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Newt Gingrich on President Obama’s Libya Policy and The House GOP’s Strategy

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In his Cairo speech of June 4, 2009, President Obama implicitly criticized the Iraq War as one “of choice.” I asked former Speaker Newt Gingrich on today’s show (transcript here) to compare Iraq with our latest “war of choice,” this one in Libya. The exchange:

HH: Mr. Speaker, in the Cairo speech, the President declared that Iraq was a war of choice as opposed to Afghanistan, with some implicit and indeed explicit criticism of the invasion of Iraq. Is there, in your mind, a difference between the war of choice in Iraq and the war of choice in Libya?

NG: Well, yeah, there’s a lot of differences. Iraq was a dictatorship which had been violating United Nations rules. Iraq was a dictatorship which every major intelligence community thought was trying to get weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was a country which we had spent a great deal of time and money under Bill Clinton, as well as George H.W. Bush, containing. Iraq was a totally different situation. Libya, you know, there’s no Obama principle engaged here. If it’s because the government’s killing civilians, explain Sudan. Explain Zimbabwe. Explain North Korea. Explain Iran. I mean, you know, I can’t tell you, and I’m not sure anybody can tell you, how this president thinks about serious problems. They got engaged. I sometimes think they respond to news conferences, and to the New York Times editorial page. They got engaged, they decided it mattered, they said things they couldn’t support, they drifted into it, they stopped paying attention. They ended up with President Sarkozy of France providing leadership in the U.N. in a way we have never seen before. I mean, here’s the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, basically you have a spectator-in-chief who’s turned the United States into a spectator nation. And we sit to one side and watch the French do the leading? I mean, it made no sense. And then, of course, it turns out the French have a totally different strategy from ours, so we invented a no-fly zone. Remember, this was the big deal, no-fly zone, which the French initiated by bombing and killing tanks. Now in my study of military history, I have never seen a flying tank. So I’m not sure what the rationale was for tank killing in a no-fly zone campaign. But this is the kind of muddle that we’re in the middle of with this president.

I also asked him about the GOP House leadership and its fear of a government shutdown:

HH: Well, that takes us back to the House majority, which you once captained into a showdown and a shutdown. They seem very afraid of replaying 1995. Are they fighting the last war, Speaker Gingrich, in the House leadership? And are they making a massive mistake by telling everyone they’ll never shut down the government?

NG: Yeah, I don’t understand the fear that’s involved. We were elected in 1994 under the Contract With America. Part of the Contract was to balance the federal budget. We set out to balance the federal budget. The Clinton White House did not want to initially, and fought us over it. There was a government shutdown. We negotiated, I negotiated face to face with the President for 35 days while I was Speaker. When we got to the election of 1996, no Republican House had been reelected as a majority since 1928. And after the shutdown, we were reelected as a majority. We lost a net of two seats from what we had won in 1994. And so I wonder, when people say to me boy, that was really politically expensive, my question is to who? Our base wanted somebody who was serious, and this is part of what’s going on in the country right now. People are serious about controlling spending. They are serious about repealing Obamacare. They are serious about returning power to the states through the 10th Amendment. has the audio of the interview posted here.

I also had another in my series of conversation with House GOP appropriators who are quickly emerging as the focal point for the building criticism of the timidity of the House GOP caucus when it comes to spending and will surely take the brunt of the blowback if the caucus collapses on the defunding of Planned Parenthood or CPB or the blocking of the Obamacare rules or EPA carbon regs. Today’s interview was with freshman Congressman Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi. The transcript is here. Key takeaway:

HH: Will you vote for another continuing resolution that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood?

AN: I’ve got a serious problem with moving forward. Going two weeks, three weeks at a time is not way to run a company, and it’s certainly no way to run a country.

HH: But does that extend to refusing to vote for anything that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood?

AN: I’m interested in moving forward, and I like the continuing resolution we passed, H.R. 1, that funded the government for seven months with significant cuts. It also defunded Planned Parenthood, which I strongly support, and I like that, and that’s what I’m interested in going forward with.

HH: But if they come back to you, and the House leadership says we can’t get that, Alan Nunnelee, we can’t get Corporation for Public Broadcasting, swallow hard and vote for this continuing resolution, would you go along with leadership at that point?

AN: Well again, I can’t commit to something until I know exactly what’s in it. I’ve got to look at the entire package. But I am very much opposed to the continuation of funding Planned Parenthood and Public Broadcasting.

Sounds like the appropriators know they cannot sell the social conservatives out and fund Planned Parenthood and CPB on a “we’ll get ’em later” basis.


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