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Archive for Saturday, April 7, 2007

Gingrich seeks presidential candidate with solutions

April 7, 2007

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Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks at the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference in March in Washington, D.C. Gingrich is working to get presidential candidates to embrace his solutions to America's problems.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks at the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference in March in Washington, D.C. Gingrich is working to get presidential candidates to embrace his solutions to America's problems.

— Newt Gingrich wants somebody running for president - maybe himself - to embrace his solutions to the nation's problems.

He's not thinking about a presidential campaign now, Gingrich insists. Instead, the former House speaker is busy creating ideas, his stock in trade since leaving Congress.

"After Sept. 29, we'll look," Gingrich said in an interview. "I'm hopeful a number of these ideas are so obviously popular that people will just adopt them."

Gingrich is planning Internet-based workshops on Sept. 27 and 29, inviting officials from every level of elective office - more than half a million people - to learn about his proposed solutions.

He is seeking change on a tremendous scale, similar to the economic and social reforms of the Progressive Movement at the turn of the 20th century.

He wants the Contract With America on steroids.

A rallying platform conceived by Gingrich, the 1994 Contract With America gets credit for helping Republicans capture control of Congress after 40 years of Democratic rule. The document promised a vote on each of 10 priorities - including tax cuts, welfare reform and term limits - within 100 days of Gingrich taking the speaker's gavel.

"Multiply that times 50, and you'll have some idea of the depth and scale of what we want to accomplish," Gingrich said. "What we're trying to do is bring public service and public solutions into the 21st century information age, and so it's very parallel to the Progressive Movement."

However, the circumstances under which Gingrich left Congress may water down his message, said David Woodard, a political scientist at Clemson University.

Gingrich quit when his party, after spotlighting President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, lost seats in the 1998 elections. The next year, Gingrich's involvement with a congressional aide, Callista Bisek, led to his divorce from his second wife, Marianne; he later married Bisek.

Gingrich, 63, has tried to rehabilitate his image by admitting publicly to his extramarital affair during the Clinton impeachment scandal. He made the admission in an interview last month with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and he won praise for the acknowledgment from another conservative Christian leader, the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

"His ideas are sort of tainted by that kind of negative baggage, and I don't think they have quite the force and vibrancy they did when you first heard of him," said Woodard, who also is a GOP consultant.

"They'll say, 'I like him, but I can't stand the fact this has happened,'" Woodard said. "Social conservatives keep up with all this stuff. They like all the gossip."

For the next six months, Gingrich will be offering ideas to Republicans and Democrats alike in hopes they will adopt his vision. His advice isn't limited to the current crop of White House hopefuls; Gingrich plans to debate Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee in 2004, on global warming next week.

Along broad themes, he seeks to govern from the right, modernize government and bloated businesses, and defend the United States against foreign adversaries.

Among his proposals is establishing patriotic education for children and immigrants, including making English the language of American government and keeping "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance as part of an effort to "recenter" the U.S. on God.

Other ideas: transforming Social Security into personal savings accounts, reducing lawsuits, simplifying the tax code, pushing Americans to excel at math and science, posting the cost and quality of health care at hospitals and other medical facilities, and investing in "scientific revolution," particularly in energy, space and the environment.

If a candidate embraces his ideas, Gingrich said, "then I won't run, because there won't be any reason for me to."

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