Asked about criticism that President Donald Trump has a tendency to mislead, former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich acknowledged that the president “often says things you can catch him on” -- in fact, on a “much larger scale” than did Ronald Reagan.
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“They both have a tendency to say general directions that are powerful with details that are dubious...I’m less sanguine than I was year ago that [Trump] is going to change because he basically emphasizes his strengths and ignores his weaknesses rather than trying to fix [them],” Gingrich told ABC’s Powerhouse Politics podcast hosts Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein Wednesday.
But the former speaker pointed to polling data, Trump’s stable base, and the results of Tuesday’s gubernatorial and congressional primaries in South Carolina and Staten Island – both races in which Trump’s preferred candidate won – to conclude that the president’s “enormous strengths” outweigh his weaknesses.
“His impact in the Republican party is astonishing,” Gingrich said, noting he believes Trump’s behavior is atypical of “professional politicians” and hearkens back to that of Andrew Jackson.
This month, Gingrich came out with “Trump’s America: The Truth About Our Nation’s Great Comeback,” a new book detailing his perspective on how Trump is fulfilling his promise to “make America great again.”
“Trump is not essentially a conservative. Trump is an anti-liberal. They’re not the same phenomenon. But he may be the most effective uprooter of liberalism in my lifetime,” he said.
Referencing New York Times reporter Peter Baker’s June 22 piece analyzing Trump’s time in office thus far, Karl asked Gingrich what he thinks about Trump falling short of his pledge to make deals -- save for December’s tax cut measure -- on immigration, healthcare, gun control, NAFTA, and countries including China, Iran, Syria, and Russia.
“Trump sets very large goals and is relentless in moving towards them and, I think, modulates a lot more than people realize and constantly absorbs information and is changing,” Gingrich said. “The jury’s still out in terms of the kind of deals Peter Baker wants.”
Gingrich pointed to Trump’s May 2017 meeting in Riyadh with Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian, and Jordanian officials to build an “anti-Iran coalition.”
“All four of them tolerated moving the [U.S.] embassy to Jerusalem with virtually no dissent...at that level, [Trump] is actually moving to shape a different Middle East that doesn’t fit the standard establishment definition,” he said. “But it’s real and it’s increasingly powerful.”
But the former speaker was less optimistic about Trump’s recent deal with North Korea.
“The North Koreans have so cheerfully lied to American presidents for 20 years. There’s no automatic reason to believe that the meeting in Singapore changes much,” Gingrich said, but pointed out that as a result of the June summit, he believes Kim Jong Un is “doing some things he had never contemplated before.”
Known for his longtime hope of increased space exploration, Gingrich also expressed optimism about Mike Pence chairing the National Space Council.
“Mike Pence is such a space nut that before he ever won a congressional seat he would put his family on the car and drive down to Florida to watch rockets go off,” he said. “He’s doing a great job.”
Reacting to Tuesday night’s historic Democratic primary upset in New York’s 14th Congressional District, where high-ranking incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley badly lost to a 28-year-old political newcomer and Democratic Socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Gingrich said this is a phenomenon “happening everywhere.”
“The winner in Maryland campaigned on basically the government taking over all healthcare. In western Pennsylvania, three members of the Socialist party won primaries for the state legislature. There’s a radical wing of the Democratic party which is now defeating the progressive wing of the Democratic party on the grounds that it isn’t progressive enough,” he said.
But Gingrich doubts that moderate Senate Democrats will be able to support the “radical” legislation that newer, more liberal members of Congress are expected to push forward.
“The young lady that won wants to abolish the people who are protecting the border,” he said of Ocasio-Cortez. “There’s no base in this country for an open borders immigration policy except in very hardcore, Democratic, radical areas.”