April 20th, 2009
11:20 AM ET
14 years ago

Gingrich: Obama-Chavez exchange will become propaganda

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/20/art.gingrich.gi.jpg caption=" Gingrich said Monday the president's greeting with Chavez will be used as propaganda by enemies."]

(CNN) - President Obama's friendly encounter with Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas will be used as propaganda by enemies of the United States, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday.

Gingrich, the second high-profile Republican to criticize the president's now-famous exchange with the Venezuelan leader in as many days, said countries hostile toward America will view the cordial moment as evidence the United States accepts Chavez as an acceptable leader.

"Everywhere in Latin America, enemies of America are going to use the picture of Chavez smiling and being with the president as proof that Chavez is now legitimate that he is acceptable," Gingrich said in an interview on NBC's The Today Show.

"What I find distressing is that this administration is opposed to looking for oil offshore, but the president bows to the Saudi king, and the president is friends with Venezuela whose biggest impact on us is that they send us a lot of oil," Gingrich added.

Speaking Sunday to reporters Sunday in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Obama brushed aside criticism of the appearance, saying, "It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States."

But in his interview Monday, Gingrich said there is a "shallowness about how [the Obama administration] analyzes things."

"It does matter to the world if the United States tolerates a vicious anti-American propaganda campaign, and then smiles and greets the person who has systematically been anti-American his entire career," he said.

Gingrich's comments come a day after Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, called the exchange "irresponsible" during an interview on State of The Union with John King. (Video below)

Filed under: Newt Gingrich • President Obama
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Raul

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer !!
    I did not vote for this President but he is our President. I see Politics and Diplomacy being played out here. Way to go Obama !!!!

    April 20, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  2. Brendan

    In 1972 Richard Nixon, America's Republican president visited the People's Republic of China and had a very friendly photo-op with Mao Zedong and discussed improving relations with China and the United States. I assume this former Speaker of the House wishes Nixon had not done this because it must have "emboldened our enemies," but I tend to think diplomacy is a better tool than sticking your head in the sand which is about as much as the GOP offers us right now.

    April 20, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  3. Moody

    No ones buying it Gingrich. Weve been fooled by the republican fear tactics too many times. Its not working this time. Republicans are DONE. Good riddance.

    April 20, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  4. Buddy

    Hey Repubs.... I know this is far-fetched in your smoke filled eyes, but it may be that Chavez hated Bush and the Repubs and not America.

    Your credibility continues to decline. Good luck with that presidential run in 2012 Newt..... hahahaha.

    April 20, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  5. Dr. No

    Know what I find distressing, Newt and his ever constant bellyaching. The GOP's policy solved nothing with Chazez, Cuba, Iran and need I go on. There's got to be one Republican out there who can detail altermative policies to the Obama administration's and quit the constant "no, no, no". Millions of us have had it.

    April 20, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  6. St. Louis

    I'm proud of President Obama for following the higher values of courtesy and respect in relationship to leaders in countries all over the world. And I'm especially happy that he doesn't stoop to the morals of people like Gingrich.

    April 20, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  7. Kevin from PA

    Has anyone noticed that since President Obama has taken office all the Dems say is that we must trust our President & don’t second guess his policies? Where was this talk for the last 8 years? I thought decent was the highest form of patriotism??? Remember that line?!?!?! Dems only like / approve of free speech when you agree with their views!!

    April 20, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  8. lb

    To all those enlightened about Chavez and politics I ask this...do you really think this wasn't a planned move by Chavez and he won't be using it to his benefit? Why would Obama accept a book which slams this country? Why should we be nice to a dictator who abuuses human rights, gives financial aid to iRAN, just completed naval exercises with Russia and invited Russia to post their ships in his ports? I know Obama is lacking knowledge or ignoring
    protocol evident in his bowing to the Saud King and Michele hugging the queen but is he ignorant to history too. Clinton did the same thing for 8 years and we had 9/11. I truly fear for this country with the debt and direction he is taking us. God help our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.

    Obama can't be the great world community organizer...he is out of his league.

    April 20, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  9. Frank

    This is a new direction for our country and it takes alot more strength and clarity to keep things in perspective to make sure the US is safe and still a beacon to the world. Gingrich and his group has made the world alot less safe by their hardcore stance and prejudices. Why would we want more of the same. Gringrich and company are not credible anymore and we all know it. The news media is the culprit that encourages these types of dissent while our President is trying to make our country and world a better and safer place.

    April 20, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  10. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    Only in America where you can criticize the President Of The United State about a hand shake, now-famous exchange with the Venezuelan leader President Chaves. MY! MY! MY! What Next. Remember Gingrich was mad about President Obama DOG (SMILE)

    April 20, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  11. NVH

    Perhaps precisely because of the friendly exchange, Chavez will lose his anti-American attitude, no? Or perhaps Newt and his Republic friends like people around the world to hate the U.S. - like they did when Bush and the Republicans are in power.

    It boogles my mind how the Republicans can distort things. If Obama had been cool and distance towards Chavez, Newt would say that Obama wasn't reaching out enough. Enough of this stupidity. The Republican Party will become the party of the right-winged crazies!

    April 20, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  12. Southernbell

    Opinion or not....Newt Gingrich has influnce noted here by the number of responses.
    The video was enough to turn my stomach, however, I agree that keeping your enemies close and common courtesies are part of America culture....

    April 20, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  13. Kristi

    How are we supposed to change the ideas of countries that are anti-American by isolating ourselves, portraying a holier-than-thou attitude? The best way to change a country's injustices are to befriend them and demonstrate the way humans should be respected.

    April 20, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  14. Matt

    For the last time, bowing to the Saudi king is synonymous to shaking his hand and giving him respect in Middle Eastern culture. That's it. Not everyone in the world greets individuals like we do in America. Stop making this out to be some huge travesty, and learn a little culture.

    April 20, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  15. Marty, Grand Rapids Mi

    "will be used as propaganda by enemies of the United States"

    Are you, by chance, talking about yourself? You may be shallow and simple minded but I wouldn't consider you an enemy. Is there any republican leader that will take the time to make an valid argument or will they all spend their time looking to spin anything into political gain? Dems do this as well but come on, you should be better then this!

    April 20, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  16. David

    Now Newt and his pals are speaking out against civility? They'd rather our President, the leader of the free world, snub and ignore those international leaders we disagree with? Part of being an adult is having tact, being diplomatic as often as possible, and being civil...even when we don't want to.

    What Newt and others are suggesting is that we act like children on the playground or like high school students trying to deal with conflict.

    I am so grateful to have a mature adult who understands complexity, subtlety, and sophistication running our country.

    Some of these despotic world leaders are probably terrified of having to deal with an American president who listens and is civil. It is so much harder to hold that kind of man up as a "devil." It weakens their propaganda machines.

    April 20, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  17. Joe the Troll

    This article proves that the photo is ALREADY being used as propaganda by America's enemies...... the Republicans.

    April 20, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  18. Bill

    The only people that will use the Chavez handshake as propaganda are Republicans like Newt Gingrich. Nothing has to be given away by talking to people that we disagree with. Nothing can be gained by not talking to them. I applaud Obama's new direction over the old stale Bush doctrine.

    April 20, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. Rob Stumpf

    Newt is 100% right. What kind of message does this send to the dissidents to Chavez' regime, those that look to America as the only alternative to save their country?

    By putting the stamp of approval on Chavez, Obama is doing harm to Venezuela beyond measure.

    Think it's "only a handshake"? Think again. Think what the people of Latin America will themselves think when they see that picture. As Democrats are fond of saying, symbolism matters.

    Why can't we talk to Chavez, behind the scenes, and not betray pro-democracy forces in Venezuela like this?

    April 20, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. yomi

    The republicans must either PUT UP OR SHUT UP. If they feel being polite and trying to make "an enemy" become a friend is a bad thing , they should stop buying oil from the enemy and shut all Citgo gas stations in the country. Which country is more repressive, China or Venezuela? Yet we trade with China and the likes of Newt had no condemnation of Bush sucking up to the chinese.

    April 20, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  21. Mike

    Who cares? He shook the guys hand! Reagan shook hands with Gorbachev, so why can't Obama shake hands with Chavez? This is just the cable news crew over analyzing, and sensationalizing mediocrity once again. While Chavez does have certain autocratic tendencies that are somewhat disconcerting, he is the democratically elected president of Venezuela. And, while his description of Bush as the "devil," might have been overzealous, there are a lot of people, especially in the developing world, that saw Bush's policies as irresponsible, and bordering on criminal. In short, yes Obama shook his hand and was polite. Usually, that is what politicians are suppose to do.

    April 20, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  22. Trent

    This totally plays into the "Party of No" stereotype. The GOP is floundering and has no ideas to offer so... let's criticize! We need a big change in direction in the Republican party, or we finally do need a centrist third party.

    April 20, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  23. daniel in chicago

    I totally agree that acting humanely to other world leaders is tarnishing our view as a people and a country. Haven't people learned that bullying other countries and invading them whenever we feel fit is the way to go. I guess Obama will never learn that peace and love will never work. Way to go republicans you guys are absolutely right that's way you guys are in the white house and the majority in the senate and house.

    April 20, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  24. SS

    According to the Republicans, nothing President Obama does is okay. Is it truly possible that everything he does is a mistake.

    We have found that acting like angry bullies doesn't work. Maybe diplomacy will work. Nobody thinks that being human toward other people, even those you don't agree with, is a mistake except angry bitter people such as Newt and his angry followers.

    April 20, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  25. Greg in Vancouver

    Hey Newt, Chavez was Anti-Bush Regime, not Anti-American!

    April 20, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
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