Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, pictured during a May 18 appearance on Fox & Friends, sees similarities between this year's midterm elections and those of 1994.
Newt Gingrich helped design the plan that brought Republicans control of the House in 1994 for the first time in 40 years. It's a majority the GOP held until voters kicked them out in 2006, when many in the party said it lost its way, and they were further set back with additional Democratic gains in 2008. Not to mention the election of a Democrat to the White House.
Gingrich is once again working to bring Republicans back to power, this time as a minister without portfolio ... and as a potential presidential candidate. His new book, To Save America, was written as a reaction to what he sees is President Obama's "secular-socialist machine" that is overreaching and on the path to destroying the country. He sat down with Guy Raz, host of NPR's Weekend All Things Considered, to talk about his book and how he sees the state of the two parties. The interview will be broadcast Sunday afternoon.
Raz immediately asks if 2010 resembles 1994 in any way, and Gingrich clearly sees similarities. He says the economy is "much worse this year" than it was under President Clinton in '94. But more important, he sees a "sense of crisis" — the near ten percent unemployment rate, the oil spill in the Gulf, the collapsing of the border with Mexico, the problems in the Middle East — all of which have made people "more anxiety-ridden" than they were 16 years ago. "They were irritated with Bill and Hillary Clinton and they were tired of Democrats being in charge of Congress for 40 years," the former speaker said, "but there wasn't the underlying sense of national problems that you have today."
Gingrich did not shrink from blaming the Republicans for mishandling the problems that got them booted out of office in 2006 and '08. He said Hurricane Katrina was a "case study" for Republican failures, but he says that the government — referring to the spill in the Gulf — has "learned nothing" in the aftermath, sounding incredulous in pointing out that it took Obama two months to meet with the head of BP ... a "totally unserious response."
The answers, in Gingrich's eyes, seem to be with the party's governors. He cites Chris Christie (N.J.), Mitch Daniels (Ind.), Tim Pawlenty (Minn.), Bobby Jindal (La.), Haley Barbour (Miss.) and Bob McDonnell (Va.), people who "represent fundamental change." He seems especially high on Christie, whom he calls the "most interesting governor in America today."
He also says there is a "very high likelihood" the GOP will recapture the House this November, when the party needs a net gain of about 40 seats — and he talks at length about the NPR poll, released last week, that seems to spell bad news for the Democrats this fall.
He says that what Obama and the Democrats are doing is "suicidal," and feels that Obama's speech last week from the Oval Office on the oil spill was just one example of their "running in the wrong direction," saying it ultimately will lead to killing jobs in Louisiana, increasing the cost of living, and weakening small businesses. "This is ideology out of touch with reality in ways that are almost grotesque and hard to understand."
Raz reminds Gingrich of his having called Obama the "most radical president in history," and asks if that is perhaps hyperbolic. "Tell me who's more radical," Gingrich responded. When Raz suggested Thomas Jefferson, or FDR, Gingrich would have none of that: "Jefferson wanted very small government. Obama is the opposite — he wants government to take care of you, a government that runs virtually everything." He's a socialist, Gingrich flatly states.
Raz remembers back to 1995, after the GOP took control, when the party worked with President Clinton to get things done, and points out that Republicans who try to work for bipartisanship this time around are being punished by their own party.
Gingrich argues that there is a difference between conservative bipartisanship and liberal bipartisanship. He points to the welfare reform that Clinton and the GOP Congress passed in '95, which was very popular in the country. "But the things Obama wants us to be bipartisan on are fundamentally wrong and have very little popular support." Obama wants to "raise taxes, kill jobs, increase power in Washington."
As for being known as the "Party of No," Gingrich says that "saying no is pretty reasonable" ... but "we also need to be the party of yes" in laying out for the American people what they would do if they return to power.
Asked about the role of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, and whether that's the direction the GOP should be headed, Gingrich says the party is "much broader than that," and mentions gubernatorial candidates John Kasich of Ohio, Meg Whitman of California and Scott Walker of Wisconsin as those who are making the conservative case for what Republicans stand for.
As for the obligatory "will you run" in 2012 question, Gingrich says that it is "certainly an option." He plans to spend all this year electing Republicans to office, and then will sit down with his wife Callista and make a decision in February or March.