Gingrich will be at the Straw Poll in Ames

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told NBC’s Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" this past Sunday that he was "thinking about thinking about running" for president and wouldn’t jump in the race — if he does jump in — until later this fall.  That is AFTER the Iowa Republican Party holds its Straw Poll in Ames this August.  But lest you fear Gingrich won’t be there, think again.

Gingrich plans to put up a booth on the grounds around the arena in Ames where the candidates will make their speeches — and where the ticket-holders will be casting their votes.  Gingrich will appear at his "American Solutions" booth to, in his words, "invite all of those supporters of all of the candidates to participate in the workshop, without any regard to who they’re supporting."  As you may know, Gingrich’s "American Solutions" group is hosting an on-line forum in late September. 

Gingrich also plans to visit the Iowa State Fair.  A couple of strong signals he is really "thinking about thinking about running."  Gingrich answered a few questions from a few Iowa reporters earlier tonight and what follows is a transcript of his answers.  Note that when he "names names" of candidates, he picks Fred Thompson and Al Gore rather than any of the current group of formally-announced candidates.

The opening question was about his decision to wait and jump in late — if he jumps in….

"I think the American people may change campaigning in America.  We have a proposal to have nine 90-minute dialogues next year starting on Labor Day and interestingly, Marvin Kalb wrote an article in the New York Times recently that they had proposed that back in 1991 and I think Marvin and I are going to do something at the National Press Club on this idea and the reason is very simple.  In the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, you had two adults, seven debates, three hours each.  Now, you have somewhere between ‘American Idol’ and ‘The Bachelor.’  You know, 10, 11, 12, 15 people standing in a row passively waiting for 30 seconds while a TV personality dominates.  It’s goofy.  I mean, what does that have to do with being president? And so what I’ve said to people that, you know, anybody could do this. Fred Thompson could do it.  Al Gore could do it, but somebody ought to get in and say ‘I’m not going to participate in cattle calls.’  I’ll be happy to debate anybody in either party for 90 minutes with a time keeper and no moderator.  I’d be happy to have a serious discussion anywhere.  I’m not afraid to appear on stage but this actually demeans, weakens and undermines the presidency because it reduces you from the leader of the nation to an applicant like a game show contestant.

"Second, I think the problems that we’re faced with are much bigger than 30 second answers and third, I think a lot of the problems that we’re faced with aren’t in the White House.  There are 511,000 elected officials in America.  There are 16,000 elected officials in Iowa and so we’re going to have an ‘American Solutions’ workshop on September 27th — the anniversary of ‘The Contract (with America)’ on the Internet available in the whole country for free to anybody — Democrat, Republican, Independent. Then we’re going to repeat it Saturday, September 29th and we’re going to try to have at least one in every country in Iowa.  We had a committment yesterday in Manchester, New Hampshire, to try to get one workshop in each of the 234 towns in New Hampshire and we may decide to try to get one in every legislative district, representative seat in Iowa, but we want to get right down to where people can come together, look at big solutions, talk to each other and realize this is about America.  It’s not about the president.  It’s about America and it’s going to take all of us doing something real to make it work and frankly, starting the 30th of September, I’ll look at the race. 

"If there’s a space there for a citizen-candidate who has very clear proposals and very bold solutions, I’ll probably run.  But if there isn’t, if somebody’s already taken all the ideas — we’re going to give the ideas away.  Anybody that wants them can have them — Democrat or Repbulican — and if somebody is already filling that space, then I’ll happily come back and do a second novel and I’ll do a second workshop next year and I’ll — you know, I’ve got plenty of things to do with my life and I will be here at the State Fair on the opening Friday and I’ll be back the next day at Ames, but we’ll be there with an ‘American Solutions’ booth inviting all of those supporters of all of the candidates to participate in the workshop, without any regard to who they’re supporting and we’ll frankly try to reach the Democrats on the same basis.  I recently did a telephone town hall meeting with 30,000 households here in Iowa.  We called 10,000 Independents, 10,000 Democrats and 10,000 Republicans.  I’m tired of Red versus Blue.  I want it to be Red, White and Blue."

Gingrich was then asked to outline the issues which are not being addressed by the current crop of candidates.

"Let’s start with English should be the official language of government, the right of workers to have a secret ballot vote before they’re forced to join a union should be protected. We should abolish the death tax permanently.  We should guarantee that the courts can’t take away our right to say ‘One nation under God’ as part of the Pledge of Allegiance.  We should have absolute control of the border for national security.  It should bother every American that there were six terrorists arrested in New Jersey two weeks ago.  Three of the six had been here for 23 years illegally.  The other three had been picked up and charged 75 times by the New Jersey police in the last six years and in 75 charges including drug dealing and drug paraphernalia or drug possession and drug paraphernalia, they never once figured out that they were illegal.  Now, the fact that no presidential candidate has stood up and proposed a fundamental overhaul of the Department of Homeland Security is an example of what I’m looking for.  I want somebody that says ‘This ain’t workin’ — I mean, if you can’t figure out after 23 years that this person’s illegal and you can’t figure out after 75 encounters with the police that this person’s illegal, the system’s broken.  I hear nobody talking about that fundamental a level of change."

"Why do you think nobody is talking about that fundamental level of change?"

"I think they’re all advised by consultants who don’t know anything.  I mean the consultants are all specialists in how you buy TV time and how you listen to focus groups, but they don’t have any sense of history.  They don’t have a sense of deeper national purpose and they dumb-down the race.  What I want to know is tell me as a real leader, Abraham Lincoln in 1860 spent three months personally researching a speech at the Springfield Library, went to Cooper Union in New York and delivered a two-hour, 7300 word speech on the nature of the Constitution, the role of the Founding Fathers and the position of slavery and freedom in America.  Now that was real.  That was a no baloney serious.  He’d thought it through and it’s not like the candidates aren’t smart enough.  They’re not focusing their energy on understanding how deeply broken the systems are and how fundamental the reforms have to be."

Do you expect a candidate to be able to effect the change you speak of?  Do you think the parties are incapable of it?

"The reason we created American Solutions and the reason we’re going to do this workshop on September 27th and 29th is that I believe you almost have to go outside the current system to get the real change, to then see if the current system can catch up.  I do not think you can get that change inside this current model and so we’re literally going to make all of our polling data available to everybody — Democrat and Republican.  We’re going to make all of our solutions available to everybody.  We’re not going to charge anything for the workshops.  Anybody that wants to can take them and oru hope is that, Ronald Reagan had a great line.  He used to say, ‘I try to show the American people the light and then they get to show Congress the heat’ and I think my goal is to try to reach out to every American and say ‘You know in your heart the system has to be dramatically better and you have to take the responsibility as a citizen to help make it dramatically better and here are some practical steps you can take to do that.’  If we can pull that off on the 27th and 29th of September, then I think we set a totally different stage for the 2008 presidential campaign than where it’s at right now."

Will the MTV generation have the attention span or the patience to take the steps he is outlining?

"They can learn it.  I think part of my major function is to be a teacher and to say, hey, if you want to be a free society you actually have to sometimes turn off the tube and learn something.  Now, if you don’t want to turn off the tube and learn something, then later on if you’re not a free society — don’t be shocked.  You know, we’ll see what happens.  It’s a free country.  It’s not about me.  It’s about the country."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

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


  1. Mark Walker says

    How many “countries” are there in Iowa (and we’re going to try to have at least one in every country in Iowa.)?
    It is nice to see it’s not about Newt (“It’s not about me. It’s about the country.”). Does he seriously think that a multiple-divorcee who was reprimanded while in the House and paid a $300,000 fine for his ethics violations should even be considered to be a candidate? If the president of our country’s job is to enforce the laws made by Congress, how can someone with this kind of record be eligible to run?
    I for one, want a president who at least STARTS his campaign and term in good standing!
    Out with the Newts!

  2. Ray Makalous says

    “High Tech” versus “High touch”. This will definitely change the campaigning from that date forward. My hope is that it will lead the Republican party to follow up with a similar approach in helping shape the 2008 platform, hopefully later this fall.
    Thanks Newt. God Bless America