The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Ire of Newt

May 20, 2009

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has declared war on current speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Why? Well, Gingrich says Pelosi lied when she claimed that the CIA withheld information from her about waterboarding in 2002 briefings.

Here’s Gingrich on Fox News, May 17:

I was really surprised and even stunned by her comments yesterday, where she alleged that the American intelligence agencies routinely lied to the Congress. I know it’s false. I know that it demeans every person who’s working to defend this country….

I think Speaker Pelosi’s in enormous trouble. I think that lying to the country on national security matters and lying to the House is a very, very dangerous thing to have done.

The next day, on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Gingrich called for Pelosi to resign, arguing that “She really disqualified herself to be the speaker.”

“She has a unique responsibility for national security. … She made this allegation that smears everyone who’s trying to defend her.”

Leaving her in her place would be “very dangerous for the country,” Gingrich added.

Other Republicans have piled on as well, including House Minority leader John Boehner who has called for Pelosi to apologize to the CIA. Democrats have defended Pelosi. It all looks fairly partisan.

What’s interesting here is the nature of Gingrich’s attack. He’s saying that the speaker of the House cannot accuse a U.S. foreign policy agency of misdeeds during wartime because that is a threat to national security.

Did he forget his own past? Does anyone else recall Gingrich’s war-time broadside against the State Department? In a July/August 2003 piece for Foreign Policy (read the full article here) entitled “Rogue State Department,” Gingrich argued that “the president should demand a complete overhaul of the State Department.”

In a right-wing on-line publication, Gingrich also wrote in 2003 that State was engaged in “a deliberate and systematic effort to undermine the President’s policies.” That one almost implies treason.

Gingrich added more in yet another interview with Fox News, in April 2003:

“The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success. The first days after military victory indicate the pattern of diplomatic failure is beginning once again and threatens to undo the effects of military victory,” Gingrich told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

Much of Gingrich’s rhetoric was aimed at the Near East Bureau of the State Department. Among the complaints, Gingrich blasted [Secretary of State Colin] Powell for planning a trip to Syria, working with Russia, the European Union and the United Nations on a Middle East peace road map, and focusing on prewar weapons inspections rather than regime change.

How embarassing for Gingrich on so many levels. At the time, incidentally, Bush officials said Gingrich had “stepped in it” and his comments were “out of line.”

In 2005, Gingrich accused Joseph Wilson of lying about his visit to Niger in the so-called Valerie Plame affair. Wilson, of course, went to Africa for the CIA.

In 2007, Gingrich called the National Intelligence Estimate about Iran, produced by the intelligence community (including CIA) — “fundamentally dishonest.” In Gingrich’s defense, he seems to think NIEs are produced by the State Department (which is apparently OK to attack at will).

And finally, when did Republicans start to stifle their critique of government? Or, do they only trust national security agencies?

Why do they trust them absolutely?

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.