SPOKANE, Wash. -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said President Obama “surrendered” Thursday when he apologized to the Afghan government for the burning of several Korans at an American military base near Kabul.
Referring to the burning of “radical Islamic material” that included the Korans, the former House speaker said the situation had been “blown into a huge incident by various fanatics in Afghanistan.” He told a crowd gathered at a campaign rally at the Bing Crosby Theater that while the president had apologized for the burning, he had not called on the Afghan government to issue an apology for the deaths of two NATO soldiers who were killed by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform during increasingly violent protests of the desecration of the Muslim holy book.
“There seems to be nothing that radical Islamists can do to get Barack Obama’s attention in a negative way,” Gingrich said, “and he is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the president of the United States, period.”
Obama sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in which he wrote, “I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies,” according to the New York Times, quoting Karzai’s press office. Obama did not release the text of what it called a three-page letter on a “host of issues” between the two countries, “several sentences of which relate to this issue,” the Times reported.
Although Presidential apologies are rare, they are not unheard of. President George W. Bush offered an apology to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki after a U.S. soldier fired several bullets into a Koran in 2008. And Bush also said he was “sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families” following the Abu Ghraib scandal.
But Gingrich, who consistently accuses Obama of minimizing the threat of radical Islamic terrorists, accused the president of “(refusing) to defend the integrity and the lives of the people who serve under him.”
“ … If Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, doesn’t feel like apologizing, then we should say, ‘Goodbye and good luck, we don’t need to be here risking our lives and wasting our money on somebody who doesn’t care.’”
Gingrich also slammed the president on his energy policy, calling it “so funny that it ought to be on Saturday Night Live as a skit.” The candidate has increasingly focused on the high price of gas, telling crowds that he will bring the cost down to between $2 and $2.50 a gallon by embracing all forms of American energy. His plan includes an expansion of drilling on federal lands and off U.S. coastlines, continued support of alternative energy sources, and employment of new technologies in shale exploration and hydro-fracking, the process of extracting oil from rock with pressurized water.
Feeling the pressure from Gingrich and the other GOP presidential candidates on the issue, Obama Thursday promoted an “all-of-the-above” strategy that would focus on more domestic oil production, the development of alternative energies and stricter fuel efficiency standards.