I like Elliott Abrams. Big time.
Mr. Abrams is in the news for this piece over at National Review Online
Sounds saleable, yes? Ex-Reagan State Department aide cites Newt criticism on Reagan.
There’s a problem with this story.
The reason I became — and remain — a fan of Elliott Abrams is not just because he’s a smart guy. He was done a considerable wrong in terms of his work at the State Department — bluntly put he was targeted in one of those special prosecutor witch hunts. This was a despicable thing…morally and legally inexcusable. Mr. Abrams bore — and bears — this episode with considerable grace that is a study in character all by itself.
But the issue here is the Newt-Reagan tie.
And there’s another side to what Elliott has to say.
In the day, the Reagan White House political office, of which I was a member, was charged among other things with conducting briefings featuring various administration players. I did them — my colleagues did them. On my watch I had to arrange the list of speakers — and one of those was Elliott Abrams. He always, always made the time to come and discuss Reagan foreign policy to this or that group of Americans at our invitation. He was superb.
At the same time, the White House political office in any White House is charged with dealing with the president’s political interests — including keeping an eye on internal party critics. Meeting with them, talking with them, and yes… on occasion… doling out or not doling out the countless favors sought by congressmen. The latter could range from cufflinks to rides on Air Force One to a presidential signature on a fundraising letter. If a member was in some disfavor for having gone after the president… the political staff rallied. No cufflinks, no rides, no signatures or whatever.
Never… not once… did Elliott Abrams ever say to me something along the lines of “that SOB Newt said X.” Never. I never heard it from Elliott, and perhaps even more to the point I never heard it from a colleague in our office. One would hear things about, say, then Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter or some such. The President himself would get irked at Specter. But Newt Gingrich? Anti-Reagan? A problem of some sort for the Reagan White House political office? Not a prayer.
If this were a problem, not once did Elliott Abrams ever say a word to me. So the question is: did he say this to someone else? Was there someone inside the Reagan political office who knew all this and never said a word? These folks are around to ask.
One was just on TV addressing the nation the other night. That would be Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels — the overall boss of the Reagan political office. And then there’s now former Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, just below Mitch Daniels in the pecking order in the day. Neither ever said a word to the rest of us about Newt being anti-Reagan. There was not a word said that I can recall — much less irritation or real anger. For that matter, did Elliott ever bring this to the attention of Daniel’s predecessor — Ed Rollins? Mr. Rollins is now a Fox commentator and not terribly shy. Perhaps he could be asked if he thought Newt Gingrich was anti-Reagan?
So. The point? Newt Gingrich is running for president, is surging in the Florida polls and his various controversies swirl. (As noted, Bob Tyrrell has his take right here.)
But quite specifically, if Elliott Abrams ever was seriously concerned about Newt Gingrich’s relationship with Ronald Reagan he never… ever… brought it to the attention of the White House political office. To the best of my knowledge.
Or… he did. And the answers are there to be had from Governors Daniels and Barbour and from Ed Rollins.
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