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. Walter

    I have trouble thinking of anyone with less credibility than Newt Gingrich, unless it would be John Ensign.

    Why don't we wait and see what kind of results Obama actually produces. A frantic preoccupation with symbols and propaganda is part of what got us into the mess we are in.

    April 20, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  2. Winston Smith

    Considering the GOP has no new ideas – except an imaginary Laser Beam that Newt wanted to attack North Korea with – perhaps the Republicans shouldn't be using the word "shallow" to describe anybody else right now.

    April 20, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  3. FreeNLovIt

    Oh come on, I dont agree with Obie on everything that he does, but you know, this gesture is BETTER than sending bombs and bullets to one another. You have to TRY first before you do anything. Obie didnt have a problem throwing Hillary under the bus and McCain over the rainbow, he IS NOT going to have a problem throwing any of these dictators under a train. Give it a CHANCE!!!

    April 20, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  4. chaz

    Finally, President Obama is making America look good again. Defusing the tense situations created during the last administration is a relief to not only the US, but the rest of the world as well. A truly great man at the helm. The GOP, on the other hand, refuses to get it's head out of the sand, or wherever they had their heads.

    April 20, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  5. larry

    "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer"....Sun-Tzu (400BC)

    April 20, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  6. JJ

    Our president is doing a wonderful job of handling adversaries w/ respect - what a wonderful world this place would be if we all acted that way

    April 20, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. Greg

    A handshake as introduction in and of itself is not the end of the world, especially for the new kid on the block. Where I take issue is with the enthusiasm that went along with it. "Acting like grown-ups....not bullies" is a "shallow" statement as well; it's never as simple as our Left/Right politics, but it does appear to be so to the Left; to the Left there is no greater enemy than fellow Americans with differing political viewpoints. I most assuredly could be wrong, but I doubt the second photo-op with chavez giving that book to the President would not have taken place had our President not appeared so thrilled and chummy in their initial introduction...that's only a book we're talking about, but the chummy intro likely made it seem more possible to chavez to make that offer; how will he move forward from this point?

    April 20, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  8. Nicholas

    Once again President Obama is proving that he is a statesmen by looking to the future and stressing the importance of dialogue and engagement. The civil thing to do was to greet Mr Chavez. It is quite a stretch of the imagination to suggest that President Obama's actions demonstrates that America tolerates a vicious anti-American propaganda campaign.

    President Obama inspires and brings hope to people around the world like
    no other past President. He is bringing about positive change and I feel people like Newt Gingrich need to hop on the band wagon for fear of being seen as "ANTI AMERICAN"

    April 20, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  9. jake

    what would Newt have done? Turned his back to Chavez? That would have made a lovely photo op! "American turns its back on other nations?" Then maybe a shoe thrown at his head?

    April 20, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  10. Tammy

    So what was President Obama to do when the man approached him? Its not as if Obama was pursuing Chavez. He was polite and reasonable in his response to Chavez. Clearly Newt has never heard the phrase "keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

    April 20, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  11. cecil

    The GOP wanted, "strife" not smiles and hand shakes!

    April 20, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  12. Old white lady in Birmingham, AL

    Yes it will become propaganda by the right wing media used to try to discredit our president.

    Really this is not a big deal. These people need to grow up.

    April 20, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  13. Tera in Maryland

    Perhaps if President Obama had just spit on Chavez everybody would feel better. Him running from Chavez would have made the POTUS look petty. I love that our president is a GROWN UP with GROWN UP responses. It is evident that our past diplomatic policies are in the "what not to do" handbook at this point. Thankfully there has been a change in direction and the POTUS shaking hands with the leader of another country doesn't signify that he agrees with them or what's to have some sort of bromance with them. I wish the Republican Party would GROW UP!!!!!

    April 20, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  14. NC GOP

    I am a republican and can't stand this type of nonsense coming from our "leaders." What a putz. Gingrich is posturing to jump back into the GOP leadership. His views and knowledge are as stale as the day he left Congress in disgrace.

    April 20, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  15. Peter

    The reality is that this guy is trying to resucitate his political carreer by criticizing absolutely everything our President does. We are not going to be fooled by these political opportunists.

    April 20, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  16. FBizzle

    Hugo is anti-Bush not anti-USA...for years we have used an attitude of 'our way or the highway"then turn around and "BEG" for oil!It really goes to show that the GOP is a bunch of sore losers!Hey guys lets band together and get this country on the right track!The whole entire world is behind our POTUS and we as a country dont want him to succeed....WHY?

    April 20, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  17. Michelle

    Here we go again with Newt critizing our President. Why does the media give this guy air time anyway. These GOP people have nothing better to do with their time. I see nothing wrong with our President trying to mend fences with other countries.


    April 20, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  18. Tony

    It is ironic that the Republicans cling to Christian values, yet they don't practice what they preach. The Bible does say "Blessed are the Peacemakers....."

    Obama is trying to make peace and the guys on the other side are moaning and whining. Apparently some Republicans need to read the Constitution and the Bible before they speak.

    April 20, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. Oregon Calling

    When are the likes going to realize that this is a global economy and no one can get off of this island we call earth? Isn't there an old saying that goes, "You can catch more flies with honey?"

    When people like this speak, I realize that they do not speak for Republicans as a whole. I have to wonder what they are trying to achieve. All that I see is a very narrow world view.

    Peace 🙂

    April 20, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  20. Rose

    I find it very interesting that so many of the comments blast those who oppose Obama and his policies. Remember that Obama did not get millions of votes in the election, does that mean now that we who did not vote for Obama are not entitled to our opinions. Seems to me all of you people did the same with with Bush, now it is our turn. We still have freedom of speech in this country.

    April 20, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  21. Leo

    The Bush Administration DID help organize and participate in a failed coup attempt on Chavez a few years ago. The media usually fails to mention this. Bush didn't like the idea of a democratically elected left wing Latin America leader. So, he had to meddle. Thank God Obama is attempting tto fix all the destruction left by the far right lunatic fringe.

    There was reason Chavez called Bush the Devil.

    April 20, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  22. Matthew Kennedy

    Shaking hands with Chavez is neither a condemning or condoning of the Venezuelan dictator. It is a message to Caracas that the Obama Administration is open to a new era of diplomatic relations – on American terms, at a time and place of Washington’s choosing, and nothing less. It’s a point Gingrich fails to understand.

    April 20, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  23. Kevin in Ohio

    Its perfectly clear that Chavez will use this to his benefit. And he found the perfect foil for his plans...... the weak and accommodating Obama. The liberals just don't get it, do they?

    April 20, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  24. Dawn

    Please stop asking Newt anything!!! Our President was being polite! Take the cameras and mics away from Newt's face, maybe he'll get the message?!? As my husband has said...you get more places using some honey than you do vinegar and Lord knows the vinegar hasn't gotten us anywhere these past years; so why not try something new?

    April 20, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  25. Jugg C

    The amount of international destruction of our image by former President Bush somehow doesn't facto into this equation Mr Gingrich? Although I didn't vote for President Obama, I am behind him on any attempt he makes to clean and strenghten our tarnished image. We have more enemies now because of the last 8 years.

    April 20, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
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