Columnist Cal Thomas interviews Newt Gingrich: 'What would Newt do?'

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Sitting in his spacious Washington, D.C., office on K Street, the leader of the last Republican revolution, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, ponders the future and likes what he sees. The intensity and commitment by the tea partiers to “throw the bums” out, seems to him as strong as the 1994 revolution that swept Democrats from power and gave Republicans an opportunity Gingrich readily admits they squandered.

“People are now much madder and sicker at the system than they were in 1994,” he says. That doesn’t mean they hate everything about government. It is the process they hate most. “People actually want an open, bipartisan, transparent process. So you can’t say, ‘OK, I’ll pass these 10 things’ (he’s thinking of his Contract With America). You’ve got to come in and say, ‘We will work together in the open in a way that is transparent before the whole country to achieve these 10 things.’ That’s a big difference.”

Gingrich thinks one of the 10 things should be repeal of the new healthcare law: “Republicans should promise that a Republican president and a Republican Congress in February 2013 will repeal and replace Obamacare. That’s pretty straightforward and it’s doable.” He says the more that is learned about the law, “the more it kills jobs, the more it puts us in debt, the more it cripples us with bureaucracy — this will become a more and more popular position.”

And if Republicans are wrong? “The Democrats will have won their great gamble to create a socialist country.”

Gingrich describes the Obama administration as a “secular-socialist machine.” He says though the country is largely center-right, “it is a tribute to the power and capability of the Democratic Party and the incompetence of the Republican Party — it’s a dual effort — that you end up with 70 percent of the country being misgoverned by a militant minority.”

As the country shifts demographically from a white majority, to majority minority, I ask why the GOP has done so poorly among minorities, especially African-Americans.

Gingrich responds: “In part there are very few conservatives willing to campaign for their votes. Why didn’t President (George W.) Bush go to the NAACP convention for eight consecutive years and say, ‘We need your help in liberating people’? I went around the country with Al Sharpton, who actually says the right things, and the reaction on the right is, ‘how can you be associated with Al Sharpton’?”

Gingrich recalled an African-American man who “walked up to him after church and said, ‘I notice you and the Rev. Sharpton care about children.’ He didn’t notice me. We have to decide whether we are prepared to go into every neighborhood in America, every precinct, knock on every door and say, ‘there is a better future than a bureaucratic-welfare state-socialist model that is secular and will destroy our country and destroy our children’s future.’ “

What about charges that Republicans and conservatives are engaging in overheated rhetoric that could lead to violence against public figures?

“For people who are angry, the correct response is to beat them. Take all your energy, reach out and attract everybody you can, win the argument and beat them. The greatest satisfaction should be the retirement of Pelosi, Reid and Obama. ... For the mugger to complain that people are objecting vociferously to being mugged ... is an act of chutzpah on a grand scale. For any of these people who have deliberately bullied, bribed and abused the system to impose their will against the country to now be shocked that the country is unhappy with the machine, I think, is a further act of arrogance. They would like to mug you routinely while you quiescently thank them for the privilege of being mugged.”

Is anyone in the party listening to him? He grins: “You’ll have to ask them.”

Gingrich sounds like he wants to run for president. When will he decide?

“February 2011,” he says. “You’ll get a brief email that says ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ “

I’m betting yes. The country needs the intellectual stimulation Newt Gingrich offers.

Here are excerpts from that interview:

CAL THOMAS: Is repeal of the health care law the best strategy for Republicans given the long trajectory between now and the November election, and the even longer one before the 2012 presidential election?

NEWT GINGRICH: I think we need to be honest about the American constitutional process. Republicans should promise that a Republican president and a Republican Congress in February 2013 would repeal and replace Obamacare. That’s pretty straightforward and it’s doable. It’s real. If they’re right — and the more we learn about Obamacare, the more destructive it is; the more it kills jobs, the more it puts us in debt, the more it cripples us with bureaucracy — this will become a more and more popular position. If they’re wrong, the Democrats will have won their great gamble to create a socialist country.

Q: Supporters of the law say when people become used to the new benefits they won’t want to let go of them.

A: We hooked inner-city poor people on bureaucratic schools, which are now destroyed. I think that’s a pretty bad deal. I think you can win fights in the inner city on parental choice when you can’t win fights in the suburbs. If you say to the average poor parent in Washington, D.C., “Do you think this has been a good bargain? ...”

Q: But they’re not ending it.

A: That’s because of the power structure. The gap in America between the secular-socialist machine, dominated by an elite, and the rest of us is breathtaking. Arthur Brooks has a book coming out this spring called “The Battle” in which he uses Gallup data to prove conclusively that there is a 70-30 or better center-right majority in the country. And it is a tribute to the power and capability of the Democratic Party and the incompetence of the Republican Party — it’s a dual effort — that you end up with 70 percent of the country being misgoverned by a militant minority.

Q: Why do African-Americans continue to vote for the people who continue to deny them school choice?

A: In part there are very few conservatives willing to campaign for their votes. Why didn’t President (George W.) Bush go to the NAACP convention for eight consecutive years and say, “We need your help liberating people”? I went around the country with Al Sharpton, who actually says the right things, and the reaction on the right is “how can you be associated with Al Sharpton?” I had a guy walk up to me after church — an African-American. He said, “I notice you and Rev. Sharpton care about children.” He didn’t notice me. We have to decide whether we are prepared to go into every neighborhood in America, every precinct, knock on every door and say, “there is a better future than a bureaucratic-welfare state-socialist model that is secular and will destroy our country and destroy your children’s future.”

Q: With what will you replace the health care law that will still allow the uninsured to have something?

A: This Center for Health Transformation has spent the last decade building a series of center-right options. (Indiana Gov.) Mitch Daniels had a high deductable insurance plan for people without insurance, which was getting off the ground. It had 30,000 to 40,000 signed up for it. Obamacare will now replace it. Georgia has a similar project under way.

There are many solutions from association plans that would allow people to organize their own insurance policies. Interestingly, there is an exemption in the law for the Amish. If you have a religious reason for not being insured, or you self-insure as a community, you don’t have to buy insurance. Why couldn’t you extend that to groups that actively want to self-insure?

Every small business could get together; every Rotarian could get together. What you have today is an obsolete model that protects lots of interest groups — from insurance companies, to hospitals, to doctors, to government — which makes health insurance artificially expensive.

Q: What about the tone of this debate? Some on the left claim the rhetoric is overheated, even hateful.

A: For people who are angry, the correct response is to beat them. Take all your energy, reach out and attract everybody you can, win the argument and beat them. The greatest satisfaction should be the retirement of Pelosi, Reid and Obama. That’s the way America should operate.

For the “mugger” to complain that people are objecting vociferously to being mugged, I think that’s an act of chutzpah on a grand scale. For any of these people who have deliberately bullied, bribed and abused the system to impose their will against the country to now be shocked that the country is unhappy with the machine, I think, is just a further act of arrogance. They’d like to mug you routinely while you thank them for the privilege of having been mugged. Look at Henry Waxman’s reaction to AT&T and others. The bill that Henry Waxman wrote requires them, under SEC law, to write down the cost of the bill. So now Waxman wants to intimidate the company for obeying the law to avoid (exposing) how destructive he is.

Q: What about the allegation by some on the left that opposition to the health care law is because white people fear losing their majority status, which is happening anyway, and their reaction is at heart racist?

A: (Such people) should meet Shelby Steele, who is black; Herman Cain, who is black; Michael Steele, who is black; J.C. Watts, who is black; Marco Rubio, who is Cuban-American. What kind of arrogant, one-sided, demagogic position does the left have to be in to stand on their power structure and scream that it’s inappropriate to debate the merits of a sick system imposing a sick bill, using blackmail and bribery?

Q: Is anyone in the party listening to you and considering your strategies?

A: You’ll have to ask them.

Q: You can tell me if you’ve called them.

A: I have many friends! I have offered and we share stuff regularly. Over the weekend I was working with Mitch Daniels on the Amish issue. I have worked with (Mississippi Republican Governor) Haley Barbour on a number of things; I’ve worked with (Louisiana Republican Governor) Bobby Jindal and his team, which may be the most innovative in the country. We’ve also put our people on Capitol Hill.

Q: You have experience when Democrats were in the majority, as they are now, and with taking it back from a Democratic majority in 1994 with The Contract With America. What would you do differently from 1994?

A: We’re in a different setting (today). First, people are sick of the process. People actually want an open, bipartisan, transparent process. So you can’t say, “OK, I’ll pass these 10 things.” You’ve got to come in and say, “We will work together in the open in a way that is transparent before the whole country to achieve these 10 things.” That’s a big difference. People are now much madder and sicker at the system than they were in 1994.

Second, it’s really important not to get sucked down in detail. What the Obama people would like to do is pick out of 2,700 pages (of the health care law) nine pages that are good and run around the country asking, “Why do you want to repeal these nine pages?” What we need to do is move above health care to the totality of America’s future.

Robert Samuelson wrote about this in the Washington Post. He said that Obama passing health care is like a family facing bankruptcy going on an around-the-world vacation. He said it is an act of total irresponsibility. It’s the totality of the threat from the secular-socialist machine; the threat it has for the fiscal collapse of the country, the threat it has to burden young people with a lifetime of paying taxes to payoff Chinese and Saudi bondholders. We’re working on numbers now to figure out how much a 20-year-old will have to pay in just interest on the debt vs. how much they will pay for national security in their lifetime.

Obama represents the greatest transfer of wealth from the young to the old in American history. It’s grotesque. We used to pay off the mortgage and give the kids the farm; now we’re selling the farm and giving kids the mortgage. It’s exactly the opposite of sound and healthy policy. So you want to have this larger question: “Which kind of America do you want?” I think when you recognize that virtually no American, except the hard left, believes that a centralized, bureaucratic, high tax, politician-defined system can work. You have a chance to win a cataclysmic election on the scale of 1932, not 1980, but 1932.

To do that takes a multi-cycle election. You have to win as big as you can this year, which means you run candidates everywhere from school board, to city councils, county commissions, state legislators, Congress, governor. Second, you have to govern responsibly when you are in the majority next year and then you have to set the stage for one of the largest choice elections in American history in 2012 where the country has a clear and vivid choice between a low-tax, high entrepreneurship, job creating, science- and technology-based future as the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world and a trial lawyer-bureaucracy-politician, high tax, low job, decaying future. And you say the country must choose. And you have the guts to go into every neighborhood and say, “Your life will be better if we do the right things.”

Q: Who is best equipped to spread that message? Someone who has been around the track, but who has experience, or a newcomer?

A: I don’t think we know yet. You have Meg Whitman (running for governor) in California, John Kasich (running for governor in Ohio), Scott Walker (running for Wisconsin governor). I think you’ll have a whole new generation of leaders emerge the morning after the November 2010 elections. And I think they will be terrific people with a lot of courage and a lot of new ideas.

I just read that Whitman is ahead of (Jerry) Brown. If the California election is a referendum on Sacramento, Brown is going to lose. Sixty-four percent of the state voted against raising taxes and spending in May. You could have one of the great upsets in American history. I think Marco Rubio is a good example of this because he’s young and he’s aggressive and was a very conservative speaker of the House. He clearly now is the frontrunner in Florida. I think Marco is a real leader for the future.

Right after the 1966 election, David Broder did a book in which he (handicapped) Nixon, Reagan, Romney, Rockefeller and I think Percy. It showed a list of people who were emerging who had been around. ... Bill Kristol tells this story about his father (Irving) in the fall of ‘76, “Maybe we ought to take a serious look at (Jack) Kemp because Reagan will be too old.” You just don’t know. All I’m saying is that somebody between now and May of 2012 will find the voice, the message and the clarity and become the nominee. That person has the very high potential to become president and turn Obama into a one-term president.

Q: Is it politically dangerous to embrace Sarah Palin and some others who have been talked about who would have trouble bringing in the independents?

A: Many years ago I had an Air Force general say to me, “Don’t worry about women fighter pilots. Any woman who passes all the training to become a fighter pilot will do just fine.” If Sarah Palin ends up as the Republican nominee, she’ll get independents, because the Sarah Palin who ends up as the nominee will have figured out how to win independents. I think the idea that our pseudo-intellectuals get to define for us who is “the authoritative voice,” having repudiated Goldwater and Reagan is kind of funny.

Q: Have the enthusiastic young who voted for Obama and are now disappointed with him realized their mistake yet?

A: No, but I think they’re beginning to. His popularity since he got in has dropped 20 points. Unemployment kills. Charlie Cook (“The Cook Political Report”) wrote a piece about three months ago in which he noted that since World War II, the only months in which unemployment has been above 8 percent in an election year were all in 1982 and we got hammered. (The Democrats) are not going to have a month this year with unemployment at 8 percent. So they’re going to the country in September and October and they’re going to say, having borrowed trillions, having grotesquely expanded government, ignored and run over all of you, lied to you, we would like you to give us a second chance because we mean well. I think they’re just going to get hammered.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe unemployed people are going to say, “Oh, the speech was so great, I’m going to vote for him anyway.” There’s no evidence statistically that (Obama’s) speeches sold the health plan anywhere. In fact, the longer he talks about it, the weaker he gets. What’s going to eat (Democrats) alive is the daily drip of new bad information.

We’re creating a new Web page here at the Center for Health Transformation just to keep track of all the health information. You have a 2,600-page law with 159 new offices trying to manage 50 state exchanges, 50 Medicaid programs ... it is going to be a fiasco. This is going to make the stimulus plan look like one of the most efficient, well-run programs in history.

Q: When will you announce whether you are running for president?

A: February 2011. You’ll get a brief email that says “yes,” or “no.”

[Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist, appearing in more than 600 national newspapers. He is the author of more than 10 books and is a FOX News political contributor since 1997. Email Cal Thomas at tmseditors@tribune.com.] ©2010 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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