(CNN) – Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he’s “concerned” about the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in Egypt and what he sees as a divide between the White House and diplomat Franks Wisner.
“I think the fact that they appointed a very able diplomat Frank Wisner and within two days were publicly contradicting him is you know so amateurish,” Gingrich told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King. “I was with John Bolton (former ambassador to the United Nations) last night. He said it’s inconceivable that they would be this clumsy and this out of sync. I mean just with themselves, forget the Arab world. They can’t even get the White House and their special envoy to be on the same page.”
Wisner was sent to Egypt by the United States to negotiate directly with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the transition, and on his return said Mubarak should remain in office, at least for now, in order to hand over authority in an orderly manner.
At the White House press briefing Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that Wisner does not speak for the administration.
“His views on who should or shouldn’t be the head of Egypt don’t represent the views of our administration,” Gibbs said. “The views of our administration are that those are the decisions that will be made by the Egyptians.”
But the envoy’s remarks were not entirely out of line with those of other officials who have noted that there are “certain legitimate legislative hurdles” that must be overcome by Mubarak and could take some time to accomplish.
Gingrich also said he’s worried that the United States might reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition Islamist umbrella group in the country.
“I think this is absolute total misreading of history. The Muslim Brotherhood is a mortal enemy of our civilization, they say so openly,” Gingrich said.
The Brotherhood, officially banned but still tolerated by the Egyptian government, is already in negotiations with other – but not all – opposition groups and Egypt’s new vice president, Omar Suleiman. The Brotherhood was removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations in the 1970s and, at least in Egypt, has renounced violence.
The likely 2012 presidential candidate reiterated his “end of February and to March” deadline to make a decision and turned the discussion to former President Ronald Reagan, whose centennial birthday celebration he attended Sunday.
“Reagan did what he believed in when he thought it was right,” Gingrich said. “I frankly try to study Reagan and (Margaret) Thatcher and (Abraham) Lincoln because I think they were the great truth tellers of modern politics, sometimes when telling the truth people in the establishment go nuts because it’s not the truth they want to hear.”