Gingrich gets polygamy question (AUDIO)

Newt Gingrich held one of those tele-town halls this evening, and a participant asked Gingrich if he would legalize polygamy if he’s elected.  Here’s the AUDIO of the brief exchange, which lasted less than a minute and a half.

The man started by saying he had been “happy to meet” Gingrich in person at the Iowa State Fair in August. Then the man — who described himself as a “Bible believing Christian” — launched into his question.

“Jesus very specifically states in the Bible that divorced people are really still married, which I think technically means now that you’re a polygamist and I’m wondering what you’ll do to legalize polygamy in U.S. if you were to be elected president,” he said.

Gingrich called it a “fairly unusual question” and then offered the following response: “Having a gone through annulment under the procedures of the Catholic Church, I don’t meet the standards you just described, but I appreciate the question. It’s certainly an unusual one and I can assure you that I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and that I would oppose any effort to legalize polygamy. But that’s certainly a creative question on your part and I look forward to the next question.”

Gingrich “get” Paulsen compares Newt to Terry

Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, compared Newt Gingrich to Terry Branstad as Paulsen announced his endorsement of Gingrich in a statehouse news conference. Paulsen said he has noticed Branstad’s “intensity of purpose” over the last year, driven by his time out of the governorship and returning with an agenda to enact.

Paulsen said he sees the same intensity of purpose in Gingrich and, according to Paulsen, that should “frighten the political elite and the insiders” in D.C. because Gingrich has had “time to develop a plan” since he’s been out of congress.

“He is a Washington outsider,” Paulsen said, adding Gingrich would “shatter the D.C. Beltway status quo.”

A small group of Occupy Des Moines protesters jumped up and started chanting when Gingrich began speaking. They left the room, then one who stayed behind rose a couple of minutes later and tried to talk with Gingrich. who said he would “be glad to talk to you outside” after the news conference is over.

Gingrich was asked about the payroll tax extension & he offered this observation:  “I have no idea what it would be like” to negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.


Gingrich seeks to dispel what he calls “wildly inaccurate” Freddie story

Newt Gingrich had a “tele” town hall this morning with Iowa voters and his opening statement included somewhat of a rebuttal to the slings and arrows he took in Thursday night’s debate over his $1.6 million in work for Freddie Mac, Romney’s  comments this a.m. in South Carolina and this Wall Street Journal editorial.  

“I just want to set the record straight. We had a company. The company had three different offices. We were paid annually for six years, so the numbers you see are six years of work. Most of that money went to pay for overhead, for staff, for other things that didn’t go directly to me. It went to the company which provided consulting advice & our advice included how do you help poor people earn the right to be in a house & to be a homeowner. I had spent years working with Habitat for Humanity. I believe deeply in trying to help people have the right to have a home. I think it’s a good part of being an American to own property and I’ve been very much in favor of property ownership which is also why I’m for the abolition of the death tax so that family farms aren’t forced to be sold because you can’t afford to pay the federal taxes when the parents die.

“In that setting, I also want to say I have never once advocated that people do something for Fannie or Freddie. I do not in any way work on influence, per se. I’m a public figure. I make public speeches. Everybody can go look at what I’ve said in public.  I actually suggested they needed more regulations & that’s actually in writing on their website,so you can go look @ it yourself. That’s an area where people have just said things that are wildly inaccurate and don’t reflect anything about how I’ve operated or what I’ve done.

“I want to be this open and this straight so everybody can see the record.”

At the conclusion of the call, Gingrich said:

“I’m inclined, because of the extraordinary negativity of the campaign, I’m including to every couple of days do  his kind of an ‘ask Newt’  conference call & jus tlet people have a chance to talk about ideas and encourage them to raise any of these things that you get in the mail that are junk and dishonest and I’ll be glad to personally answer so you’re hearing it from my very own lips. You’re not, you know, we don’t have our advertising versus their advertising, but you get to ask me directly.”

Sioux City Debate Part II: Freddie & Fannie, Newt & Michele

Ron Paul made the point he made in the last debate, saying “to go to work (for Freddie Mac) and get money from them, it’s literally coming from the taxpayer,” but Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann mixed it up pretty furiously in the second segment of tonight’s debate. 

[Read more…]

Gingrich on Freddie Mac contract, his bash @ Romney’s work @ Bain

Here’s a bit more from the Iowa Press taping with guest Newt Gingrich (show airs tomorrow night statewide on Iowa Public Television; video posted online now). 

Henderson: During the debate last Saturday you took a good bit of lead from your opponents over your lobbying contract — they would characterize it as such — with Freddie Mac. Do you regret taking that job and do you regret criticizing Mitt Romney for his activities at Bain, in responding to one of his attacks?”

Gingrich: “I don’t regret taking the job because it was a totally legal, non-lobbying, strategic-advisory thing and, you know, I’m not going to go through life, trying, that part just gets mischaracterized. I do regret taking a shot at Mitt. It was foolish on my part. He had taken one more shot at me that he knew wasn’t true and made an assertion that he knew was absurd, but it violated all the core principles I have in terms of trying to stay positive despite temptation. It also communicated something I don’t believe in. I think people who run those companies have an obligation to run the companies effectively and to do the best they can and I’ve said in the past, many times, that he’s a good manager, so it’s one of the few times, I think, in the campaign where I said something that, you know, I could have retracted.”

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.”

Grandy: “the only guy who can swing for the fences is Newt”

Former Iowa Congressman Fred Grandy (yes, he used to be Gopher on The Love Boat) has endorsed Newt Gingrich.  Grandy called the Radio Iowa newsroom this evening and we had a conversation.

Grandy: “I had been leaning towards Newt for some time because in my present line of work, which is kind of working on counter-intelligence issues at a place called The Center for Security Policy and concentrating on jihadist movements in the Middle East and elsewhere, Newt is clearly the only guy who fully understands how dangerous this world is right now and has, I believe, a strategic plan to do something about it, which is to essentially reverse course from the, I think, kind of pathetic accommodations that have been made by the Obama Administration but even, I have to say, by the Bush Administration prior and will reassert American dominance in that area. I really feel as though this is a time when we need somebody who understands strategically how national security is supposed to work.

“…And then two, I got more than a little upset at the number of Republicans — sitting and former members (of congress) — who felt compelled to get up and talk about how Newt was not a leader. Most of these guys followed Newt loyally in the late ’90s…He was not necessarily the easiest guy to get along with, but that’s because he was very committed to things he believed in.   

“…You’ve been covering politicians for quite some time. Have you ever met one that wasn’t to some degree self-centered, that wasn’t looking over your shoulder to see who was coming into the room?  I mean, come on, that’s endemic to the genre.

“As far as I’m concerned, all you have to do to question Newt Gingrich’s leadership is look at the four years he was speaker of the house and look at how the country changed: welfare reform, balanced budgets, telecom policy that essentially ushered in the cellular revolution and a few trade agreements that, unless I’m very much mistaken helped a lot of Iowa farmers.

“I would rather have a difficult personality as a capable leader than an accommodating, ‘hail fellow well met’ guy who didn’t know what he was doing — and Newt’s one of those guys that really knows what he’s doing.”

As for those former and current members of congress who’ve been criticizing Gingrich publicly, Grandy suggested it was because Gingrich had the “temerity” to ask — back when Republicans were in the minority in the house — this basic question:  Why?  According to Grandy, Republicans had settled into a sort of “servitude” to the Democratic majority in the house.

“I was a committed ‘squishy moderate’ and working around guys like Gingrich really reawakened a strong conservative element in myself that pretty much dictates my politics now,” Grandy told me. “…What (Gingrich) accomplished is without parallel and to me what America needs now is results, not necessarily fire side chats…Right now you need someone who can reign far and wide over domestic and national security issues and the only guy who can swing for the fences is Newt.”

Gingrich vows no cheating, calls for more abortion restrictions

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has written his own statement rather than sign onto the lengthy “Marriage Vow” released this summer by The Family Leader and billed as a prerequisite for getting the group’s endorsement.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story, with comments from Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of The Family Leader.  Below is the news release from The Family Leader.

Pleasant Hill, IOWA. – Former Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has provided The FAMiLY LEADER his written response to The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family.  To date, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Governor Rick Perry, and former Senator Rick Santorum have all signed the marriage pledge.  The 14-point pledge can be found at:

Speaker Newt Gingrich’s response: 

To Bob Vander Plaats and the Executive Board of The FAMiLY LEADER:

I appreciate the opportunity to affirm my strong support of the mission of the FAMiLY LEADER by solemnly vowing to defend and strengthen the family through the following actions I would take as President of the United States.

Defending Marriage.  As President, I will vigorously enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted under my leadership as Speaker of the House, and ensure compliance with its provisions, especially in the military.  I will also aggressively defend the constitutionality of DOMA in federal and state courts.  I will support sending a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification.  I will also oppose any judicial, bureaucratic, or legislative effort to define marriage in any manner other than as between one man and one woman.  I will support all efforts to reform promptly any uneconomic or anti-marriage aspects of welfare and tax policy.  I also pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others. 

Defending the Unborn.  I believe that life begins at conception.  On day one of my administration, I will sign an executive order reinstating Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City policy that prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions overseas.  I will also work with Congress to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood so that no taxpayer dollars are being used to fund abortions but rather transfer the money so it is used to promote adoption and other pro-family policies, and enact legislation that provides greater protections for the unborn. 

Defending Religious Liberty.  As President, I will vigorously defend the First Amendment’s rights of religious liberty and freedom of speech against anyone who would try to stifle the free expression of believers.  I will also promote legislation that protects the right to conscience for healthcare workers so they are not compelled to perform abortions and other procedures that violate their religious teachings.

Defending Against Debt.  As President, I will undertake vigorous policies to maximize capital investment and job creation, along with common sense entitlement reforms, to dramatically turn around the nation’s fiscal situation.  Building upon the same principles I championed during my four years as Speaker, when we reduced the national debt by over $400 billion and dramatically reduced the national debt as a percentage of the GDP, we will reduce the enormous burden upon American families of the public debt and unfunded liabilities.

Defending the Right of the People to Rule Themselves.  Today, as federal courts have intervened in sectors of American life never before imaginable, including the intervention in the definition of marriage as well as when unborn life can be protected under the Constitution, the public has increasingly come to view them as an usurpative device for unelected rulers.  This abuse of power and loss of public confidence amounts to a constitutional crisis.  I believe the executive and legislative branches each have an independent responsibility to interpret the Constitution, and in those rare circumstances when they believe the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have engaged in a serious constitutional error, they can choose among an array of constitutional powers to check and balance the courts.  As President, I will nominate for federal judgeships, including justices of the Supreme Court, only those individuals who are committed to an originalist understanding of the Constitution.  Judges with an originalist understanding will subordinate themselves to the meaning of the Constitution as it was intended by the framers, and not substitute their own judgments about its meaning.  The inherent judicial self-restraint that comes from an originalist approach to the Constitution offers the best long-term assurance that federal judges will not exceed their powers and trample on individual liberties.  I will also work with Congress to use the Constitutional means available to reassert the right of the elected branches of government to defend their understanding of the meaning of the Constitution, including limiting the jurisdiction of the federal courts to decide on certain issues, when they believe the federal courts have engaged in a serious constitutional error. 


Newt Gingrich  

In regard to Speaker Gingrich’s response, Bob Vander Plaats, President & CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER said, “We are pleased that Speaker Gingrich has affirmed our pledge and are thankful we have on record his statements regarding DOMA, support of a federal marriage amendment, defending the unborn, pledging fidelity to his spouse, defending religious liberty and freedom, supporting sound pro-family economic issues, and defending the right of the people to rule themselves.”   

Santorum contrasts his record with Newt’s on Freddie Mac (audio)

As GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was finishing up an appearance today in Des Moines, his staff passed around a letter Santorum had signed in March, 2006 when he was a US Senator — a letter about the “enormous risk” Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac posed to the American taxpayer.

“I wasn’t someone who was saying, at the time, that we need to abolish them, but I saw the problems that were inherent in the system and now it’s clear to me, given what happened, we need to move away from that model,” Santorum told reporters this afternoon.  “It was amazing how many people would come in and lobby, from a variety of different places, on Fannie and Freddie…They had more lobbyists than you could shake a stick at. They had Democrats and Republicans, everybody trying to surround the congress and get them from to stop from acting.”

Did you consider Gingrich a lobbyist?

“I was busy…If you had asked me then whether I knew Newt was working for them or not…I don’t remember,” Santorum said.

Santorum is not joining colleagues Mitt Romney and Ron Paul who have called on Gingrich to return the $1.6 million he earned from Freddie Mac.

“Newt was a private businessman who went out and engaged in a contract and I’m sure he earned that money and if he earned the money, I don’t see any reason he should give it back,” Santorum said. “That’s just gotcha politics. I’m not going to play that game.”

A reporter asked if the contract with Freddie Mac was troubling, and Santorum said he would has turned down a contract from Freddie rather than get a “paycheck to say things that may not necessarily be where you are and where your past history has been” as Gingrich did.

“Look, the very fact that he went out and lobbied for an organization that, in my opinion, was not consistent with the conservative values that we have…I mean, I just wouldn’t do that,” Santorum said.  “…getting a paycheck for to say things that may not necessarily be where you are and where your past history has been.”

Santorum described Gingrich as a lobbyist and Gingrich has denied he was a lobbyist, so I asked Santorum if he considered Gingrich a Freddie Mac lobbyist. “I’m not going to contest whether he actually lobbied or not and if I said that, I apologize. I mean, I probably was not being as careful with my words as I should have been,” Santorum said. “He certainly worked for Freddie and he spoke on their behalf…He was someone promoting their values and promoting their cause.”

Listen to the AUDIO of the whole exchange.  At the end of the Q&A, Santorum was asked about Romney’s $10,000 bet.  “I was a little taken aback by it,” Santorum said.  “…That would not be a number that I would throw out.”

Gingrich’s daughter here to debunk “urban myth” of her parent’s divorce (audio)

As I’ve interviewed several self-proclaimed Gingrich voters over the past few months, many of them cite Jackie Cushman’s “Setting the Record Straight” editorial piece.  Jackie Gingrich Cushman is Newt Gingrich’s daughter, from his first marriage.

“His own daughter refutes the negativity in the media with her account of her parent’s divorce,” Jeremy Freeman, an Iowa State University student, told me in late November.

Competing candidates and their campaigns have been tossing a good bit of negativity at Gingrich since he’s risen to the top of the polls, some of it about spacey ideas (colonizing the moon) Gingrich has proposed, or his past support of a health insurance mandate. But the former speaker’s marital history is part of the campaign conversation, even among his own supporters. The Gingrich campaign called me yesterday and asked if I would like half an hour with Jackie Cushman to talk about what Cushman herself calls the “urban myth” about her parent’s divorce in 1980.

The rap on the twice-divorce Gingrich was that he served his first wife with divorce papers while she was on her death bed, dealing with cancer.  Cushman,was 13 when her parents told her and her sister they were divorcing.  She wrote in “Setting the Record Straight” it was her mother who requested the divorce and that her mother did not have cancer — a tumor was found to be benign.

Our conversation this afternoon, in the Starbucks at the hotel where Cushman and her family are staying, started with this question:  “Why did you write that piece?”

Cushman responded (here’s the AUDIO of her answer): “Obviously, we’ve been quiet for a very long time and that’s really out of respect for my mother. She’s obviously still very important in our lives. She helps watch the children which is fabulous. I mean, she’s the best babysitter ever and she’s been really supportive of my sister and I and has said, ‘Look, y’all, you go out and help your dad and I’m glad to be here and help. I’ll watch the children. I’ll do whatever you need.’ But she is not a public person and she’s not wanted to be a public person and has very clear about not talking to reporters and has just kind of kept quiet because it really, from our perspective, it was about our family and it really shouldn’t be public, from a public perspective.

“But I’ll tell you one of the things that changed my mind, that made me really think about it and, in the end, write this straightening out the record, how to set the record straight. I flew to Alaska in February to give a speech to a Republican group there and one of the ladies that picked me up, a lovely lady, I said, you know, ‘Great to be here. Let me just call and check on my mom because she has the kids. I’m going to see how they’re doing.’ And so I called and, of course, they’re fine. They’re with my mom.

“But when I got off the phone, she goes, ‘That was your mother?’ 

“And I said, ‘Yeah.’  

“She goes, ‘She’s still alive?’

“I said, ‘Absolutely she’s still alive because she’s watching my children,’ but that’s when I realized here I was in Alaska, I mean, far away, right? Still in the United States, but very far away and clearly this urban myth that was very, is very untrue had spread so far that people not only believed it, but actually believed that my mother — I guess, if she was on her death bed, she would have been dead, so I understand how they might make that connection — but it wasn’t true, isn’t true and I really felt that, you know, we needed to set the record straight.”

My follow-up question was about how voters, not just candidates, are bringing up the subject of her father’s marital history. “How do you feel your father has been answering that question in the public?” I asked.

“I think he’s been very honest. He’s been very open,” Cushman said. “He very publicly said, ‘Look, I’ve made mistakes in the past. I’ve sinned. I’ve asked God for forgiveness. I’ve asked God for grace.’ And I don’t know what else more people want.

“You don’t fix what happened and you don’t change the past. It is what it is and I think when people see that both Kathy, my sister, and I are involved in the campaign. We’ve always been a close family…I think voters appreciate that and I think, too, he has changed very much from when he was speaker. He’s not the same man. He’s not the same man, I mean nor an I the same woman that I was 12 years ago.”

I asked: “How so?”

“When he was speaker, he was vilified by the press for four years,” Cushman said. “I mean, we’re near Christmas, so I can see that at one point he was shown as the Grinch that Stole Christmas, right? I don’t know if you remember that cover of, I think it was Newsweek, but I can promise you, as my father, he never actually stole my Christmas.

“…He wasn’t that person then, but even since then he’s changed a lot…He has grandchildren. I think that does…change your perspective and I think it makes you think about things a little differently.  The other thing is he’s been a small businessman…and that’s been really good for him.

“…I have watched his faith deepen in the last decade. You know, he’s grown much stronger in his faith. I think you can see that when he talks about, ‘I have sinned and asked for God’s grace.’  I mean, he means that very seriously. He’s always believed in God and had that as part of his foundation, but I’ve seen it strengthen enormously in the last decade.”

Here’s the AUDIO of Cushman’s answers to those two questions.

According to Cushman, her dad “hadn’t bothered” to debunk the “urban myth” about the ‘death bed divorce’ because “he didn’t want (his first wife) to get in the middle of it.” It being the glare of media attention.

As for Cushman’s mother, Cushman put it this way: “She’s a very happy 75-year-old grandmother.”