Ames, Iowa (CNN) - In a break from his anti-President Obama flame-throwing, Newt Gingrich used a campaign appearance Friday to offer rare public praise for the president on the killing of American-born al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
"We're going to take out Al Qaeda, the way they just did it in Yemen, where I do give the president credit," Gingrich said at a town hall at Iowa State University on Friday.
"Any American, who actively advocates killing Americans, places themselves in our Constitution as a traitor," Gingrich added. "The American who the president authorized killing in Yemen was an enemy combatant. Enemy combatants don't get Miranda rights. I think it's very important that this is a war…the president, in this one area, is right."
Gingrich's comments echo fellow GOP candidates who put out written statements. Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, also praised the president, "I commend the President, the members of the intelligence community, our service members, and our allies for their continued efforts to keep Americans safe."
Rep. Michele Bachmann lauded the killing but didn't note any presidential role, "I want to applaud and thank our men and women in uniform, and those who gather intelligence, for their brave and sacrificial work."
Meanwhile, though Gingrich's presidential praise was indeed substantial – it was also brief. Just moments before, he accused the Obama administration of secretly being anti-military.
Those words came in response to a question from a military service member in the audience who said the recently lifted ban on gays serving openly in the military will have a corrosive impact on unit cohesion.
"Can that Genie be put back in the bottle?" the questioner asked Gingrich.
"You can certainly reverse the president's position on social engineering in the military," Gingrich responded. The wording was similar to a slam he previously made against a fellow Republican, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. In May, following Ryan's controversial budget proposal, Gingrich called it "right-wing social engineering," - words he later walked back after a mountain of conservative criticism.
At the town hall, Gingrich continued his White House slam.
"This is an administration of extraordinary anti-military prejudice which just hides it," he said.
Gingrich went on to criticize one option under consideration by the Obama administration to potentially reduce U.S. troops in Iraq to 3,000. Currently, over 40,000 troops are in that country.
"I am totally opposed to 3,000 troops being left in Iraq," Gingrich said. The former House Speaker claimed the remaining U.S. troops wouldn't be able to adequately defend themselves against Iran who "have every vested interest in killing us."
"3,000 is a political number," Gingrich said.
Meanwhile, Gingrich explained one noteworthy political intention.
Saying that national security gets short shrift in the current presidential campaign landscape, Gingrich said: "I'm going to propose to the other candidates, that we have three or four debates – only on national security – and only allow [military] Generals to be the questioners, no news media. So we have a serious national security debate."
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