29 Jan 2013
By Jim Meyers and John Bachman
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tells Newsmax TV that Republicans need to be the “party of ideas,” offering real solutions instead of playing “bumper sticker politics.”
The veteran Georgia lawmaker was first elected to the House in 1978 and served as speaker from 1995 to 1999 before announcing his retirement. He unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination last year.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Gingrich discloses how he reacted to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent pronouncement that the GOP should “stop being the stupid party.”
“I broke out laughing because when I was first running for Congress back in the 1970s, Irving Kristol wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal entitled ‘The Stupid Party,’ and he was talking about Republicans,” Gingrich says.
“We’ve had a long period where we’ve had bumper sticker politics on our side, and frankly people don’t want bumper sticker politics. They want real solutions. How are their children going to get educated? What are we going to do about the cost of tuition for higher education? How do we find a better solution for healthcare? If you don’t let government run healthcare, fine, find a solution that average, everyday folks believe will make their lives better.
“We’ve got to be a party of solutions, a party that thinks, that studies, that tries out ideas. All too many Republicans have been afraid to be the party of ideas and that’s been unfortunate because that means all the ideas are on the left.”
Gingrich is among those Republicans who say the party needs to modernize, and immigration is at the heart of that push. Commenting on the new bipartisan immigration plan in Congress, Gingrich says: “I hope that we can find some way to get a real bill passed.
“Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, is doing a great job of providing leadership on this very difficult issue. He makes the point that we already have de facto amnesty. We have millions of people here who aren’t going to be deported, they’re not being in any way affected, and the question is how do we get to a legal system, how can we get to control the border, how can we ensure that people learn English and learn American history so they’re truly being assimilated into America, and Sen. Rubio is offering very important leadership on this issue.”
The plan appears similar to one Gingrich proposed earlier, drawing criticism from some Republicans who said he was offering amnesty for grandma because he said he wouldn’t deport her, while Mitt Romney was expressing confidence in “self-deportation.”
“I said what I thought was just common sense,” Gingrich declares. “We’re not the kind of country that’s going to deport a grandmother who’s been here 25 years. And I felt when Gov. Romney said, well, she’ll self-deport, that it made no sense at all because first of all, grandmothers aren’t going to voluntarily leave their grandchildren.
“Second, the immediate impact of Gov. Romney’s position was so isolated, not just with Latino-Americans but also with Asian-Americans. People tend to forget, President Obama did better with Asian-Americans, 74 percent, than he did with Latino-Americans, 71 percent.
“When people in the Latino community were asked by Univision, what’s your reaction to this self-deportation of grandmothers, 50 percent dropped away from Romney and said it was unacceptable. So I thought that might have been a clever comment in a debate in the primaries, but it was a devastatingly destructive comment for the general election.”
Addressing the perception that the GOP has a diversity problem, Gingrich tells Newsmax: “We have to have much more inclusion. Our governors have done a wonderful job. You have Gov. Susana Martinez in New Mexico, Gov. Jindal who’s an Indian-American, Gov. Nikki Haley [in South Carolina] who’s Indian-American.
“I thought it was particularly nice that Gov. Haley ended up appointing Tim Scott as an African-American senator. So in a sense we’re making a lot of progress at the governors’ level, but we clearly have a problem in terms of national politics and that’s going to require very systematic work to bring people in.”
A Pew Hispanic Center survey showed the Hispanic voters are more concerned with education, healthcare, jobs, and the economy that with immigration reform.
But Gingrich cautions: “Our national chairman, Reince Priebus, said it correctly when he said immigration never scores first with immigrant groups unless the issue’s immigration. If you tell somebody you’re going to deport their grandmother, they don’t listen to you on jobs or taxes or regulations or education. They’re horrified that you’re going to deport their grandmother.
“You have to get immigration off the table to then have a conversation, which we can win. You look at, for example, Latino-Americans who are very family oriented, very education oriented, very faith-based. There is very strong potential there for conservative values to become primary drivers of their vote if we get past this question of whether or not the Republican Party is open to them.”
Gingrich also says he was “delighted” that House Republicans decided to sidestep the debt ceiling fight “because it’s a dead loser as place to fight. It’s too big a threat to our credit.
“You have everybody in the business community piling on saying please don’t mess up the economy. So the debt ceiling’s a reflection of money already spent. The right place to fight is over sequestration and over the continuing resolution which is money we have not yet spent.
“I would hope that House Republicans would be very creative. I wish they would open up a website and ask people to name the three worst agencies in the federal government. Out of the $3,700,000,000 budget, surely we could kill something.
“Consumer protection, the bank interference boards — there are a whole range of things being done in different places that I would either eliminate or dramatically shrink. There are large parts to the Department of Labor, the Department of Housing and Urban Development. You have to ask yourself: Do we need all this government in Washington, D.C.? Can’t a lot of it be done back home by the states?
“We could have a much more creative and less expensive country if we got a fair amount of power out of Washington and emphasized the 10th amendment and got it back to the states.”
Commentator Dick Morris recently told Newsmax that House Speaker John Boehner is more like a coalition speaker in parliament than the speaker of a majority party. As a former House speaker, Gingrich was asked if Boehner can still effectively lead the House.
“I disagree with Dick about that,” he responds. “John Boehner is the leader of the Republican Party in the House. The American speaker is much more partisan. The British speaker of the House is actually a symbolic figurehead.
“The challenge is that Speaker Boehner is trying to work through how you deal with a very complicated environment. You have a Democratic Senate, you have a president who just got re-elected. The president’s the most radical president in American history. He clearly, aggressively wants to try to split the Republicans and push them into a corner and try to beat them in 2014, and Boehner and his team are working to think through how they out-maneuver the president and how they solve these problems.
“But he’s had some real learning and some real change in the last six weeks and I’m modestly encouraged that the House Republicans are beginning to get a grip on what their job is for the next two years.”
In his wide-ranging Newsmax interview, Gingrich also discusses the problems Republicans face if Hillary Clinton decides to run for the White House in 2016, offers his cogent observations on the gun control debate — and says he won’t run for the Senate seat being vacated by fellow Georgian Saxby Chambliss.
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