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. Hashman

    I might take Putin's comments with a grain of salt, but if anyone should be laughed at it is Newt – the guy who discards women like they have an expiration date. If Newt really believed in our exceptionalism he wouldn't consider us that shaky that gays, gun control or a woman's right to choose can l lead to our demise.

    September 12, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  2. sammy750

    Tea Party Conservative Ted Cruz said today the party needs 100 Jesse Helms. So what do U think? Helms being the biggest racist Senator ever. Is that the path of the party, going to racism again.

    September 12, 2013 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  3. Carlos

    As usual, hysterical Newt, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown watching his own shadow.

    September 12, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  4. Randy Johnson

    Wow this is a big learning curve now for republicans – here we were almost at the point where we thought Obama was the dictator and thug. But we haven't checked Romney, Palin, Santorum, Perry, Paul, and of course the tea baggers (can't remember their names) for their opinion yet. So lets not jump to any conclusions yet – cause we haven't reached a clear decision........... umm something called 'dithering' maybe??? – but naw we would be quick and decisive in this case – whatever the phase of the moon was at.

    September 12, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  5. Joe Clarke

    Totally agree. Putin hates the USA, and did not waste anytime, any opportunity to poke us in the eye, and I simply think this is a joke, and just a way to give time to Assad to continue with his crimes. Even their Kremlin media mouthpiece in the US, with a bunch of American hosts playing as puppets to the Kremlin and inciting Americans to rise up and throw the government, and highlighting everything that is bad for America are a good source to know where the russians really come from. I hope that Obama keeps the pressure, and for once Republicans and Democrats agree and defend the principles that this country holds dear.

    September 12, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  6. Secession Solution

    Putin has a hell of a lot more integrity than this salamander Gingrich who sold us out to the Israeli lobby.

    September 12, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  7. lOST

    Most republicans are dictators and thugs.

    September 12, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  8. zenthrop

    Gingrich tells it like it is. What he did not mention is the Marxist parasite in our own White House.

    September 12, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  9. Bingo!

    I never thought I'd agree with Newt but he's 100% correct. Putin only wants the old ussr back. He'll always say the opposite of what the US says. If North Korea nuked South Korea, Putin would still stand in the way of action against NK.

    The guy needs to go!

    September 12, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  10. Surge

    How all these people (Gingrinch, Menendez,) can deal with the day-to-day controversy and making difficult decisions if they are so easily rattled (to the point of vomiting) by a singe op-ed?

    September 12, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  11. Jose

    Newt did not really address any of Putin's arguments, he just attacked Putin personally. How typical of him.

    September 12, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  12. Woman In California

    Oh yes, let's call Putin names just like we do OUR president and let's also expect him to just ignore us. Will these "people" ever learn to keep their traps shut? While I have absolutely no respect for Putin these days, Gingrich needs to learn to be more diplomatic in his approach with other people, especially those outside of the U.S. I know 'his kind' try desperately everyday to create all kinds of problems and enemies for our president, but Gingrich is not representative of most Americans and it would be wise for other countries to keep that in mind before they take this nimrod seriously. The president is quite capable of doing the job we elected him for without the interruptions of a two (or more) time loser.

    September 12, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  13. Elfilo

    Of course Putin's a thug and a dictator. But Newt's rant knocking him is pointless and bitter drivel. Even if Putin's words are empty regarding Syria, then maybe the "Freeworld" could at least take his diplomatic idea and put it into play for real. Sounds like the U.S. are being sore losers for not coming up with the idea themselves. Just saying.


    September 12, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  14. Matt

    Well put Newt. Putin is a dictator, a liar, and a thug – and Americans need to remember that partisanship ends at the border. Beneath the rhetoric, he could end the Syria conflict any time he likes by simply pulling support for Assad. He can force Assad to negotiate with the moderate rebels at any time. He could have reprimanded Assad for opening fire on pro-democracy protests in 2011, he could have condemned and cut off aid to Assad for any of the massacres committed by government troops. He has let 100,000 Syrians die... and NOW he intervenes only at the time where it is most embarassing to the US.

    Be afraid of Putin. His motive in this entire conflict is leverage for the next 20 years. He is playing America's divisiveness, war weariness, and reluctance to act like a fiddle. People are pretty negative about Obama right now, but he will be long gone before Putin's ambitions to restore Russia's 'greatness' are clear... he won't have to worry about being 'elected'.

    September 12, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  15. matt

    Wish Newt was our president. Always been a Newt fan. Well said

    September 12, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  16. tulelakenewtimes

    Well,l Putin has Rand Paul now asking Americans to form alliance with Assad regime. I wonder what Gingrich thinks of that, good, bad or indifferent?

    September 12, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  17. muffintop

    Gringrich, are you trying to ruin it for President Obama again? Why don't you shut up and let the real people with something to say do so uninterrupted?

    September 12, 2013 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  18. tulelakenewtimes

    Putin now has Rand Paul asking Americans to form alliance with Assad regime. I wonder what former House Speaker Newt Gingrich thinks of those comments? Good, bad or indifferent?

    September 12, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  19. hohotai

    Why doesn't Gingrich have his chippie at his side on this show like he did on the campaign trail?

    September 12, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    It's not putin, it's not syria. It's that putin has found a wimp in our white house and is using that wimps ego as a political plow on the world stage.

    September 12, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  21. michaelChatt

    What's wrong with nationalism? I'm amazed and sad that the only time it seems that Republicans and Democrats can agree with each other is when they are prepairing to kill other people. Just because we don't like Syria is not a reason to destabilize yet another middle eastern country, haven't we done enough?

    As for Nationalists, I wish we had a few more of them in American politics instead of hand fed pets of big business and special interests.

    September 12, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  22. Dave

    Whether Putin is right or wrong, both this article and America's politicians' reactions to Putin consist not of facts or counterpoints, but rather ad hominem attacks and appeals to rhetoric.

    September 12, 2013 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  23. Gunner

    I truly applaud Gingrich for taking this stand. Putin would have made his comments irrespective of who the President was. Some politicians have tried to seize this moment for cheap political points...but Gingrich is correct. Putin is a thug with an appalling record of human rights abuses, political murders, corruption, genocide, and more. He belongs with Hitler and other like-minded individuals. Too bad we even have to work with him.

    September 12, 2013 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  24. Gloria

    In general, I am not a fan of Newt Gingrich, but I must say that I feel that he was right on target in his remarks about Putin. If you have any doubts, just look at Putin's history in regard to military actions ordered by him in the past as well as his stance on human rights within Russia. Sadly, some people in the USA, who are looking for another excuse to bash our president, will take all that Putin said at face value. I see military action in Syria by the USA as a last resort after all non-military options are depleted. But this is MY opinion. Others may feel differently. So be it. But I still feel that America–warts and all– is an exceptional country. Of course, this statement will surely ruffle some feathers, but so what! I have a right to my opinion.

    September 12, 2013 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  25. Will

    To Putin's credit, at least he didn't serve his wife divorce papers and leave her for another women while she was on her deathbed.

    September 12, 2013 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
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