So he was not being his usual inconsistent, flip-flopping self when he praised Mandela as "one of the greatest leaders of our lifetime." The far right soon began slamming him for praising "a commie murderer."
Newt responded to those critics in an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday.
". . . Mandela was faced with a vicious apartheid regime that eliminated rights for blacks and gave them no hope for the future. . . . a regime that used secret police, prisons and military force to crush efforts seeking freedom for blacks.
"What would you have done, faced with that crushing government?
"Some of the people who are most opposed to oppression from Washington attack Mandela when he was opposed to oppression in his own country.
"After years of preaching non-violence, using the political system, making his case as a defendant in court, Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech.
"As Americans we celebrate the farmers at Lexington and Concord who used force to oppose British tyranny. We praise George Washington for spending eight years in the field fighting the British Army's dictatorial assault on our freedom.
. . . "I would ask [Mandela's] critics: . . . if you had been imprisoned for 27 years, . . . how do you think you would have emerged? Would you have been angry?Good for you, Newt.
"Nelson Mandela emerged from 27 years in prison as an astonishingly wise, patient, and compassionate person.
"He called for reconciliation among the races. He invited his prison guard to sit in the front row at his inauguration as president. In effect he said to the entire country, "If I can forgive the man who imprisoned me, surely you can forgive your neighbors." . . .
"Before you criticize him, ask yourself, what would you have done in his circumstances?"