A number of people have been asking me about the 2012 election and who I will support. I am a member of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party where Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan happily reside. No surprise then that I support Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination.
After graduating from Villanova University in 1981, I worked for the Heritage Foundation and later for Congressman Jack Kemp (R-NY) as a writer for the Republican Conference Committee. My first real awareness of Gingrich as a political leader came in 1984, when he took the attack to the Democrats onto the floor of the House. He did so in such a way as to provoke a personal reprimand from Speaker Tim O’Neill, who took the floor to attack Gingrich.
But his post-luncheon bluster got the better of Tip O’Neill, who was censured for his remarks in one of the great parliamentary maneuvers in modern American politics. The drama was captured by David Osborne in Mother Jones:
“Immediately, Minority Whip Trent Lott rose and asked that the Speaker's words be ruled out of order and stricken from the record. In the House, normally a bastion of civility, members are forbidden from making personal attacks on one another. After five minutes of nervous consultation, the chair ruled in Lott's favor. That night, the confrontation between Gingrich and O'Neill made all three network news programs. The third-term Republican from Georgia had arrived.”
For a young Republican, that public takedown of Tip O’Neill more than a quarter century ago presaged the end of an era politically, the end of Democratic fiat and the real beginning of Republican insurgency. I watched on CSPAN as Republicans led by the three term congressman from Georgia retook control of the House of Representatives for the first time in the post-WWII era.
For Republicans interested in winning the 2012 election and changing the direction of the country, the decision comes down to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney vs. former House Speaker Gingrich from Georgia. As expected the Big Media ignored the great Texas libertarian, Rep. Ron Paul. None of the other Republican candidates beside Gingrich and Romney, in my view, has the ability to win a national election for the Grand Old Party and, more important, to govern and lead the nation effectively.
Say what you want about Romney’s competence, which I respect as a fellow bankster, but he is still a northeastern liberal who as president would likely pander to the largest banks and corporations. Terms such as “status quo” come to mind with Romney. Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, just might start channeling Teddy Roosevelt and break up the big bank cartel in the US housing market.
Romney did dismantle a lot of private corporations during his years running Bain Capital, boosting shareholder value. He also destroyed a lot of jobs along the way, but I cannot see leveraged buyout king Mitt Romney really challenging the corporate status quo in Washington.
Romney is on the record as a bailout denier and overt apologist for the large bank subsidies and rescues put in place by Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner. The comparison between Romney and Gingrich’s critical view of the Wall Street bailouts is pretty striking. Gingrich has called for swift action to punish the key players behind the financial crisis, something that should garner support from many points of the political compass.
"If they want to really change things, the first person to fire is (Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben) Bernanke, who is a disastrous chairman of the Federal Reserve, the second person to fire is (Treasury Secretary Timothy) Geithner," Gingrich said in the Republican debate sponsored by Bloomberg and the Washington Post.
The first issue for me with Gingrich is experience, both in terms of domestic economic and political policy. As noted, Gingrich and my friend Grover Norquist led the first successful GOP House campaign in 40 years and the first re-election of a Republican majority in the House since 1928.
Gingrich worked with members of both parties as Speaker to cut taxes and spending, and understands how to make the government sausage factory work. He collaborated with conservative leaders like Kemp, Jude Wanniski and Art Laffer, to make supply-side economics a viable response to the Great Society welfare state in Washington.
Gingrich, Kemp and many other conservatives I first got to know through my parents in the 1980s and 1990s worked with Ronald Reagan on defeating the Soviet empire and renewing the US economy. Gingrich has been involved with national policy for decades while Romney was governor of Massachusetts for one term, where he did little to change that state’s unique culture of corruption and astronomically high tax rates.
Gingrich understands the scale of change required in government today. He has tackled welfare reform, four balanced budgets, Medicare reform, and the largest capital gains tax cut in history. The proposal for Social Security and Medicare by Gingrich rejects the idea that we can solve our budget and debt crisis by some combination of cutting benefits and raising taxes within the current framework of these two programs.
Romney has a very limited record when it comes to proposing change to these largest components of the federal government. Gingrich actually understands the issues involved in running the American political economy and can speak about them in detail, as shown in the debates and in other public forums, as well with his proposals for change.
The second issue is conservative vision. Newt Gingrich is a consistent advocate for conservative American values such as individual liberty and responsibility, while Romney is a “born again” conservative of recent vintage. From the Contract With America to his latest venture, American Solutions for Winning the Future, Gingrich has provided leadership in terms of generating a broader, non-partisan discussion on political and economic issues.
Jack Kemp said famously: “Be a leader.” Gingrich does that and more, but he also has the intellectual credentials to back up the rhetorical theater that is American politics. Gingrich is the author of dozens of books, many of which he actually wrote. He has the ability to learn and understand complex domestic and geopolitical issues.
For over two decades, Gingrich has taught at the United States Air Force's Air University, where he is the longest-serving teacher of the Joint Flag Officer Warfighting Course. He was the third witness at opening House hearing on Goldwater-Nichols legislation, which created a joint operations culture in the US military and streamlined political control over the American armed forces.
The Goldwater-Nichols legislation had enormous practical and political ramifications, some driven by technology but others by political concerns about the supremacy of civilian rule in post-WWII Washington. We need a President who understands these complex issues. Richard Hofstadter wrote about the anti-intellectualism in American life, but out citizens are ready for a President who knows issues in detail and also knows what he does not understand.
The third issue is pragmatic conservatism. While Gingrich is guided by many of the core libertarian principles set forth by the founders of our republic, he is also someone who identifies problems in a frank and objective way, then seeks practical answers. His willingness to be a bold change agent versus a manager of the status quo is a key component that differentiates Newt Gingrich from Mitt Romney, and most of the other Republican candidates this year.
Yet even as Americans try to undo decades of socialist construction at the hands of both political parties, we need to do so in such a way that does not destabilize the economy and creates an environment that will foster confidence and new private sector growth. Gingrich believes that fostering an open discussion about the many policy issues we all face is the way to break the cycle of corruption and dysfunction in Washington.
“In an age where massive pieces of legislation are written in secret and passed before anyone has time to understand their contents, it is my hope that this open process of developing the 21st Century Contract With America will help restore the bonds of trust between the American people and their elected representatives,” Mr. Gingrich writes in 21st Century Contract With America.
The other issue which demonstrates the pragmatic approach that Gingrich takes to issues is immigration. Speaking as someone who is descended from immigrants and who has worked and traveled in nations all around the Americas, we need to be more sensitive to the plight of undocumented aliens. But more than that, Gingrich and other conservatives need to advance solutions to the problem of undocumented aliens and thereby eliminate an obstacle to winning majority Hispanic support for Republican candidates.
When you look at Romney’s anti-immigrant stance, he almost seems to be mutating into the Richard Nixon of “silent majority” fame, threatening to keep out the evil illegal aliens. Romney’s position is hypocritical, however, because his own Mormon ancestors fled the anti-polygamy laws in the US in the late 1800s for the more permissive climes of Northern Mexico – only to be chased back across the border by the violence of the 1910 Mexican revolution.
Romney’s Mormon ancestors returned to the US across the same porous Mexican border that admits thousands of illegal immigrants each year. Did they cross into the US legally? Should we deport Mitt and his family back to Coahuila?
Romney’s tough guy stance on immigration, juxtaposed with his unusual family history, makes him a sitting duck for Democrats in a general election campaign. We need Republicans who will work with the Hispanic community, not give them reasons to vote against us.
Gingrich has proposed a workable pathway to legal residency and full integration into US society for illegal aliens in terms of taxes and social services, but one that also recognizes the fact that many illegal workers will eventually return to their native lands. Like Gingrich, I feel that only legal émigrés who follow the law should be eligible for citizenship. But neither should we turn economic refugees into a permanent underclass.
America needs to create a way for workers from Canada, Mexico and other nations of the Americas to work in the US, pay taxes and receive needed services, and be part of the formal economy wherever they ultimately reside. And US citizens would benefit from such reciprocity in the other American states and the legal protections afforded by such state-to-state relations.
I think Newt Gingrich could make the vision of a transparent, open marketplace for labor in the Americas a reality. He has the sort of intellectual honesty and willingness to risk change that could address intractable issues like immigration, the economy and anti-competitive behavior in the economy. And Newt Gingrich rejects the socialist policies of the American left, led by the likes of Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, who believe that people who work with their minds are somehow criminals.
If you really listen to his whining socialist diatribes, Paul Krugman is the enemy of every man and woman who works in the global financial markets. Many of my colleagues on the Street are very liberal, yet Krugman would take all of their money via higher taxes in a nanosecond. How is it that nobody sees that Krugman’s commentaries in The New York Times are almost perfectly predicted by George Orwell in Animal Farm – and Hayek in the The Road to Serfdom?
To me Newt is the only credible conservative in the presidential race for 2012, but one who brings a mixture of core American values, real world experience and a pragmatic, compassionate approach to a range of issues. Gingrich wants to facilitate real change in America, while Romney only wants to run the welfare state better. And Newt Gingrich is not afraid to call Barack Obama a socialist in a national presidential debate. That is why I support Newt Gingrich for the Republican nomination for the presidency.