using Guantanamo. They're running around using the existence of America.”
He recalled that “one of the terrorists in Guantanamo recently threw his television down and broke it because he had a picture of a woman with bare arms. I think we are kidding ourselves about who these terrorists are and we're kidding ourselves about the power of this.”
Guantanamo matters, he said “because in America and Europe the left has decided the matter. So let's build a brand-new facility. Tell me how it will be different from Guantanamo and tell me how many weeks it would take before it became the new symbol that was attacked because you're still going to be holding people in prison, they're still going to be isolated.”
And isolated they must be, Gingrich said because they are “bad people who want to destroy America, and if they're not isolated they're going to actively engage in terrorist planning.” He cited the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 that “was in part planned from Attica prison by a terrorist that we had locked up in Attica who was sending information out by a helper.”
Turning to what he believes motivated Vice President Cheney’s motivation for supporting the administration’s policies vis-à-vis the treatment of captured terrorist came out of his experience on 9/11.
Said Gingrich: “I watched this firsthand after 9/11, … the shock of 9/11, the reality that his children and his grandchildren could die, that he has an obligation to America to take extra steps to keep us alive. And I think this was burned into him that day and the following day, and the realization we had been caught totally off-guard.
"Despite all the warnings of the '90s, we have been caught totally off-guard. And so they did everything for seven and a half years to--and they have a very simple principle: If you're in doubt, do what it takes to help America survive every time.”
As a result, Gingrich said the administration “consistently fell down on the side of being very tough about national security, being very tough with specific terrorists. And remember, the Obama administration has reserved to itself the same right to use enhanced interrogation techniques at the direction of the commander in chief that the Bush administration did. They were used three times--they were used on three people who were known terrorists who had very high value information.”
Addressing the perils of the left-wing effort “to open up past wounds,” he said that a CIA employee today who “understood that there were people out there who wanted a truth commission, there are people who wanted to say to you, ‘I'm, I'm going to go back six, seven, eight years and I'm going to put you on trial potentially,’ if you look at what, what Speaker Pelosi said, ‘They all lied to--they lied to us all the time,’ the drop in morale, which frankly Director Leon Panetta, himself a former Democratic congressman, has testified, that this has hurt morale.”
Asked by host David Gregory if, as some on the left have said, his criticism of Speaker Pelosi is nothing but political payback, Gingrich said he agrees with CIA director Leon Panetta who the day after Pelosi’s statement, sent a message to every employee at the CIA, saying "We did brief accurately in 2002. We do report legally. It would be illegal to do what she's said, and we do not break the law."
The following Monday, Gingrich recalled, Panetta “came back and said this kind of political attack on the CIA--he didn't name her by name, obviously, but he said these kind of political attacks on the CIA are damaging to morale and politicians should remember we are fighting two active wars and have a worldwide terrorist threat we're engaged with.”
The Speaker, Gingrich said, should “go to the floor of the House and apologize. She ought to say she exaggerated, that what she said was not true about the CIA. And again, there are two different fights here. What she did or didn't learn in 2002, a House ethics investigation can determine. The question of what she said about the CIA that Thursday is flatly false and dishonest, and she ought to apologize to the country on the floor of the House and to the CIA for having said it.”
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