Here’s what Elliot Abrams, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs under Reagan, wrote about what Newt allegedly said about Reagan and his policies toward the Soviet Union:
“Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet empire’s challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing, and without a dramatic change in strategy will continue to fail. . . . President Reagan is clearly failing.”
Here’s what Newt actually said — in context. Pay attention to the distinction between Reagan and those in his administration. It’s the key to the story:
“The fact is that George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Irving Kristol, and Jeane Kirkpatrick are right in pointing out the enormous gap between President Reagan’s strong rhetoric, which is adequate, and his administration’s weak policies, which are inadequate and will ultimately fail.”
Newt was attacking the people in Reagan’s administration who wanted Reagan to tone down the anti-Soviet rhetoric. These are the same people who wanted Reagan to remove the line “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” from his speech at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987.
Gee whiz, how could anyone have read the transcript of Gingrich’s March 21, 1986 Special Order speech and gotten the quote so horribly wrong? The answer, of course, is that he actually said both. Abrams’s quote appears in the tenth paragraph of Gingrich’s speech (or the third full paragraph of the third column of p. 5886 of the Congressional Record), while the part cited by DeMar is the second full paragraph of p. 5887. And even DeMar’s doesn’t say what DeMar says it says; in it, Gingrich clear attacked Reagan’s policies, not any individuals working in his administration, and certainly not about a speech in Berlin that would not be made until more than a year later. Indeed, far from making this about the faceless, bureaucratic squishes DeMar wants it to be about (who, it should be noted, Gingrich would indeed go after later in the speech), Gingrich further clarified (p. 5887, paragraph 4) that:
The burden of this failure frankly must be placed first on President Reagan; he is the President.
Gingrich also had some nice things to say about the President, and all in all it wasn’t a huge bombshell of a speech that ought to figure high on anyone’s list of priorities in deciding who to vote for in next week’s primaries. But it’s certainly not grounds for calling Abrams a liar simply for recalling different true facts than the ones DeMar wished he had.