Former CIA director R. James Woolsey and Robert McFarlane, national security adviser to President Reagan, have joined Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign as members of his national security advisory team.
They’re the best known of the 10 men and two women who’ve signed up to advise Gingrich, many of them veterans of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. In a statement introducing the group Tuesday, he refers to them as “this world class group of experts” on whom he’s relied “throughout my career.”
Gingrich’s own national security experience is limited, but it’s more extensive than any of the other candidates, with the possible exception of ex-senator Rick Santorum. Representative Michele Bachmann is a current member of the House Intelligence Committee.
In the George W. Bush administration, Gingrich was a member of the Defense Policy Board (along with Henry Kissinger). In 1999, he was appointed to the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century that examined foreign policy challenges through 2025.
Gingrich used the announcement to take a dig at President Obama. He said he’ll draw on his advisers’ experience and knowledge “as we assert our vision of an exceptional America that, contrary to what President Obama may believe, will continue to be both the world’s leading power and most assiduous defender of freedom for generations to come.”
Gingrich’s reputation is as an innovative domestic policy thinker. But it turns out he’s also the most highly regarded among Republican presidential candidates on national security issues as well.
In three new polls, Gingrich ranks ahead of Mitt Romney as the “strongest leader” (29 percent to 26 percent), the best in handling an international crisis (31 percent to 19 percent), and as the most trusted “with nuclear weapons” (30 percent to 17 percent).
A CNN poll found Gingrich the “most qualified” to be commander in chief, leading Romney 36 percent to 20 percent. But a CBS survey put Romney ahead 26 percent to 21 percent as commander in chief.
The polls reflect Gingrich’s emergence in recent weeks as a rival to Romney as frontrunner in the Republican contest. Both will participate tonight in still another nationally televised debate among GOP presidential candidates. The debate, to be broadcast on CNN, is sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
Other members of Gingrich’s advisory team are: David Wurmser, a senior adviser to Vice President Cheney; Bill Schneider, undersecretary of state in the Reagan administration; Norman Bailey, a special assistant on national security to Reagan; Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC); Ken DeGraffenreid, another Reagan national security adviser.
Herman Pirchner, founding president of the AFPC, will be director of the advisory group. Other members include: Tina Ramirez, director of international and government relations for the Becket Fund; Kiron Skinner, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution; Abraham Wagner, who teaches at Columbia University’s school of international and public affairs; and Stephen Yates, a Cheney adviser on national security.