September 12th, 2013
07:40 PM ET
7 years ago

Gingrich: Putin is a dictator and a thug

(CNN) – Americans shouldn't let Vladimir Putin's opinions get under their skin because the Russian president is a one-time KGB officer whose primary interest is nationalism, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday.

"While we have to deal with him as the president of Russia, we don't have to respect his views. We don't have to respect his opinions," said Gingrich, co-host of CNN's "Crossfire."

"And frankly, we should laugh at him when he tries to lecture America about exceptionalism, because he ain't exceptional. He's just one more in a long tradition of dictators and thugs."

Putin rattled some Americans, including high-profile figures in Washington, when he argued in a New York Times op-ed against U.S. military intervention in Syria. In the final paragraph, he took issue with the idea of America being the proverbial shining city on a hill.

"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," he wrote.

His comment was a jab at President Barack Obama who said in a speech on Tuesday America has an obligation to respond to situations like the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"That's what makes us exceptional," Obama said.

Some were not amused by Putin's advice.

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez said on CNN the piece made him almost want "to vomit," and House Speaker John Boehner said he was "insulted."

Read: Vladimir Putin's comments on American exceptionalism, Syria cause a fuss

But Gingrich said Putin shouldn't be taken seriously.

"This is a guy who, for public relations purposes, wrestles bears. He shoots tigers, stripped to the waist, to prove he's a tough guy," he said.

The former House speaker pointed to Putin's history as a former intelligence officer for the KGB, where he worked from 1975-1992.

Gingrich also argued Putin was behind the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the conflict in Chechnya has killed thousands.

He expressed doubt the opinion piece was even written by Putin, saying it was likely penned by a Washington speechwriters.

"You can go through and read that document and you could find at every single stage find that it's a lie," Gingrich said. "For us to take it seriously is a sign that we have forgotten who Vladimir Putin is."

Filed under: Crossfire • Newt Gingrich • Russia
soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. Mike M.

    Newt need to keep his mouth shut – he did enough damage while in Congress – now he wants to screw up our international relations. Newt go home!

    September 12, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  2. Richard


    September 12, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  3. ruemorgue

    I'm not a Newt fan, but he's right on in this case. Ras-putin is nothing more than a lying, disingenuous, hypocrite.

    September 12, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  4. af090391

    "And frankly, we should laugh at him when he tries to lecture America about exceptionalism, because he ain't exceptional. He's just one more in a long tradition of dictators and thugs."

    What if no one is exceptional, and we are all just people? I don't think Putin is exceptional by any means, but its a logical fallacy (ad hominim) to suggest his observations about us are wrong, simply on the basis that he is not exceptional. He did not claim he was.

    September 12, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  5. RSVP

    This is one time when I have to agree with Newt. Putin is as criminal as Assad. He just hasn't been caught...yet. Putin has not all of a sudden changed his stripes and become a peace maker or power broker. No Sirree. He has a greedy sub-plot agenda to profit with Syrian oil. Tyrants like him don't do good things without a personal agenda. He probably has Assad over the barrel in some fashion that includes allowing Russia a piece of their oil action. Stay tuned. This is going to be a blockbusting turn of events that the Western world didn't see coming because they take his at face value. That's a mistake. A very big mistake. Never turn your back on guys who rule countries like him. As the old saying goes – "Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer". This applies to Syria, Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, etc.

    September 12, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  6. TeddyG

    Memo to Newt : they say the same thing in Russia about Obama and McCain. Go figure.

    September 12, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  7. Freddy

    Why is this guy still on TV?

    September 12, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. Awesome

    Gingrich is a joke and he cannot comprehend anything that makes sense. Putin's advise was great and timing was perfect. I trust Putin a lot more now than all the lies spread about him by war mongers like Gingrich.

    September 12, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  9. SicilianSam

    I can't believe I'm actually agreeing with The Newt.....!

    September 12, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  10. Rob

    for once I have to agree, with Gingrich

    September 12, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  11. dre

    Nice spelling of "waist." Ugh

    September 12, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  12. lewtwo

    >>> Gingrich: 'It's a lie' <<<
    Hilarious: One politician calling another politician a liar.
    Reminds me of something I heard about a pot and a kettle.

    September 12, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  13. jon

    America is pretty darn far from "exceptional."

    September 12, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  14. yiannis papas

    I respect Mr vladimir putin he is a very wise man and he knows what he is talking about god bless Russia to protect the world

    September 12, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  15. Embrace1

    Funny, most of the adjectives Newt used, could easily be used describe the US. VP Cheney was head of the CIA, vested interest in Halliburton Warmonger. Obama;s administration, through the CIA, has already taken military action in Syria. They have provided arms to the rebels, who are aligned with Al Qaeda. The innocent people of Syria are caught in a quagmire. Sad, the Syrians are paying with lives. 99% of Americans are paying for it with their tax dollars with their liberties. The 1% are getting rich.

    September 12, 2013 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  16. Shan

    In my honest and very humble opinion Putin is a thug
    also there are members of GOP who simply hate our President . There are members of GOP who disrespect our president
    There are GOP members who simply do not want anything president proposes. It is unimaginable and unthinkable
    You know Mr Gingrich how some members of GOP including you gave a very difficult time to Our Former president Clinton. I am not sure how to call people in the Far Far right wing

    September 12, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  17. PS Klupferman

    Newt us right ib target. Putin is a murderer and dictator who supresses human rights. Our President needs take action against Syria. If he doesn't, Russia, Syria, and Iran will be even more emboldened – even if it means boots on the ground. Are we going to be like Neville Chamberlain saying "peace in our time" and watch Syria "envade Poland".

    September 12, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  18. edward

    i actually have some respect for Gingrich now

    September 12, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  19. TJ

    Well, at least he hasn't appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in a Speedo, that would truly be a shocker! Putin is just desperate to ensure Russia doesn't get forgotten on the world stage, so he'll do anything. Just like the old Cold War days, as long as the nukes aren't flying, just ingnore the last of hot air from the north.

    Oh, and could you do us a favor and use your spell checker, CNN? Or maybe fire the junior editor....

    September 12, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  20. Alex

    As an American Citizen I am ashamed of the language used by Gingrich – former speaker of House. It looks our politicians are arrogant and uncivilized. We don't agree we should speak in proper language. Also, I can understand Putin viewpoint. I would be surprised most of the world don't think like Putin. We have to earn our reputation after debacle in Iraq of WMD. Talking about gays rights Georgia and Chechnya – We are not better than Russia.

    September 12, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  21. what???

    What??? As an American, Putin's op ed did not get under my skin. He was obviously referring to the idiots in DC. Sheesh, and this coming from a previous idiot in DC. Get a clue!!!

    September 12, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  22. Victor

    Yes. Putin is a dictator and a thug, but I don't care if Stalin himself figured out a way to stop the US from involving itself in another middle east war.

    September 12, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  23. donna

    Gingrich says we should ignore Putins cunning method to usurp US military force by creating a situation that calls for diplomacy, simply because thousands of people fighting in Chechnya have been killed by Russians. Really? You mean the extremist Muslim rebels that Bush once called terrorists, who recently bombed the USA?? Seems like Putin is the exceptional leader, Obama has turned into a dictator.

    September 12, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  24. Wake up People!

    Hell must have frozen over, I'm agreeing with Newt.

    September 12, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  25. sgompers

    Sorry folks. Newt has no relavence in this life

    September 12, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
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