Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich may be slipping in the polls, but he will deliver a speech at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington, a spokesman for AIPAC confirmed today.
Gingrich's speech will be on the morning on March 5, one day after U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the conference and before the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will speak that evening. Obama and Netanyahu will meet in the Oval Office that day.
Last December, Gingrich made news when he called the Israeli-Palestinian peace process "delusional" and called the Palestinians an "invented" people. He also said the Palestinian Authority and Hamas share "an enormous desire to destroy Israel."
"If I'm even-handed between a civilian democracy that obeys the rule of law and a group of terrorists who are firing missiles every day, that's not even-handed. That's favoring the terrorists," Gingrich said.
Gingrich's campaign has benefited from more than $10 million in donations to a Gingrich-supporting Super PAC from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of Netanyahu and owner of the daily Israel Hayom.
In addition to Gingrich, Obama, and Netanyahu, the current list of confirmed speakers now includes: Israeli President Shimon Peres, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Jane Harman, CNN Contributor Paul Begala, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Fox News contributor Liz Cheney, editor of The Weekly Standard William Kristol, and political analyst for NBC News Mike Murphy.
Kristol is on the board of the Emergency Committee for Israel, a group that has sponsored several ad campaigns accusing Obama of being "not pro-Israel." The group is also the only Israel-focused advocacy organization to have formed a SuperPAC in the run up to the 2012 election. The other two board members of ECI are Gary Bauer, who today endorsed Rick Santorum, and Rachel Abrams, the wife of former NSC official Elliott Abrams, and the author of the controversial Israel-focused blog "Bad Rachel."
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GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's foreign policy beliefs are largely undefined and he has already flip-flopped on important issues, said Mitt Romney surrogate and former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.
"Newt's current views on foreign policy are a work in progress," Pawlenty told The Cable in a Tuesday interview following his speech at the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) 2011 Forum. "Some of this has yet to be revealed as it relates to Newt. Mitt's been out talking about foreign policy issues in detail for a long time. So his foreign policy positions are much more developed than Newt's."
Calling Romney the most qualified GOP candidate on foreign policy and national security issues, Pawlenty -- who said he is co-chairman of Romney's campaign -- also accused Gingrich of twice changing his position on U.S. policy toward Libya.
"[Gingrich] was for the no-fly zone, then he backed off the no-fly zone, then he was for it again," said Pawlenty. "I think he whirled around two or three times on the Libya question."
In fact, Gingrich called for a no-fly zone on March 7, just before the Libya war began, and then said after the operation began, said "I would not have intervened." Romney has also come under fire for what many have seen as a shifting position on President Barack Obama's military intervention in Libya.
Pawlenty declined to say that Romney outright rejects Gingrich's recent claim that the Palestinian identity is "invented." However, he did say that Romney probably wouldn't use those exact words -- at least not before checking with the Israeli government.
"One of the tests that Mitt would apply to using phrases that characterize people or organizations in a tense situation would be to call the prime minister of Israel and say, ‘If I used a characterization like this, would it be helpful or hurtful to Israel's goals and objectives in the region and their security,'" said Pawlenty. "Mitt articulated that he doesn't think that kind of rhetoric would be helpful to that situation."
Gingrich's recent attack on Palestinian identity does seem to contradict his previous writing on the issue. In a memo sent to the Defense Department leadership in 2003 titled "Seven Strategic Necessities," he advocated strong support for moderate Palestinians who were fighting against Hamas.
"The only hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinian people is for the United States to overtly ally with those Palestinians who will accept Israel if they have safety, health, prosperity and freedom and in this alliance defeat and ultimately eliminate the threat of the terrorists, " Gingrich wrote at the time. "Victory in the Israel-Palestinian conflict thus inherently means victory both in a campaign against terrorists and in a campaign to build a safe, healthy, prosperous, free Palestinian society."
Pawlenty maintained that Romney has the clearest and most detailed foreign policy positions of any GOP primary candidate. "He is calling for a reset of the reset with respect to Russia, and he would take a much more forceful stance with China in regards to their manipulation and pegging of their currency," Pawlenty said.
In what seemed like a threat of a trade war, Pawlenty said that as president, Romney would label China as a "currency manipulator," give it "fair warning" to change its behavior, and then invoke "financial consequences" on various trade relations with China.
What foreign policy experience would Romney bring to the presidency, we asked?
"Well, he as a governor has had exposure to many of these issues, not in the same way a president would have," Pawlenty explained. "For example, he was the commander-in-chief of the National Guard on state duty and when you come into contact with the military that regularly, you obviously learn command-and-control structures, techniques, and the like."
Romney also led a homeland security committee inside the National Governors Association and has traveled extensively abroad, Pawlenty said.
"When you are an executive leader you learn executive function and in the case of being a governor, you are significantly immersed in security and homeland security issues," Pawlenty said.
Does Romney give Obama any credit for recent victories in capturing and killing Islamist extremists?
"Mitt has acknowledged that President Obama did a good job in hunting down Osama bin Laden and others, but he has also noted that many of the techniques and tools that were presumably used in finding and killing those individuals were developed in the previous administration, and some of which President Obama opposed," Pawlenty said.
During the Q&A session following Pawlenty's FPI speech, Brookings scholar Robert Kagan suggested that Pawlenty would be a good choice for secretary of state in a future Romney administration. Pawlenty declined to put himself forward for that role.
"I'm happy to help Mitt as a volunteer doing all that I can. In my view, on foreign policy, he is clearly the most knowledgeable, the most capable, and the most electable," Pawlenty said. "But it would irresponsible to the campaign to start talking about winning the election and dividing up positions."
GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is rolling out his foreign policy and national security team today, as the candidates get ready to spar on foreign policy issues tonight.
Newt's team, which has been working together informally for months, is led by Herman Pirchner, the founding president of a small, conservative think tank in Washington called the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC). Also on Team Newt is AFPC Vice President Ilan Berman and AFPC Senior Fellow for Asian Studies Stephen Yates, a former staffer for Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney's top Middle East advisor David Wurmser is also part of the Newt campaign advisory team, along with former President Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, Reagan-era National Security Council (NSC) senior directors Norman Bailey and Ken deGraffenreid, Reagan-era Undersecretary of State for security assistance, science, and technology Bill Schneider, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and others. We're also told Newt is talking to former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace and former Central Command head Gen. John Abizaid.
If Newt's foreign policy team seems a little long in the tooth, it is. Most of these experts have known Newt for decades, and see themselves as helping a candidate who already boasts a long track record and well-formed intellectual identity when it comes to foreign policy.
"I have depended on the counsel of this world-class group of experts throughout my career, and I am honored that they have decided to be with me as we work to ensure that the United States remains the safest, strongest, and freest country in the world," Gingrich said in his Tuesday press release. "I look forward to drawing on their vast knowledge and experience as we assert our vision of an exceptional America that, contrary to what Barack Obama may believe, will continue to be both the world's leading power and most assiduous defender of freedom for generations to come."
"In order to lead, one must have a comprehensive knowledge of world issues and dynamics that can only come from decades of study and experience," said Pirchner. "I have worked with Speaker Gingrich for many years, and in these dangerous times, he is by far the best candidate to lead when American lives and American interests are at stake."
As House speaker, Gingrich weighed in on the U.S. interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti and was a key supporter of North American Free Trade Agreement and other major Clinton-era trade deals. Since leaving politics, he has researched, as an independent scholar, the roles of Reagan and Pope John Paul II in the closing days of the Cold War. He holds a PhD in modern European history.
As to his stance on foreign policy, Gingrich is not a realist in the sense of Henry Kissinger or Brent Scowcroft, nor is he a neoconservative in the model often attributed to Paul Wolfowitz or Doug Feith.
"I don't think either of those labels would apply to Newt Gingrich," Yates told The Cable today. "His world view is one that emphasizes being actively competitive. We don't need to impose our will in the world but we ought not to be hiding behind our desks."
For a more detailed idea of how President Gingrich would organize his national security and foreign policy priorities, a campaign advisor provided to The Cable a memo Newt sent to the Defense Department leadership in 2003 titled "Seven Strategic Necessities."
"We need an elevated debate about the larger zone of American security and the threats to that security," Newt wrote.
He advocated that the debate over national security should aim to divide the nation into three factions: "Those who would hide and ignore reality (essentially the McGovern-Dean Democrats), those who pretend to be responsible but really want to carp and complain without an effective alternative, and those who understand that this will be a hard campaign and may take years and will involve mistakes."
Newt also advocated strong support for moderate Palestinians who were fighting against Hamas for control of Palestinian society and government.
"The only hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinian people is for the United States to overtly ally with those Palestinians who will accept Israel if they have safety, health, prosperity and freedom and in this alliance defeat and ultimately eliminate the threat of the terrorists, " he wrote. "Victory in the Israel-Palestinian conflict thus inherently means victory both in a campaign against terrorists and in a campaign to build a safe, healthy, prosperous, free Palestinian society."
Several members of Newt's foreign policy team will be on hand tonight for the AEI/Heritage/CNN foreign policy-focused presidential debate. Your humble Cable guy and Foreign Policy's Election 2012 team will be at the debate and covering it in real time, so watch this space.
For a rundown of Newt's foreign policy positions during this campaign season, check out his profile on FP's new Election 2012 channel here. See a full list of Newt's foreign policy advisory team with bios after the jump:
Foreign policy turned out to be a prominent part of Thursday night's GOP primary debate. The questions covered a range of countries -- and the accuracy of the candidates' responses was similarly all over the map.
Almost all the candidates committed unforced errors when talking about foreign policy and national security. Tim Pawlenty made the first mistake, when he referred to Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a "general." Mullen is an admiral in the U.S. Navy. Pawlenty also said that Gen. David Petraeus told him that it would take "two years from last summer to have an orderly and successful wind down of our mission in Afghanistan, at least in terms of our troop withdrawal, and President Obama has accelerated that."
"Two years from last summer" would mean that Petraeus was calling for significant troop withdrawals by the summer of 2012. That's exactly the timeline that Obama has set for the withdrawal of the 30,000 surge troops. Pawlenty is correct that Obama wants to withdraw U.S. forces faster than what Petraeus recommended, but his explanation of Petraeus's timeline was off.
Mitt Romney tried to clear up the confusion over his comments on Afghanistan in the last debate, when he said, "It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can -- as soon as our generals think it's okay.... One lesson we‘ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation's war of independence." Some Republicans interpreted that statement as Romney calling for a quick exit.
Last night, Romney said he always supported a slower exit than what Obama has announced, but he incorrectly stated that U.S. military leaders "recommended to President Obama that we should not start drawing our troops down until after the fighting season in 2012." But nowhere in congressional testimony have Mullen and Petraeus ever said the drawdown should begin after the 2012 summer fighting season, nor have they said that in any other public forum.
Adding to the inaccuracy, Jon Huntsman called for more engagement with the Chinese government. "We need a strategic dialogue at the highest levels between the United States and China," he said. "That's not happening."
As Obama's former ambassador to China, Huntsman surely must know that there have already been two rounds of the "U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue," which was initiated in 2009, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and included over 200 U.S. officials and a similar number of Chinese government representatives.
In fact, Huntsman even participated in the dialogue in Beijing in May 2010 and wrote a blog post about it, where he said that Clinton and Geithner "both told me they viewed the dialogue as a broad success. I couldn't agree more."
That's not to mention that Obama and President Hu Jintao have met personally 9 times, Clinton meets with her counterpart Yang Jiechi on a regular basis, and Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Beijing next week to see Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.
Newt Gingrich was called on in the debate to clear up what many saw as his changing position on Libya: he called for a no-fly zone on March 7, just before the Libya war began, and then said after the operation began, "I would not have intervened."
Gingrich accused the debate moderator, Fox News's Bret Baier, of using a "gotcha" question for asking him to clarify his position and then said that he called for the no fly-zone on March 7 because Obama "that day had announced gloriously to the world as the president of the United States that Qaddafi had to go." But, in fact, Obama first called for Qaddafi's departure on March 3, four days earlier.
Gingrich then said Obama reversed his position on Libya, claiming that the president shifted away from his call for Qaddafi to leave power in favor of a humanitarian intervention. In reality, Obama has always maintained that Qaddafi must go, although he is clear that the mandate of the military intervention in Libya does not include the mission to oust Qaddafi,
On Syria, Pawlenty mischaracterized Obama and Clinton's statements on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "Until recently, [Obama] and Hillary Clinton suggested that Bashar Assad was a reformer. He's not a reformer, he's a killer." In fact, Obama has never referred to Assad as a reformer. Clinton said in March that she had heard from "lawmakers" who had visited Damascus that the Syrian president was a reformer.
A good portion of the foreign policy section of last night's debate featured a battle over Iran policy between Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and others. But that debate was riddled with factual errors and mischaracterizations.
Paul, who has taken the mantle of the Tea Party isolationist wing of the GOP, said that the CIA had confirmed they have no evidence that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon. Although a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran had halted its drive to produce a nuclear weapons, in March 2010, a CIA report to Congress concluded that "Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so." In June of that year, CIA chief Leon Panetta said that the Iranians "are developing their nuclear capability and that raises concerns," and "[w]e think they have enough low-enriched uranium right now for two weapons."
Santorum contended that Iran "has killed more American men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan than the Iraqis and the Afghanistanis [sic] have." Yes, Iran has supplied al Qaeda in Iraq with weapons and supported militant groups such as the Mahdi Army, resulting in the deaths of many U.S. troops, but the link to Afghanistan is extremely tenuous. Put simply, there are no statistics that support Santorum's claim.
Whether foreign policy becomes a key part of the GOP primary debate remains to be seen. But so far, the accuracy and command of details on foreign policy issues leaves a lot to be desired.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.