Into the mind of . . . Newt Gingrich

Oct. 22, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

The former U.S. Speaker of the House visits The Republic to talk about his campaign for president.

You’ve made the point about this election that it’s an important turning point in American history. How so?

This is not a political election. This is a historical election. The depth of the problems is so large that the conversation we’ll have over the next year is so much more profound than people are used to that it dwarves and trivializes what we normally think of as politics.

Are we facing the same dynamic as the 1992 election with a terrible economy and an incumbent who faces electoral peril?

I think the parallel is closer to Carter than to Bush. When a president of the United States objectively isn’t doing the job and decides to blame everyone else, they set up a psychological kickback: Carter’s malaise speech, Obama’s perennial apologia disguised as press conferences. And what the American public wants is to make it work. They’re as tough as voters as they are as consumers. They want to get up in the morning and see unemployment going down, the budget moving toward balance, the borders controlled. Things that are just practical.

How confident should Republicans feel about the general election?

Any Republican who is measuring the drapes in the White House is a fool. The president of the United States represents the most powerful political office on the planet. And a president who is ferocious and determined is a very formidable opponent. And this president is going to try to raise a billion dollars because he knows in a fair fight he’ll get annihilated. So he will do everything he can with enormous intelligence to set up an unfair fight. And any Republican who is not designing how you’re going to beat that is not going to win the White House.

What do you need to do to be seen as a serious challenger to Romney?

This may be the only election cycle where I could win. If you really had positive times and were looking for somebody who’s really pleasant and easy and they weren’t going to shake things up, you’d never look at me, and I wouldn’t run. But we may be in enough trouble that having somebody who is a grandfather, who has been down the road since August of ’58, who’s actually done it, may suddenly become enormously valuable. In the end, substance matters. I think the American people in a time of real trouble really want really big solutions. And they want them badly enough that they will actually pay attention. I’ve begun proposing Lincoln-Douglas debates with Obama. Seven. Three hours. Time keeper. No moderator. First reaction from many of my closest friends was, “Three hours is too long.” I said to them, “Fine. How long are the Harry Potter novels?”

Why do you think President Obama is embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Why wouldn’t he? Nobody in the media has ever seriously wanted to dig in to who Obama is. How close he was to (William) Ayers (former ’60s radical). Isn’t this Ayers’ fantasy come alive? Obama was a southside organizer who taught (Saul Alinsky’s) “Reveille for Radicals.” Why wouldn’t he think this is a wonderful moment? Here we are having the great uprising against all the bad people. The bad people being everyone who is productive in America.

What specifically should the government be doing to help homeowners struggling with foreclosure?

Drop “mark to market” (accounting) as a rule and repeal Dodd-Frank. Those two things would overnight improve the housing market dramatically. Because your local bank would be allowed to loan you the money without a federal regulator telling him not to do it.

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