As I reported yesterday, at least a few former Reagan administration officials say that, in his campaign comments, Newt Gingrich has rewritten the history of his relationship with Ronald Reagan. Today, a number of counterbalancing voices say those officials — and not Gingrich — are the ones who are shading the facts.
On Fox News, for example, Ed Rollins, Ronald Reagan’s national campaign manager, described Gingrich as one of “the most important players and most loyal to Ronald Reagan”:
Specifically, Abrams implies that Newt Gingrich was spewing mindless vitriol about Reagan on the House floor. Not only not so, it was quite to the contrary. Of President Reagan, Gingrich says:
• “Let me be clear: I have the greatest respect for President Reagan. I think he personally understands the threat of communism.” Gingrich then goes on — at Newtonian length — praising Reagan for Reagan’s understanding of Lenin, Reagan’s understanding of the real “purposes of a Soviet dictatorship” and much more. He lists and applauds Reagan repeatedly for the President’s appreciation of “the threat in a more powerful Soviet empire” and the threats posed by Communist Cuba and Nicaragua. He ranks Reagan with the great cold war presidents in protecting freedom.
In short, time after time after [time], Newt Gingrich — true to form — is there on the floor of the House relentlessly praising and crediting Ronald Reagan. Is it any wonder that years later Nancy Reagan would speak so publicly and warmly about “Ronnie” passing the conservative torch to Newt? Is there any wonder that Michael Reagan has stepped into the middle of this current brawl to endorse Newt?
Lord, like Rollins, characterizes this argument about Gingrich’s past as beneath the dignity of those who are broaching it.
The difference between skepticism and cynicism, a dear professor once told me, is that a skeptic demands to be shown while a cynic refuses to be shown. While I remain skeptical about whether Gingrich would be the best GOP nominee of the remaining four contenders, I’ll not be cynical. As Mr. Lord pointed out in his post, all of the candidates have real strengths and weaknesses. It serves no purpose to manufacture false ones.
It appears that, in the case of Gingrich’s relationship with Reagan, “perception is reality.” Those who like Newt Gingrich consider him to have been a close ally of a universally beloved conservative icon, while those who are wary of him (or who prefer Mitt Romney) consider him to have been a self-interested and occasionally rhetorically disloyal member of Reagan’s GOP. What’s the true story? For those who weren’t around at the time, it’s hard to know — but, either way, the fact remains that this election is not about the 1980s and Ronald Reagan; it’s about 2012 and Barack Obama. What matters most to me is who among the current GOP contenders stands the best chance to stop him from winning reelection.