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Reagan Biographer Says Gingrich Lies

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Newt Gingrich Falsely Claims to be Reagan Heir ApparentA short discussion between Andrea Mitchell and Al Hunt, executive editor of Bloomberg, caught my attention when they discussed Newt Gingrich’s assertion that he was Reagan’s anointed leader of the conservative movement.

In this discussion, Mitchell showed the video of Nancy Reagan in which Gingrich claims she endorsed him as her husband’s heir apparent. It’s obvious from the discussion, Mrs. Reagan meant something entirely different.

It should be remembered that Reagan had a sunny disposition. Even during his debates and campaign against President Carter, he never called Carter a liar or an evil person or as attempting to destroy the U.S. Although at times during debates he implied Carter wasn’t being totally honest, he refrained from calling Carter a liar. Reagan, instead, pointed out honest policy differences between their two governing policies.

The same cannot be said of Gingrich. Gingrich’s modus operandi since he became Speaker of the House has been a “scorched earth” policy enabling Republicans to become a permanent majority and he alone becomes its leader. As his second wife said in he interview in Esquire in August of 2010, Gingrich believes he deserves to be President…not because he has better ideas but because his ego demands it. In this respect, he reminds me of Nixon.

Leaving aside my own personal opinions of Gingrich from his days as Speaker, Al Hunt follows up with a enlightening editorial of Gingrich’s claim as Reagan’s heir apparent.

Here are the money quotes from that editorial:

“Gingrich had absolutely nothing to do with the Reagan Revolution,” replies Lou Cannon, who as a journalist covered the entire Reagan presidency and wrote the best biography of the 40th president, “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.”

“There were congressmen who influenced Reagan, especially Jack Kemp,” Cannon said in an interview. “I’m not sure Reagan even knew who Gingrich was.”

Gingrich is only mentioned once in Cannon’s book, in a discussion about the post-Reagan era. In one of the former president’s own books, “The Reagan Diaries,” the ex-Georgia congressman comes up only once in passing and the reference is largely negative. He doesn’t appear at all in Reagan’s autobiography, “An American Life” or Edmund Morris’ biography, “Dutch.”

Later in the editorial, Hunt adds:

The oldest man ever elected president regaled voters with stories about the past while always looking to the future. To him, American exceptionalism was more than a campaign slogan and he really believed the country’s best days were ahead. “Reagan projected the future,” Cannon recalls. “These guys don’t.”

The candidate who presents himself as an original Reaganite is Gingrich. Campaigning in Florida this weekend, he said he was “very proud to run on a Reagan-Gingrich record.” The Georgia lawmaker, in fact, was a backbencher in the House during the 1980s; while he brilliantly plotted the Republican takeover of the House a decade later, he played almost no role in the Reagan agenda.

His assertions to the contrary infuriate Reagan-watchers like Cannon. “I find Gingrich almost condescending in the way he talks about Reagan,” he says. “He tries to attach himself to the coattails or the image, saying, ‘I’m Reaganesque,’ without any evidence.”


Written by Valerie Curl

January 30, 2012 at 6:06 PM

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