WASHINGTON — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich charged Monday that President Barack Obama's cordial greeting with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez sends a poor message to enemies of America.
In a nationally broadcast interview on NBC's "Today" show Monday, the Georgia Republican also accused the administration of being too slow to react to North Korea's launching of a rocket test and said it has reached out too much to ease relations with Cuba.
Appearing on Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends," Gingrich said: "This does look a lot like Jimmy Carter. 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."
Chavez has been one of the harshest critics of the United States in that part of the world. Obama said at the conclusion of the Latin summit Sunday that he didn't think greeting Chavez would be "endangering the strategic interests of the United States."
Gingrich complained that the simple act of a smiling Obama shaking Chavez's hand caused a book Chavez has written to skyrocket on the best-seller lists in the United States.
"What I find distressing," he said, "is that the administration opposes opening up oil exploration," but yet Obama has "bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia" and now reached out to Chavez, whom Gingrich said has been conducting "a vicious anti-American campaign."
Gingrich, whose name has been mentioned in 2012 presidential speculation, said, "How do you mend relationships with someone who actively hates your country. ... "
"Cuba releases zero prisoners," he said, "yet we make nice with Cuba. I'm for doing things methodically and calmly ... things that will work, but I'm not for deluding myself about smiles and words."