September 15th, 2013
12:25 PM ET
11 months ago

Gingrich: The U.S. is 'following from behind'

Washington (CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich knocked President Barack Obama on foreign policy Sunday, saying the president is "leading from behind" in the United States-Russia negotiations over Syria's chemical weapons.

"Russian influence just increased in the Middle East dramatically. We are now relying on the Russians. We're now following from behind," said Gingrich, who's now a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire." "This is not a good long-term position."

Russia and the U.S. announced Saturday they had reached an agreement on a framework for Syria to hand over control of its chemical weapons.

While Obama said in a statement the agreement "represents an important concrete step" forward, he cautioned that the U.S. is prepared to act if the diplomatic option fails.

Echoing criticism from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, Gingrich said Russia has now taken the leading position in brokering the agreement – a position that shouldn't be trusted.

"You have (Russian President Vladimir) Putin playing chess, you have Obama playing frankly a very lucky game of tic-tac-toe," Gingrich said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Putin stepped in, but he didn't step in to save Barack Obama. Putin stepped in to maximize Russia's influence in the Middle East. That is strategically a defeat for the United States - the biggest defeat for us since the 1970s."

Republican Sen. John McCain, joining in the criticism, argued the new agreement is "meaningless" because "there's no penalty for noncompliance."

"There was no agreement on the use of force or sanctions by the United Nations, showing that unless Russia agrees, there's is no punishment for noncompliance for Bashar al-Assad," McCain told reporters.

But others argued that critics were simply overlooking the big picture.

"In the end, we're not going to be dropping bombs over there," CNN political commentator Cornell Belcher said on "State of the Union." "In the end, he's going to get rid of the chemical weapons. We're not going to war, like the American people didn't want to. I think it's a victory."

Neera Tanden, president of American Center for Progress, said the agreement fulfills U.S. national security interests, and those who disagree are simply playing politics.

"Instead of seeing this as an achievement for America's national security interests, conservatives are looking at another way to score points against the president," she said on the same program.

For his part, Obama also seemed to brush off criticism from skeptics. In an interview that aired Sunday, he said he's not worried about the negative reactions over how he's handled the Syria situation, saying Washington tends to make judgments based on style, rather than substance.

"Had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear - they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy," he said on ABC's "This Week." "We know that, 'cause that's exactly how they graded the Iraq War - until it ended up … blowing up in our face."

"I'm less concerned about style points," he added. "I'm much more concerned about getting the policy right."

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Filed under: Newt Gingrich • President Obama • Russia • Syria • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. paul

    We look weak right now, Obama has weakened our nation and made us look like fools. The worlds now see's Russia as a more powerful nation than ours. For all of you that was against military acton, you should all be thrilled now, but now the USA will pay the price. We are now mud in the Middle East, and have opened the door for hell.

    September 15, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  2. king

    Gingrich was you for the president to strike Syria. if you wasn't shut your blow hole up. i am sick and tired of these repubs playing both side of the line. the line that the president chooses will be the line the repubs attacks. everyone is cashing in on the division and the obstructionism going on in our country. they see a week country because we dont have any unity, and foreign country doesnt have to play divide and conquer anymore, because the repubs have already done the dividing part for them. this is very damaging for our country. hey what is this fascination the right wing has with this communist Putin

    September 15, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Thomas

    Gingrich , the man who thought he would beat Romney now finds himself on a desk panel at CNN .

    Let Putin take some responsibility , his clients after all . Look at how the Russians left Afghanistan . Russia has muslim countries who share borders , and they dislike the Russians.

    September 15, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. Ron L

    The American political EGO has gotten out of hand!! We can't always threaten to BLOW UP everybody. And we can't sit and sulk because Russia helped solved the problem taking away Americas thunder!! We need to grow up, what is important is Syria giving up the chemical weapons, not who or what deserves the most credit that it happened.

    September 15, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  5. Thomas Burk

    Newt Gingrich tries to figure out in every instance what makes President Obama look ineffective and weak. The American people and congress did not want military action in Syria. We have been attempting to get China to lead with respect to North Korea for decades and yet, when Russia (i.e., Putin) takes the lead because of it's influence with Syria, Gingrich isn't happy...Newt is irrelevant and yet is still looking ahead to 2016.

    September 15, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    Following from behind or leading from ahead? Newt is confused and should continue with his moon colony plans.

    September 15, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. rs

    Republicans love this line:" following from behind" "leading from behind" and so on.

    It could be a late night punchline for them: Their party has done nothing for America for 5 years (and that only works if you think Bush Jr. actually accomplished anything positive).

    Bottom line: the GOP stands for nothing; it has no coherent policy or over-arching philosophy except" "let's make stuff worse". And they have the nerve to think they can sat Mr. Obama and the Democrat aren't leaders. What losers!

    September 15, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  8. Winston Smith

    Yes! We've been following from behind since the days of shrub No.2. Thanks to the party of can't, won't and no, the whole damn country is falling behind. What (to their minds), would fix this is a few cuts to all social programs and especially education. That way when the next generation does fall behind, they won't recognize the fact until it's too late to correct. And the next generation of rich, do nothing but point fingers brats can still point and still be rich.

    September 15, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  9. Michael Benjamin

    Is there another way to follow?

    September 15, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    McCain and the grinch, the Cold War is OVER. If Russia helps , even in a small way, you old timers freak out , it's called diplomacy . Who cares if Russia gets a little bump out of it.

    September 15, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    In a follow up statement, the former House Speaker was heard to say...
    " Who's been painting my roses red?
    Who's been painting my roses red?
    Who dares to taint, with vulgar paint
    The royal flower bed?
    For painting my roses red,
    Someone will lose his head"!

    September 15, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  12. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    I think behind might be the new front for all you cold warriors,it's called caution and the Cold War is OVER!!!!!

    September 15, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  13. gmkjr

    So did Mr. Gingrich say what he would be doing, if the American people had availed themselves of the chance to make him president last year, or did he limit himself to criticism of President Obama's policies. Criticism is easy, actually outlining a plan that would resolve the Syria situation in a way that furthers the US's interests in the middle east is a much more difficult exercise. We have a situation where a continuing empasse may be the best outcfome for the US, since it is VERY difficult for the US to oppose self-determination for the Syrian people or to support a government that has used chemical weapons on its own population, the rebels present a threat to our interests, and the continuing war will make it more difficultfor Syria to make trouble in the middle east, and especially with our primary friend in the middle east, Isreal.

    September 15, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  14. rs

    I think every news organization needs to note every single time someone in the GOP makes some lame complaint about the administration, and fails to say what it they would do if they were in that place. Further notice should be made when the GOP contradicts itself. If they lie- nail 'em with it.

    September 15, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    The latest GOP talking point: "We look weak because of President Obama." Funny, the president did exactly what Roger Ailes of Fox said should be done by Putin in regard to Syria (about a year ago and found on page 103 of Ailes' authorized biography):

    "If I were president, I’d get in a room with him [Putin] and say, 'Look at the slaughter going on in Syria. You can stop it. Do it., and I'll see to it that you get all the credit. I'll tell the world it was you who saved the innocent ...

    "Everybody has an ego. Everybody needs dignity. And what does it cost? You get what you want, you give up nothing."

    IOKIYAR

    September 15, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  16. Anthony in California

    "From behind" and not a single American live lost. (or WW3)
    "From the front (like Bush) and 2 countries destroyed, over 4k US soldiers killed, and Obama still had to come in and order the "double-tap" on Bin Laden.

    Republicans sure love doing things the most costliest way possible.

    September 15, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  17. Evergreen

    The American people said loud and clear that Syria is not our problem and the President listened. It's o.k. To let Mr.Putin do the heavy lifting on this one.

    September 15, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  18. giggig

    no – we are not even following, we are divided and therefore not capable to follow, not at all , to lead.These UN inspectors will get fooled and abused as human shield . The Gas attack was executed by thugs,maybe Assad maybe not! What does it matter anymore ? We have to o forward now,tell Putin to step aside there, Pack it up , We,we are also NATO, establish Air dominance, get the VETO's in the UN for the records and later for proving false play, Move/roll carefully inland from all sides.With Jordan,Turkey;With or without Israel rolling.Towards Damascus,the Palace of the Assad's. Take the opponents POW's to find out ,if they even belong there.Not too many would be willing to die for Assad they will defect. Then we make the inventory ,the comprehensive inventory of the arsenals.Repatriate the 2000000 refugees
    repatriate the 100000 refugees already migrated to Europe.
    What about Assad and Family,the dynasty ? Well , by that time we would have the definate clue as to , who were the thugs using chemicals.If the dynasty clears from that, no reason to ask the relinguish power and can be restored to them, and amnesty to the FSA.

    September 15, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  19. Ramson

    I would be very surprised if they were following from the front which is impossible

    September 15, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  20. Amazing

    And what would Newt do? First, who cares? Second, the threat of force was a major factor in moving diplomacy forward. Giving weapons to the rebels is not a smart move when it is unclear who you are dealing ( as opposed to the Libya situation). Newt needs to retire and realize he has had his day!

    September 15, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  21. Lily

    The reason Russia was able to "step in" and guide the agreement to dispose of chem weapons is that our Prez made a very bad call by advocating for "surgical strikes" (bombing) of Syria as a pay back for supposedly Assad's use of them. This allowed Russia to come and "save the day" by offering up a solution to Obama's very bad call. Let's hope this is a lesson to our government that most people in this world will no longer tolerate "surgical strikes" (war) as a viable response to countries' internal problems.

    September 15, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |