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Gingrich: Obama Handling of Mubarak Ouster Raises 'Trust' Issues for Other Allies

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FILE: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington Feb. 10.AP

Leading Republicans offered conflicting assessments Sunday of President Obama's handling of the Egyptian political turmoil, a crisis that kept White House officials on their toes as they tried to respond to constantly changing developments resulting Friday in Hosni Mubarak's resignation. 

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, among several potential 2012 presidential candidates who were critical of Obama's response, sustained that criticism Sunday and questioned whether the president's handling could erode other allies' "trust" in the United States. 

Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Gingrich suggested the administration should have stayed relatively quiet about the turmoil while pressuring Mubarak behind closed doors to leave. He invoked an incident last weekend when the administration's envoy publicly called for Mubarak to stay, only to be rebuffed by other administration officials. 

"When you appoint a very senior diplomat to be your special ambassador, he makes a statement in Munich about what we're doing, and three hours later, the White House is directly contradicting him," Gingrich said, using that as an example of the kind of "confusing" response he had earlier criticized Obama for executing. 

Gingrich cited a conversation he had with former Secretary of State George Shultz, recalling advice that the U.S. president should exert pressure on an ally like Mubarak quietly, "because every other potential ally in the world is watching you." 

"And if they see you publicly abandon somebody who's been with you for 30 years, they wonder, why should I trust the United States?" Gingrich said. 

The former Republican leader of the House said supporting the protesters in the end is the "right thing to do," but that "we shouldn't kid ourselves." 

"Egypt has been a staging area for us for a long time now. And Egypt has been vital to Israeli security," he said. 

Meanwhile, sitting House Speaker John Boehner said he thinks the Obama administration handled "a very difficult situation" in Egypt as best it could. 

"When people are crying out for freedom, when they're crying out for democracy, I think our country has a responsibility to listen," Boehner said. 

The Ohio Republican said that the upheaval in Egypt and Tunisia -- where popular protests helped oust longtime authoritarian leaders -- "surprised everyone," including U.S. intelligence officials. 

Boehner told NBC's "Meet the Press" that he thinks there's a need for an assessment to determine why U.S. officials "didn't have a better feel for this." 

Egypt has pledged to move toward a democracy and Boehner says he's optimistic, despite the dearth of democratic governments in the Arab world. He says "just watch what's happened on the streets over the last 18 days" as a sign that democracy can take hold. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.