My old friend Elliott Abrams has claimed that assertions by Newt Gingrich that he helped Ronald Reagan defeat communism from the House are “misleading at best.”
I was quite surprised and disheartened to read this in a prominent journal. It simply isn’t true. Abrams is certainly correct, however, in pointing out the fights over stopping communist expansionism were “exceptionally bitter.”
Abrams goes on to assert that the “most bitter battleground was often the Congress.” It is true that the battle for the anti-communist Nicaraguan Contras to get $100 million from the Congress took place in the House; however, what he also must remember is that our battles
(Abrams and I were on the same side) were equally if not more hard-fought within the administration itself in the departments of state and defense, in the CIA, in the National Security Council and among the senior White House staff.
Gingrich was, in the speech in question, I believe, giving Ronald Reagan a heads up that he should come down hard on the “moderate” Republicans and career civil servants who were frustrating his policies internally.
I was the director of the White House Office of Public Liaison from 1983 to 1985, the only woman member of the Reagan senior White House staff. In that position, I also directed the White House working group on Central America.
My office (Bob Reilly in particular) was wholeheartedly involved in making the president’s case for stopping the spread of communism in our hemisphere by making the reasons for the president’s policies better understood.
In our efforts, the Republican establishment and the career bureaucracy were as much of a problem as the left. They tried to subvert Reagan’s policies from the inside at every turn.
Newt Gingrich was keenly aware of this. I simply cannot believe that Elliott Abrams would allow his good name to be used in this error by omission, the details of which have thankfully been carefully researched, refuted, and confirmed by Rush Limbaugh and Jeffrey Lord.
As one who was in the middle of the fray, if only in a minor role, I can testify that Newt Gingrich was on President Reagan’s side. Not every Republican was.
For instance, the important Republican rising star and House member from my own state, Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, was not. The establishment Republicans on the whole (the same group attacking Newt Gingrich now) believed stopping the spread of and defeating communism was too controversial and would drive up the president’s negatives. The issue should be “downplayed.”
It was better in their minds to seek stability, accept the status quo and not stir up the ire of the left by making the anti-communist case too forcefully — as a matter of the first and most urgent priority not only for Central America but also for Afghanistan, SDI, and defeating the USSR in general.
The 1985 Geneva Summit was considered “dangerous for the West” because it was feared that Ronald Reagan would be influenced from inside his own administration to give away too much.
Those forces were powerful and had their own White House staff, CIA, State Department and Defense Department allies. The battles raged.
In Geneva, at the summit, we even had separate after-hours parties for the “hawks” and the “doves.” Phyllis Schlafly, Elaine Donnelly and other Republican ladies came over to picket the left demonstrators there and support the hawks, chief among them the truly heroic figures of Bill Clark, Bill Casey and Richard Perle. I was there, too.
So, for all those Reagan lovers out there, please don’t let a misleading Romney super PAC ad influence you! It is disinformation. Newt Gingrich was never beloved by the establishment, both Democrat and Republican. Now they will not rest until they bring him down. Same story . . . same cast.
I can attest to the facts: Newt Gingrich truly believed in Ronald Reagan’s anti-communism and acted on his beliefs. He was a kindred spirit.
He courageously took on the Republican establishment to become speaker of the House and won in the same way Sarah Palin took on the Republican establishment in Alaska and won. Ronald Reagan did the same thing with the Rockefeller Republicans.
Their establishment successors, e.g., Dole, McCain, Romney, today will never give up the struggle to discredit real conservatives like Newt Gingrich in order to preserve their own power in the Republican Party, even if, by their actions, they risk the election.
Faith Whittlesey served as ambassador to Switzerland under President Ronald Reagan.
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