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
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,"
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,
"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,"
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
"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."