Jewish World Review March 28, 2005/ 17 Adar II, 5765
Let's get back to basics... 10 minutes with former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich's latest prescription for what ails the body politic is contained in his new book, "Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) On Wednesday, I called the former house speaker and leader of the Republican Revolution of 1994 in Rome, Italy:
Q: What's your quickest, TV-show description of your new book?
A: I think we need a grass-roots focus on very large-scale change in Washington, and I thought that describing "a 21st-century contract with America" was the best way to begin to galvanize and arouse that kind of grass-roots support.
Q: You say there are five threats that could undermine or eliminate the United States in the 21st century. The most serious threat would be terrorism and rogue dictators. What do you propose to do that President Bush is not already doing?
A: Well, we need to do a whole series of steps. We need to actually get control of both of our borders so that we know who's coming into the United States in a serious kind of way. We need to have a much stronger homeland defense system so that we could survive either a biological or nuclear attack. We need to understand that we're engaged in a long war that may last 30 to 50 or 70 years with the irreconcilable wing of Islam, and that is going to require developing much better instruments of public diplomacy and much better instruments of trying to change Middle Eastern society. We also have to understand that our intelligence system is much too small to take on all the different challenges we have around the world.
Q: Do you have any concern with what our friend Pat Buchanan would call the Wilsonian policy of interventionism that the Bush administration is accused of pursuing?
A: I disagree profoundly with Pat on that point. I think that the more democracy there is around the world, the better off America is. The more we have a chance for people to pursue prosperity and freedom in their own country, the less likely they are to become suicide bombers. ... That doesn't mean we should rush around the planet wasting our resources or wasting the lives of our young men and women. But I do think we should recognize that we actually have a stake in whether or not (Hosni) Mubarak is sincere in moving toward democracy in Egypt.
Q: Domestically, you talk about reforming Social Security, fixing health care and infusing more patriotism and religion into public and private life. What's the most important?
A: In the very long run the most important is to re-center the society around the notion that our rights come from our Creator and to re-center education, both for children and for immigrants, around American history and core American values, including the work ethic, the rule of law and the sense of dreaming big dreams and working hard to create them.
Q: Does fixing health care mean privatizing it, bringing consumer and market kinds of disciplines to the provision of health care?
A: Absolutely. The most important big breakthrough in health care in the last 25 years was the development of health savings accounts and the beginning of a consumer-oriented approach to health. I think it's very, very important that people have the right to know about price and quality before they make a decision, whether it's about their hospital, their doctor or the drug they're considering using.
Q: Is it realistic to think that grass-roots pressure or ordinary citizens can defeat what you've called "the entrenched political system" in Washington that's brought us these problems in the first place?
A: I think grass-roots citizen involvement is the only way to get really large-scale change in Washington. When we passed the Contract with America, balanced the budget, reformed welfare, cut taxes, strengthened defense we did all those things simultaneously we did so because citizens were going to town hall meetings, getting on talk radio, writing letters to the editor, and the level of support that members (of Congress) felt back home gave them the courage and the drive to defeat the lobbyists in Washington.
Q: You have not given up on the goal of limited government as a conservative Republican?
A: No. Absolutely not.
Q: Who do you see as the top Republican presidential candidates in 2008?
A: I think you have to list Bill Frist, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, George Allen, John McCain. Presumably, you might well have Mitt Romney running the governor of Massachusetts. I think under some circumstances you could have Sen. (Rick) Santorum as a potential candidate.
Q: Will you be running in 2008?
A: Well, I doubt it, but I'm not closing the door. I think my current focus is to set the standard for the debate and to say that there are big ideas and big solutions we need, and they're actually more important than clever consultants and 30-second attack commercials.
Q: Will we ever see a Vice President Gingrich?
A: I can't imagine why anybody would pick me as their vice-presidential nominee.
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JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2005, Bill Steigerwald