Gingrich on the “gamble” he’s taking, plus a response to colleagues-turned-critics

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is the guest on this week’s episode of Iowa Press on IPTV (watch it now online).  He was asked a couple of questions about the negative ads on the Iowa airwaves which target him.

Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson: “You have said you’re chafing a bit…”

Newt Gingrich: (chuckles) “Yes.”

Henderson: “…under your vow to run a relentlessly positive campaign. At the core, those ads raise questions about your consistency. How do you respond to the charges in those ads?”

Gingrich: ”I have a 90 percent American Conservative Union voting record; a 98.5 percent National Right-to-Life voting record. I’m the only person in your lifetime to balance the federal budget four years in a row, which I thought was  conservative achievement. I helped pass the largest capital gains tax cut in history; unemployment dropped to 4.2 percent, which I would have thought was a conservative achievement. I helped pass the first, only major entitlement reform in your lifetime — welfare — two out of three people went back to work or went to school, which I would have thought was a conservative achievement and that’s just in the speakership. In the late ’70s I worked actively with Ronald Reagan. We helped develop supply-side economics with Jack Kemp and Art Laffer and others. I helped pass the tax cuts under Reagan. I helped fight and helped implement the end of the Soviet Empire as a member of congress, helped found the Conservative Opportunity Society. You would think there’s a point where the sheer weight of evidence beats the 30-second attack ad and I’m relying on the good judgement of Iowans to weigh the real history versus the 30-second attack ad.”

Henderson: ”Speaking of the judgement of Iowans, a former Iowa congressman — Fred Grandy — this past week endorsed you and, in talking with him, he told me one of the reasons he did so was because of the current members of congress and the former members of congress who have said things about you. They’ve said you’re unfit. They question your leadership style. How do you respond directly to your former colleagues who raise those concerns.”

Gingrich: “I don’t respond to my former colleagues. I tell the public I was a very strong speaker. I helped drive us to a majority for the first time in 40 years. I helped develop the first reelection as a majority since 1928. In the process, as I said a minute ago, if you’re, remember, I’m getting this stuff done with Bill Clinton. Now, if you are able to maneuver so that you can get welfare reform signed by Clinton, a tax cut signed by Clinton, four balanced budgets signed by Clinton, you’re going to make some people unhappy on two fronts. One front are the selfish members who didn’t get their particular earmark and the other front are the ideologues who say, ‘I’d rather have been pure. I don’t want welfare reform if Bill Clinton signs it. It can’t be good enough,’ so I say, ‘Fine.’ I mean, if you want the people who are at the trough who are afraid I’m coming back to stop their earmarks, that’s fine. And if you want the guys who are so ideologically pure they wouldn’t get anything done, that’s fine, but I have a track record of actually getting conservative things done. Some columnist wrote this week I’ve had the most effective effort to shift the country to the right since Ronald Reagan and that’s a fact.”

Iowa Press moderator asked Gingrich a follow-up on the turn-the-other cheek strategy.  “What I have to prove in the next few months is that I can allow my opponents to say a variety of unpleasant things and cheerfully ignore them,” Gingrich said. “…This is a great gamble. I want to be clear. It’s an act of faith in the American people that I can have a conversation with them despite sort of childish, negative ads written by clever consultants who are paid a lot of money.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.