WASHINGTON -- Newt Gingrich, rising in potential 2008 presidential ranks, wants a more resolute U.S. stance in what he considers the "Third World War." For example, he depicts failed efforts to broadcast the truth to Iran and North Korea. The problem is that Gingrich has played fast and loose with facts, understating the actual U.S. effort.
Gingrich ignored a personal correction from Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and continued the misrepresentation. He may be influenced by Iranian exiles who want to take over U.S.-financed broadcasting to their homeland. They have triggered a Senate investigation and possible hearings on allegations voiced by Gingrich.
The former speaker of the House of Representatives long has advocated a foreign policy that does not flinch from a resort to arms. A hawk on Iraq dating back to 1990, he now takes a hard line toward potential Iranian and North Korean nuclear threats. Labeling negotiating attempts as "appeasement," he derides as insufficient U.S. propaganda efforts to utilize discontent against the Tehran and Pyongyang regimes.
On NBC's "Meet the Press" July 16, Gingrich declared: "We're sending signals today that no matter how much you provoke us, no matter how viciously you describe things in public, no matter how many things you're doing with missiles and nuclear weapons, the most you'll get out of us is talk." When moderator Tim Russert asked what he would do, Gingrich replied that "we are currently broadcasting I think it's 90 minutes a week into North Korea. We're currently broadcasting a trivial amount into Iran." He painted a picture of rebellious populations in both countries ripe for American broadcasts.
That got the attention of Tomlinson, Reagan-era head of the Voice of America (VOA) who in 2002 was named by President George W. Bush to head the BBG (which oversees U.S. non-military international broadcasting). A conservative Republican who provoked the Left in his tenure (2003-05) as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Tomlinson is proud of his record communicating with difficult places -- especially Iran. (A State Department investigation, released Tuesday, alleged that Tomlinson had improperly used his BBG office in a matter unrelated to Gingrich's complaints.)