Gingrich’s “contract” for the new century

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has unveiled his 21st Century Contract with America.  Bullet point number one is repeal of “ObamaCare” and it also calls for a balanced federal budget as well as maximizing the speed and impact of medical breakthroughs.  (Read the Radio Iowa story about this event and listen to the speech as well as the Q&A with reporters afterwards here.)

Gingrich’s daughter has a copy of the original “Contract with America” — a poster used when it was unveiled in 1994.  There looks to be a water stain on the bottom, which she jokingly suggested was a champagne stain from the celebrating after Republicans won the House in ’94.

Gingrich’s unveiling of his 21st century Contract took place at the Principal Financial Group in downtown Des Moines, in the company’s auditorium which has a visiting point for presidential candidates of the past few cycles. Principal employees began filing in at about 12:15 p.m.  The place has about 450 seats and most of them were full by 12:30 p.m, when the thing should have started (Gingrich was fashionably late). Former Congressman Greg Ganske, a Des Moines plastic surgeon, is in the house.  He won his first term in 1994, the year of the original Contract with America.

A host from the company began speaking at 12:40 p.m., saying Gingrich’s visit would be the first in a series of presidential candidate visits.  Ganske then introduced Gingrich — after telling the crowd former Iowa Governor Robert Ray and his wife, Billie, were in the audience.  The crowd applauded the Rays.

Ganske brought out the Contract as a prop for his introduction.  “Remember those days?  it was a lot of hard work, but it was a lot of fun and we made a lot of progress,” Ganske said, then he explained why he’s backing Gingrich for president.  “…I think that we need somebody who has great ideas, who has a global understanding of these problems, who isn’t just a tactician…but can strategize on the big picture.”

Gingrich’s microphone wasn’t on at the beginning, but he got it turned on and began explaining the new Contract. “It’s an effort to lay out for people what we need to do in a way we can all understand as citizens,” Gingrich said, “and we can put it together.”

The “Contract” circa 1994 prop is actually a copy of the original, a copy Ganske kept.

Gingrich told the crowd the original “Contract with America” was a management document.  “While it had a powerful political impact…we voted on all of these things in 93 days,” he said. “…There’s no attack here…We don’t attack Bill Clinton.  There’s nothing pretty about it.  This is an adult document for adults.”

Gingrich said such a document was about shifting politics to letting the public hire someone to “get the job done.”

Next, Gingrich engaged in a hand-raising exercise with the crowd. “I believe we’re in real trouble.  How many of you agree that America’s on the wrong track?” he asked.

Gingrich observed the crowd was “virtually unanimous” in saying the country was on the wrong track

“I just want to feed back to you what you just said….Our challenges are enormous, I think the biggest since 1860.  The difficulty of changing direction….(is) going to be tremendous.”

Gingrich suggested his new contract is broader than the original.  “This contract is designed in a much deeper way” to address the country’s problems, he said.

The new contract, he explained, is divided into four parts: legislation, executive actions on the first day of a new presidency, a training program for the transition team and all presidential appointees and finally, a “citizen-centered model that uses social media, because I don’t ask anybody to be for me…I ask people to be with me, because for eight years we need to work together.”

Gingrich told the crowd some of his suggestions won’t work, and the process over the next year (he’s creating on-line discussions about the contract) will yield a final document a year from now.

“I think the reason Washington is a total mess is because nobody in Washington is prepared today….to think anew,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich suggested he doesn’t know yet how to accomplish some of the things in his new contract  “While I’m going to propose these…they should come through a regular legislative process…so the will of the American people is actually expressed the way the constitution suggested.” Gingrich said, adding he wanted to avoid “ramming things through” congress.

Gingrich talked about many of the details in his contract — which he has been discussing during the course of the presidential campaign.

As he discussed the foreign policy segment of the contract, Gingrich criticized an Obama Administration decision. “This proposal that we keep 3000 troops in Iraq,” Gingrich began, saying the group would be “too small to defend itself” and would, instead, wind up being “a target.”

“It is profoundly wrong,” Gingrich said of a 3000 troop level in Iraq, adding: “It is wrong to put Americans at risk for political reasons.”  Leaving a small group of US troops in “a dangerous neighborhood” puts them at risk, Gingrich said.

In explaining the section on the 10th amendment, Gingrich said: “We are citizens, not subjects…and the only way to change that is to take everything back home.”

Achieving change won’t be easy, Gingrich cautioned. “It’s hard work, common sense and willingness to put the country first,” he said.

First question was about religion “imposing its ideas on the rest of us” and the questioner said she was “very concerned that a branch of Christianity” has gotten its “tenants” into government.”  She cited stem cell policy specifically, then ended with this:  “If you are president, would you work hard to make Christian social issues the law of the land?”

Gingrich said he would not use the American taxpayers’ money for abortions. “Can you explain Lincoln without understanding that he read the Bible every afternoon?” Gingrich asked. “…The idea that taking school prayer out in 1963 made the country better?  I don’t see any evidence.”

Gingrich said there is “an enormous difference” between a culture that is entirely secular and one that is based on a belief in God.

Next question was about the national debt. Gingrich talked about the three-year process of balancing the budget when he was speaker rather than addressing the debt specifically. “Pretty straightforward. Spend less than you take in,” Gingrich said. “…This is not theorhetically hard. We did it in your lifetime.”

Third question came from a vet, who said he agreed with Gingrich’s comment about having 3000 troops in Iraq.  The vet asked Gingrich which he would choose: 3000 or none.

“I’d go with none,” Gingrich said in response.  Gingrich said American troops in Iraq are playing defense against what Iran is doing there, putting the remaining troops at “enormous risk.”

He also said the US Embassy in Iraq is way too big and indefensible. “It makes no sense to have the current American embassy in Iraq,” Gingrich said, adding a few moments later that “we have to rethink” U.S. policy in the entire region.

“We are grossly underestimating how dangerous the world is,” Gingrich said.

Next question: why are you  not being better received as a candidate.

Gingrich got laughter when he said he was glad to have gotten the question now rather than several months ago, as his poll numbers have “gotten better.”

Gingrich repeated his answer to why many of his original campaign staff exited, and he closed by attacking the media.

“This is a country in which the media is more comfortable spending 2 or 3 weeks on a congressman’s truly bizarre tweets than it is on a serious analysis,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich closed by saying the cynacism and gimmickry of the media is “disheartening” — and the crowd applauded.

There was one last question, about regulatory reform.  Next up, Q&A with the dastardly media after Gingrich shakes hands with the crowd.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

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