Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tells Newsmax that Ronald Reagan was a "principled" leader who will be remembered as one of the two greatest American presidents of the 20th century.
Gingrich also said on Friday - Reagan's birthday - that the president enjoyed telling Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev jokes poking fun at the Soviet system. [Editor's Note: See the full video - Go Here Now]
Newsmax's Ashley Martella pointed out that Michael Reagan said in a recent Newsmax interview that President Reagan's greatest legacy was freedom - liberating people of the former Soviet Union - and asked if Gingrich agreed.
"First of all, his greatest achievement was turning around America, rebuilding our economy, making us proud to be Americans again," said Gingrich, who has a new DVD out, "Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny."
"And because he had built that base, he was able in the following few years to defeat the Soviet empire, which disappeared.
"It's one of the greatest achievements in history - the idea that you could roll back an entire empire, which was on offense in 1980 under Jimmy Carter and looked like it was the dominant wave of the future, and 11 short years later it disappeared.
"I think that Ronald Reagan is one of the most understudied leaders in modern times and really is worthy of things such as the movie [his wife] Callista and I just did, 'Rendezvous with Destiny.' Because when you study Reagan - you see him on film, not just read about him but see him - you realize what a remarkable leader he was and how he integrated everything almost like a great actor or a great ballerina."
Martella asked if Gingrich thought, when Reagan said at Berlin Wall, "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall," that it would actually happen.
"Well, he believed it would ultimately happen. I don't think he thought it would happen as fast as it did," answered Gingrich, well known as the architect of the "Contract with America" that led the Republican Party to major victories in the 1994 congressional elections.
"But he had always believed that there were Germans on both sides of the wall and sooner or later it was inevitable that they would want to be together because they were all Germans.
"But the real key to 'Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall' occurred in 1983, four years earlier, when he gave a speech in which he described the Soviet Union as an 'evil empire.' It was that speech and the use of the word 'evil' which really struck at the heart of the moral authority of the Soviet Union.
"We have it in the film. Natan Sharansky - who at the time was in the Gulag in Siberia - tells the story of how when they learned that Reagan had said 'evil empire,' the morale of the prison guards dropped and the morale of the prisoners went up. And that was the decisive beginning of the end in terms of the Soviet empire itself.
Martella asked Gingrich to recall a memorable personal encounter with Reagan.
"One of the most memorable is actually a picture hanging on the wall of my family room. The two of us are on Air Force One. We're both in shirtsleeves. We both have our arms crossed and we're laughing. We're laughing because Reagan has told another joke. Reagan collected jokes, particularly about the Soviet Union."
One joke that Gingrich recalls was about "the man who tells a reporter, 'I have as much freedom in the Soviet Union as I have in Washington.' The reporter says, 'What do you mean?' He says, 'Well, I can get up in front of the Kremlin and I can say that Ronald Reagan is doing a terrible job. And I can get in front of the White House and say Ronald Reagan is doing a terrible job. See, I'm totally free'...
"Reagan told those stories to Gorbachev."
Martella asked: "Did Gorbachev laugh?"
Gingrich: "Gorbachev was not very amused at first, but Reagan was making a point to him, and the point was, we know how bad your system is and you know how bad your system is."
Martella asked Gingrich, himself an historian, how he thinks Ronald Reagan will be characterized by future historians.
"I think he'll be seen as one of the two greatest presidents of the 20th century, along with Franklin Delano Roosevelt," Gingrich declared.
When Reagan took over the country from Jimmy Carter, America was in a "total mess," Gingrich added, and "in a matter of years he totally turned everything around. I think people will look back and realize this is one of the most principled and courageous and disciplined leaders in American history."
Editor's Note: See the full video - Go Here Now.
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