Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich today joined the critics of President Obama's supposed chumminess with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, a thorn in America's side for years, over the weekend at the Summit of the Americas.
And in accusing Obama of softness, Gingrich threw in painful blow for Democrats -- a comparison to Jimmy Carter.
“This administration is opposed to looking for oil in America, but bows to the Saudi king, embraces the Venezuelan dictator, I think it’s a very unhealthy strategy for us,” Gingrich said on Fox News Channel. “I think there is something fundamentally wrong with weakness in America, and then playing to placate dictators.”
“This does look a lot like Jimmy Carter," Gingrich added. "Carter tried weakness and the world got tougher and tougher because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators, when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead.”
On NBC's "Today" show, Gingich warned, "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."
Obama told reporters on Sunday that the symbolism of his joint appearance with Chavez is being blown way out of proportion."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," the president said.
UPDATE: Former Vice President Dick Cheney is piling on, saying he "didn't think much" of the hand clasp.
"I mean, I've seen Hugo Chavez in operation before, and Daniel Ortega down in Nicaragua. These are people who operate in our hemisphere, but who don't believe in and aren't supportive of basic fundamental principles and policies that most of us in this hemisphere adhere to,” Cheney says in an interview airing tonight on Fox News Channel's "Hannity" show.
Cheney, who has accused Obama of making America less safe with foreign policy reversals, also said while he understands blaming the previous administration, he's concerned that the new president is appearing weak.
“What I find disturbing is the extent to which he has gone to Europe, for example, and seemed to apologize profusely in Europe, and then to Mexico, and apologize there, and so forth,” Cheney says, according to excerpts released by Fox News.
“And I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there, both our friends and our foes, will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they're dealing with a weak president or one who is not going to stand up and aggressively defend America's interests. The United States provides most of the leadership in the world. We have for a long time. And I don't think we've got much to apologize for."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.