A Conversation with Speaker Newt Gingrich

A Conversation with Speaker Newt Gingrich

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Moderator: Elliott Abrams
Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations



Newt Gingrich opened by saying that he increasingly believes that we are in the “second” Carter Administration.  Like Carter, Obama seems to have a compulsive urge to criticize our allies and defend our enemies. In Honduras, Obama is “waging war on democracy.”

The highest priority national security issues, he said, are education (particularly science and math) and the American economy.  The U.S. must have a realistic view of our ability to project power overseas.

Gingrich argued that Obama is trying not to appear that he is selling out the far left on sending additional troops to Afghanistan—but he is. According to Gingrich, Obama has to do this because he has already sold out the left by abandoning the public option in healthcare.

On the question of whether the U.S. should promote democracy, Gingrich rejected the idea of small expeditionary forces going in to attack terrorists and then leaving a mess behind. He argued that if we engage in conflict in a country, then we should be prepared to reconstruct the country and create positive conditions so we do not have to return.

Regarding Iran, Gingrich argued that Ahmadinejad will give up nothing in negotiations and that the US looks impotent arriving at the negotiation table.

On arms control, Gingrich said that the international disarmament community’s number one goal would be the disarmament of Israel. He also argued that international agreements—pursued by liberal elites—are  done at the expense of average people in that they circumvent domestic politics in favor of international bodies.

Furthermore, he argued that the international alliance between leftism and Islamism exists because they both see the bourgeois West as their biggest enemy.

Gingrich said that rising consumerism in the Chinese populace will lead to demands for greater freedom in the political sphere and that China is in fact more market driven than the U.S.


MR. FLY: Okay. If you would all take your seats, I think we're about to get started.

Our next session is titled A Conversation with Speaker Newt Gingrich. And I just wanted to briefly introduce Elliott Abrams.

You'll notice on your agenda that we had Bill Kristol scheduled to moderate this session. But as we said this morning, unfortunately given the death of Bill's father on Friday, he's unable to be with us.

So we were very lucky to have Elliott Abrams step in and do double duty today. He's also speaking on the panel after this.

Elliott Abrams is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Until January he was Senior Director for Democracy and Human Rights, the Senior Director for the -- and Deputy National Security Advisor, handling Middle East Affairs in the George W. Bush Administration.

And I was very lucky at the very tail end of the Bush administration to serve on the NSC staff with Elliott.

Prior to the Bush administration, he served in the Reagan administration as Assistant Secretary of State for UN Affairs, Human Rights, and Latin America.

And so I'll turn it over to Elliott to introduce Speaker Gingrich.

MR. ABRAMS: Thank you, Jamie. Good afternoon.

It is probably the case that with this group, Newt Gingrich needs no introduction, but he's going to get one anyway.


MR. ABRAMS: Everybody knows that Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. He was both the intellectual author and the political strategist behind the extraordinary Republican victory in the 1994 Congressional elections, which ended 40 years of Democratic rule in the house.

He was named Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 1995. And despite that, he actually was Person of the Year in 1995.

Newt began his career by getting a Ph.D. in modern European history and then teaching history. It remains a passion of his, and I think it's fair to say that his avocation is writing historical fiction.

First about the Civil War, and more recently about World War II. All told, fiction and non-fiction, I think you're up to 19 books at this point.

After teaching history in college for several years, Newt ran for Congress, and actually lost twice being elected in 1978, and was then re-elected ten times, despite -- one has to say -- gerrymandering by the general assembly of Georgia.

So he joined the Congress in 1979. By 1981 he had founded the Congressional Military Reform Caucus, the Congressional Aviation in Space Caucus, in 1983 the Conservative Opportunities Society.

And on it went.

In 1988 -- I like to mention this, because it was a particular favorite of mine -- along with 77 other members of the House and Common Cause, he brought ethics charges against Jim Wright, the Speaker of the House at that point, who eventually resigned as a result of that inquiry.

In 1989, the House minority whip, Richard B. Cheney, was appointed Secretary of Defense, and Newt Gingrich, of course, was elected to succeed him as minority whip.

All of these were steps on the way to the Contract with America, the 1994 elections, the speakership, and the role he has played in our national leadership ever since.

I'm not going to list all of Newt's activities and associations on national security policy and domestic policy. It would take too long.

I would just say he has fought long and hard about, and written carefully about, most of the major issues facing our country now, and those just around the corner, and those before us at FPI today.

We will have time for some Q&A at the end. But now I have the real delight and honor of introducing Newt Gingrich.


MR. GINGRICH: Well, let me -- thank you, Elliott, and thank you for that warm welcome.

I'm just going to give you a little bit of an outline and then we're going to chat, and then we'll toss it -- because this is obviously a group that's not exactly timid.

And let me start by saying that increasingly I believe we're in the second Carter administration. And I think that that's actually the best analogy to understand where what we're going through.

And if you go back to Carter's election in 1976, which was a reaction to Republican collapse, an election in which Carter ran as sort of a Rorschach test, in which people could project on to him whatever it was they needed him to be.

And he was actually elected with the highest approval rating of any modern president in terms of the day he was sworn, higher than Obama the day he was sworn in.

And he actually did not decay that dramatically in the first year and a half. I mean, it took a while for the country to really begin to believe it was that bad.

There are amazing parallels in both foreign and domestic policy between the Carter team and the Obama team. And we can go off on that, if anybody wants to. But I want to set that as a framing.

Second, I want to just say, if you're serious about national security, strategically in the long run, you have to place the highest national security issues, which are fundamentally overhauling American education, particularly in science and math, and fundamentally overhauling the American approach to the economy.

Because if you don't turn around our capacity to compete with China and India, 30 years from now we will not have the capacity, it will not be relevant what our great debates are. We will literally have fallen out of the game.

If you do not have the strongest, most creative, and most productive economy, you cannot sustain national military capability on a world-wide basis.

And I really think we should have the Industrial College of the Armed Forces fundamentally redesigned, so that it focuses on the nature of the challenge over the next half-century, and the objective requirements of change, in order for us to be able to meet those challenges in a world market.

And I believe this is an enormous problem for us.

Third, if you want to think defensively about America, you need to build a very strong Homeland Security System. We need to fundamentally redesign the Smart Grid Project to include protection against electromagnetic pulse attacks.

And we need to have a Homeland Security which is annually exercised against the potential for three nuclear events the same morning. The first time they do that, they'll discover Katrina was not an accident, that in fact we are literally incapable of meeting that.

And all of this, if we take it seriously, will lead to a significant reallocation of resources, and a significant reallocation of our capabilities.

Lastly, Elliott mentioned I had written two books about World War II. And there are two sobering things I want to raise out of those two books.

The first is, from December the 7th of 1941, with the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, to victory over Japan in August 1945, is three years and eight months.

In 44 months, we mobilized the nation, put 15-1/2 million people in uniform, complete a two-ocean Navy, build the B-17, B-29, and B-24; launch campaigns which go from North Africa to Sicily to Italy to France, across Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, liberate Germany.

At the same time in parallel, we are campaigning across the Pacific. All this is done in 44 months.

It recently took us 23 years to add a fifth runway to the LEN airport.


MR. GINGRICH: I just spent 16 days in China, Korea, and Japan. And when you look at the scale -- what the Chinese are doing for a stimulus package is an investment package.

They will come out of their investment package with the largest high-speed rail net in the world. We're mostly throwing the money at politicians, so they can avoid hard decisions.


MR. GINGRICH: Fundamentally different strategic understanding of reality. And so again, if you're serious about long-term national security, you have to contemplate that.

The other thing that comes out of the periods, if you study the period 1930 to 1941 -- and we were at the September 18th Museum in Shen Yang and at the Korean War Museum in Seoul. Both of them are actually museums dedicated to the price of weakness.

The Japanese attacked on September 18, 1931, because they can. The North Koreans attack on June 25, 1950, because they think they can win quickly.

And it's worth going to see those museums and asking yourself. So to what extent are we forgetting these things?

And what I found the most sobering in preparing to write Pearl Harbor and then Days of Infamy, is looking at how wrong the British were about their capacity to project power east of Suez, and the utter absurdity with which Churchill fought the Malayan campaign.

And I would really recommend it to you. It's a very sobering reminder that democracies can lie to themselves. And it's not just Britain.

We had two plans for protecting the Philippines. The Army had an expeditionary force plan, which called for them to hold the Philippines for three to six months until the Navy arrived.

The Navy had a plan, which took three years.

There was no conversation to suggest that if one side is building a three-year plan and the other side is building a three-to-six-month plan, maybe we need jointness in trying to figure out what are we doing.

And I think you would be sobered, if you went around and looked in the real world at how many risks we're currently running, and how much we're currently kidding ourselves and relying on the beneficence of our potential opponents.

Now let me take all that and come back now to where we are in terms of one specific area, which is the whole issue of democracy and the rule of law.

And I think this administration may rapidly parallel Carter in that Carter, this deep, I think almost psychologically driven compulsion to attack America's allies and apologize to our enemies.

And this administration has a very similar pattern. If you look at what's happened in Honduras, President Zelaya was clearly violating the Honduran constitution.

The Honduran constitution seeks to avoid dictators like Hugo Chavez by making it an automatically impeachable offense to seek to extend the one six-year term.

Zelaya was clearly going to try to ram through a referendum to extend his own personal power. The Supreme Court voted 15 to 0 that what he was doing was unconstitutional and it is the Supreme Court in defense of the rule of law, which ordered the military to kick him out of the country in order to avoid dictatorship.

The interim President, who was from Zelaya's party and had been Speaker of the House, announced as soon as he took office he would not run for president.

There will be an election this November. It will be more honest than the Afghan election. It will be more honest than the Iranian election. It will be more honest than the Venezuelan election.

The Obama administration has already announced they will not honor it. In fact, they went further and just withdrew the visas of the 15 Supreme Court justices.

Now this is waging war against democracy. I mean, this is worse than anything I can remember Carter doing. And it makes zero sense. I mean, if you sit down and say, "Tell me what you think you're achieving here. Tell me in what way it's helping us in Latin America."

Now there are countries that are applauding us: Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia. I mean, if you think those are our allies, then frankly there's not much point in the rest of these conversations, because you're delusional.


MR. GINGRICH: And yet that's where we are.

And so you go around the planet, and what do you discover? You discover that the North Koreans fire off a missile the morning the President's going to make a speech in Europe on behalf of nuclear disarmament, which in my judgment in this particular planet is a fantasy in its own right.

And the President announces sternly there will be a price. I think it must have been paid by somebody at Nordstroms.


MR. GINGRICH: I mean, I haven't seen any price paid by the North Koreans, who have since then engaged in other provocative behavior.

The Russians are not helping us with Iran, so we promptly give the Russians one of the things they most want. And we give it to them so badly and so backwardly, the Russians refuse to even give us credit for it.


MR. GINGRICH: I mean, do you know how hard it would be to orchestrate abandoning Poland and the Czech Republic with such clumsiness that within two hours of your announcement the Russians have announced publicly that they give you no credit for it; they're glad you have fixed your own mistake, and you should not regard it as a negotiating tool.

I mean, that's going out of your way to insult the President of the United States on the way to a meeting in New York.

Now I mean, the one thing I will say for him, in all deference to the last administration. He at least has not told us he has looked into Putin's eyes and seen anything. And if he can get through a meeting with the Russian President this week and not have suddenly swooned at the opportunity to be close to another autocrat, I think that we can all feel some pride in his self-discipline.

But you have to ask yourself, "What do they think they're doing?"

Now the last example I'll give us -- because I think they do not understand how real this stuff is -- so the President of the United States decides, having failed to convince the country for a month that it should be for a big-government-run health program in the middle of a deep recession, at a time when the American people are worried about the deficit, that he would go on five television programs in one day in order to somehow blitz the system -- and promptly of course doesn't get involved in selling health care. He gets involved in an argument about Afghanistan.

Because somebody has cleverly leaked the highly secret documents from General McChrystal, so that they could be on page 1 of the Washington Post in a timely manner, to ensure that there will be a total public brawl over what we're doing.

I mean, the kind of act which guarantees that every ally we have on the planet just thinks we are a hopelessly amateurish country, and it makes them cautious about saying anything to us in private, because they figure it will show up on radio or TV or newspaper very quickly.

And what does the President do? Well, the President has a problem. He's about to sell out his left on health care. And so his left, which is already mad at him about Afghanistan, he doesn't want to tell his left he's going to do what McChrystal wants, because then they'll be doubly mad at him. And then they might abandon him on health care.

And if they abandon him on health care, he needs to sell them out elegantly, so they support him on health care, while being sold out.


MR. GINGRICH: So if they get really mad about Afghanistan and decide they can't support him, they're going to punish him on health care, for what he's doing in Afghanistan. Which, by the way, is going to force him to go to Republicans for votes for the first time in his administration.

So ten months into his administration, he will actually find John Boehner and Mitch McConnell's phone numbers. He will call them and tell how excited he is to discover they've been elected to Congress.


MR. GINGRICH: And he will invite them -- now you may think I'm exaggerating. When I was a freshman, I was the only Republican from Georgia. I was a freshman in Jimmie Carter's second term.

And there was a wonderful moment in Carter's second term, where the Italian President comes to visit for a state dinner. And Norm Mineta is invited to the state dinner.

Because three years into the Carter administration, the head of Congressional Liaison assumes that since Mineta's last name ends in a vowel, he's Italian.


MR. GINGRICH: And Mineta, who's a Japanese American, thought it was a wonderful dinner, was a little surprised they didn't serve sushi or sashimi, but --


MR. GINGRICH: You know, but he's a California-born Japanese American. He's not -- you know -- and he wasn't offended.

And the following day Tommy Thompson, who at that time was the Chair of the Italian Congressional Club, sent him a huge basket of Italian food that he could be photographed with, being accepted as an honorary Italian on behalf of the Congress.


MR. GINGRICH: These kind of things are just devastating in what they do to your ability as a president to get things done. Because it leads people to wonder what you're thinking about.

So here you have the President dancing in public, who doesn't want to give McChrystal what he wants, until after they get through a health vote, and may not give McChrystal what he wants at all, in which case he has a totally different crisis, because now he's going to have Jim Jones and McChrystal and Bob Gates all three basically saying to him, you know -- and in fact McChrystal's quoted this morning saying -- in the absence of getting these troops, we'll probably lose.

So you have a president who gets to say, "Okay, since I gave up the bad war, which is Iraq, which we might now win, in return because I was going to take on the good war in Afghanistan, which we might now lose -- but now it turns out that my allies didn't want either war -- what is it I do to try to get out of the muddle I am now in? Because I don't want to be the President who loses Afghanistan, although that's probably not quite like losing China. But it won't be good."

"And how do now explain to the planet, having gotten NATO deeply engaged and having gotten the Pakistanis out on a limb, that it was really a bad week and the Democratic caucus was mean to me and I didn't have any choice?"

And that's sort of what currently passes for a deep strategic thought in the United States.

Your turn.


MR. ABRAMS: Let's start the discussion by asking a kind of fundamental question. Should we be promoting democracy?

In the case of Afghanistan, you now hear a lot of people saying, "None of our business." In fact, the President came close to saying "Our business is shooting Al-Qaeda terrorists". End of paragraph.

The question also arises, I mean, take an example, Egypt. You know where Egypt's being helpful theoretically. I doubt it. But in Middle East peace efforts right now, why are we annoying Mubarak by talking about things like free elections?

How do you analyze that argument?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, I think that the American system has consistently underestimated how hard the next quarter century will be.

And I think that if you recognize the scale of the problem -- a couple examples. Mexico. I mean, you want modernity in Mexico, because in fact, you currently have a civil war.

It's very dangerous to the U.S. to have a civil war in your biggest neighbor, and could lead to all sorts of second and third order effects, including 35 million people fleeing violence.

Second, you don't want countries that are owned by drug dealers. This is part of why I was rationale and I always supported playing Columbia, because we had a real vested in the Columbian government beating the cartels.

And it's a long-term self interest. It's not just that we're going around the world being good neighbors, or anything.

I agree with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. If your next-door neighbor is in house, you loan him a garden hose in order to put out the fire. Because it's pretty stupid to say it's not my house, sorry it's burning down.

But let me carry it a step further. I don't believe you can have an expeditionary force model. I went through this planning process in the early part of the decade in the Pentagon. And they have this really elegant model, where we would dive in, kill people, pull back out, achieve our goal.

And my question was, "What is it you're leaving behind?" I mean, why is it you think that totally disrupting life in northwest Pakistan is progress?

And so you had two classic recent campaigns. You'd say three, if you want to take Somalia. I really got into this -- I was doing a planning project with Owen Roberts, who's an old friend of mine -- when President George H. W. Bush made the decision to go into Somalia. And my friend was just furious.

He said, "We're going to go in long enough to feed them. We're not going to teach them anything about the rule of law. We're not going to teach them anything about productivity. We're not going to teach him anything about earning a living."

"After we get done feeding them, we'll leave. And they'll go back to being a total mess."

To which my answer was, since we teach none of those things to our own children, why would you expect us to be able to teach it to Somalians?

And that the origin of my teaching a course on renewing American civilization.

But it's a core challenge. You'd now live on a planet where the number of Somalians in the United States is non-trivial. In fact, at one point when we were chasing Adid, his son was a lance corporal in the Marine Reserve in Los Angeles, and learned a great deal and went home and applied it.

You live in a country which is intimately tied to the whole planet. You let Somalia fester long enough, they invent piracy. Now are you going to clean out the pirates?

Well, how are you going to clean out the pirates? Are you going to back every fourth year to clean them out? You only clean them out when they get above a certain level of chaos?

And now you get to Afghanistan. We had an enormous opportunity to fundamentally change Afghanistan. But anything required saying our goal was to fundamentally change Afghanistan.

And if you wanted to do that in 2002 and 2003, you would have sent huge numbers of engineering battalions, and you would have built every possible mile of paved road you could, and you would have set up every possible wireless facility you could, and you'd have distributed very inexpensive electronic stuff, so that everybody in the country got integrated into the modern world.

And you'd have been in a head-on fight on two fronts. One front is the drug dealers, who are about a third of the GDP, and the other front is the Taliban and to a lesser extent Al-Qaeda.

And that would have required a coherent, rational, serious engagement.

Instead, what we've done is what we did in Haiti. We've been in and out of Haiti since the 1920s. We go in briefly. It is temporarily not quite as unbearably inhumane and brutal.

And we leave and it reverts to being the norm.

And that's in our own hemisphere, and it's a manageable-sized country. And we cannot figure out how you're going to create a world that's decent for people in Haiti.

So I wouldn't say our job is democracy-building. I would say we have an interest in modernity everywhere on the planet, because modernity means you can fight disease; modernity means people earn enough money to have a decent living without you having to subsidize them.

Modernity means that you have the rule of law. Modernity means that you only have self-government, but they're part of a package.

And if we're not careful, Mubarak is going to get replaced. I'm told -- I'm not an expert on Egypt -- but I am told his son is unacceptable to the military.

And if they end up in a situation where something happens to Mubarak, and you end up with chaos there, the strongest single non-Mubarak element in the country today is the Muslim Brotherhood.

And if you end up with the equivalent of Nasser in the early '50s, except this time, it is a fundamentalist Wahabist Nasser, you're in a different world.

The same thing's true in Pakistan. We are in a race against time in Pakistan to get to a modern country at a rate faster than it collapses. And we are kidding ourselves if we think Pakistan is stable.

MR. ABRAMS: Just one comment on Haiti. It is a true fact, as the saying goes, the United States occupied Haiti for 19 years, and they don't play baseball.

Which shows that we had no impact on the culture of the country whatsoever.

One more question from me, and then we'll open it. And that is, you said, you know, at the very beginning you talked about the Carter analogy, and the fact that as somebody said back in the Carter days, it's dangerous to be an enemy of the U.S., but it's fatal to be an ally.

And you made the comment about the President treating our allies that way. And I want to ask you to go a level deeper. Why? What is the explanation for this kind of a foreign policy?

MR. GINGRICH: Look, the self-hatred of the American left goes back at a minimum to the mid-1960s, and is a combination of adolescent rebellion by the Baby Boomers; the Marxist streak that was at many of our campuses from Europe; the systematic effort of the Soviets, which we now know was real, because we've seen the documents, and the intersection of Vietnam, the free-speech movement and places like Berkeley, the civil rights movement all came together into one process, led to a very self-righteous belief that America's bad, the world's okay, and the job of the American left was to protect the world from America.

And they have been consistently a minority. They've only had power rarely and usually as a function of Republican failure.

But in '77 they took real power. They did not have real power under Clinton, because Clinton in fact was a Southern Baptist from Arkansas, who had figured out that if you go too far to the left, they beat you.

I mean, watch Carter, who got defeated in '80. When was Carter when defeated? I mean, he's seen this happen. He had also seen the refugee camp in his state of Cuban criminals who had been exported by Castro, who was clever enough to know, "Gosh, the Americans will take anybody I send them; let's send them all of our felons."

Which the average American thought was a sign of being so stupid, that it just further enraged them. We also had them at the Atlanta Penitentiary, where they would routinely burn parts of the Penitentiary, which, you know, most Americans found offensive.

I know it's a bold, old-fashioned, right-wing belief, but most Americans don't think you should let prisoners burn prisons. I mean, it's --


MR. GINGRICH: You know, again, as the current attorney general would explain, a) they shouldn't be in prison, b) they probably wouldn't burn the Four Seasons if you put them there, and c) it will be a reasonable experiment to put them there, and see whether or not in fact they burn it.

In which case you would blame the chamber maids and the janitors, because they would have offended them, leaving them to have to burn it only as an act of self-statement to make sure that their self-worth was appropriate.


MR. ABRAMS: On that note, questions, brief comments from the floor?


QUESTION: Thank you --

MR. ABRAMS: Would you identify yourself?

QUESTION: Sure. My name is Anna Hetama, and I'm not with any organization. I'm actually of Persian descent. I was born in Iran and went back a few times.

It's interesting that you compare this administration with Carter, because growing up my mother said Carter's administration is the reason that the ayatollahs are so powerful.

And watching this President's position with the past election in Iran, how do you think he's going to be making the administration in Iran even more powerful?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, I don't know what the President's going to do. I think it's very telling that you had substantial unrest immediately after the election, which the United States did nothing about.

You had substantial unrest last week, which the United States has not noticed.

And again, it's a situation where if you're a dictatorship that's anti-American, and you want to arrest reporters, or you want to arrest intellectuals, or you want to arrest students, well, that's understandable behavior.

Because after all, you know, you're being oppressed by the modern democratic world, and those things just happen.

It's truly appalling behavior. And you know, I have no idea when they get together in private and they try to explain the world to themselves how they think this is going to work out.

Because it's pretty clear to me, Kim Jong Ill is giving up nothing. Okay. Ahmadinejad is giving up nothing. Okay.

So they're going to be in a world of the not very distant future, where it's going to be rather clear that either the United States is impotent or its opponents are impotent, but there is no middle ground.

And I don't know how they think they're going to be able to talk their way out of it.

I mean, you'll notice, by the way, that for all the president’s wonderfully warm and positive and popular charismatic appeal in Europe, no country in Europe has exactly said, "Yes, we're now so thrilled to have a new, more articulate and more charismatic leader in America. Let us please take on dramatically more burden in Afghanistan."

None. Zero. And it's just sort of a reminder. This charisma is a very limited commodity in international relations.


QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Speaker. I'm Paula DeSutter. I was formerly Assistant Secretary of State for Verification.

One of the things I would like to get your thought about is the Obama Administration and the Democrats, I think you're exactly right that they view the Americans as the threat.

One of the tools that they seek or pursue is arms control, disarmament measures. And we see this administration not only pursuing the post-START agreement, during which they abolished the third site, which I also think may be related to Iran as well as to Russia.

But then you're talking about even deeper cuts after that. They're talking about a ban on space weapons -- how do you see their arms control agenda fitting into the overall approach and the consequences that we're going to have for those?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, first of all, it's very important to understand that the number one goal internationally of nuclear disarmament is to disarm Israel.

And you know, the idea that we're going to go into a United Nations arena and have any kind of effective disarmament, which has any impact on Iran or North Korea, is a fantasy.

But the idea that you could create judicial legal frame work which would suddenly start coercing Israel is not a fantasy. Because that's the dynamic of that institution now.

Second, I think in the modern left across the board, there is a conscious effort to create international frameworks among elites, which can then be imposed on normal people, which you could never politically get passed domestically.

And that's why Kyoto failed so badly. I mean, Kyoto was a perfect elite effort to coerce normal people into doing abnormal things, at great personal expense, on behalf of an elite vision of the future.

And in fact, in that case they wrote it so badly, that even left-wing senators couldn't vote for it. Because it was just clearly indefensible.

And it will be interesting to see as they try to go through a series of things. I mean, I'm a little concerned -- in fact, I'm fascinated to see -- I was just reading a piece this morning arguing that at the G20 meeting, that there's an effort to come up with a new international structure for the economy, in which China will export less, the U.S. will have a much smaller net deficit, and the Europeans will invest appropriately.

And I was reading and wondering, I mean, how do they think they're going to translate this? Because if you actually read what the words say, it will be a world which required a significant dramatic change from all three countries.

And I see no evidence that this administration, for example, has any great interest in increasing economic growth as opposed to increasing government.

And so I don't quite understand how they're going to be able to get anywhere closer to a long-term balance of trade, if they're not prepared to have an investment strategy that leads you to be able to export.

But I think your instinct is right. All of these things will be designed to ratchet down on us on the name of some international -- which will, by the way, make Senate fights really big. They will be just as they were under Carter. I mean, they will suddenly become very important.

MR. ABRAMS: Your view of this as partly designed to take away Israel's nuclear weapons is precisely the view of the government of Israel, which has had this fear for at least the last several years and seen it kind of coming around the corner.

There was somebody in the back?

QUESTION: I'm Keith Pavlachek, Ethics and Public Policy Center.

It was left out of Elliott Abrams' biography, he used to be a president there. I thought I'd just mention that.

Question following up from the Afghanistan panel this morning. Everybody on the panel was agreed that a comprehensive COIN strategy was the only game in town in Afghanistan, and that the proposals you hear from people about you know, a light-footprint counter-terrorism strategy is a loser.

But towards the end of the panel, the long pole in the tent, as it were, was described by Gen. Kimmitt as the question of political will and strategic patience.

I think your comments, sir, were well-taken about the left. But I just wonder, even apart from that, what's your perceptions in terms of what the strategists call, you know, sort of strategic culture? Are we going to be able to maintain, educate the American people of the amount of long-term patience it's going to take in order to execute, not just in Afghanistan, but globally, a counter-insurgency strategy, against an enemy that understands that it's going to fight us asymmetrically?

MR. GINGRICH: That's a good question. Richard Allen came to see me years ago. He had been Reagan's first national security advisor and had been with Regean all through the 1980 campaign. And Allen said that -- I found this kind of fascinating because he came by to see me and he said, "You understand what Reagan understood." I said, "Okay, I'll bite. What is it I understand?" He said, "Leaders define truth, and then people organize themselves around the truth."

So the reason a leader can't effectively focus group what people want is when you focus group you've put the locus of responsitiblity on the audience, because I'm now asking you to render a judgment about your opinion.

Whereas if I tell you my judgment, we can now focus group your reaction to my judgment, but I have now created a totally different framework within which you are thinking.

Now, let me give you two examples. The American people will sustain whatever they are convinced is unavoidable, not desirable, whatever they are convinced is unavoidable. And they will sustain it as long as they have to. Who could have imagined, given the isolationists of the 1930s, that we would begin to execute a policy in '47 with [inaudible] Marshall Plan. We would then expand it in '48 by responding to the Russian, to the crisis in Berlin, and creating the Berlin airlift. We would then expand it further by inventing NATO. We would then build up American power around the planet, and we would then methodically sustain that power for 44 years. For 44 years, we operated a grand siege against the Soviet Empire with occasional skirmishes, Vietnam on the scale of global war was a skirmish. We had a skirmish in Korea. We had a skirmish in Vietnam. We had a skirmish in El Salvador. And the American public most days were plus or minus 5 percent in favor of it. They said, "Yes. No, I don't necessarily want it to be that way, it is reality." So I will be for it.

Now, when is the last time you saw a "get the troops out of Japan" rally? There are thousands of troops in Japan, but there is no great sense of oh, my God, we have to get them home Tuesday.

And so you have to ask the question if in fact this is going to be a long campaign, then you have to design the campaign to be a long campaign. And you have to think through what you are going to say to people, how you are going to sustain it. And then you have to win that argument.

But my experience was if you ask people -- do they desire it? -- they will never say yes. And they shouldn't, it is not rational to want to go fight some war. If you ask them if they are willing to sustain it if it is necessary, they will overwhelmingly say yes. And the side which wants to lose the war, to the best of my knowledge, has never won an American election. This is not a country that likes losing wars.

And remember that in 1952 when -- or in 1968 rather when Gene McCarthy ran against Lyndon Johnson. Half the people in New Hampshire who voted for him did so in memory of Joe McCarthy and thought that he was for a bigger war, not a smaller war. There is no evidence, even after TET, that the United States -- that the people of the United States would have voted for withdrawal. The elite would have, but the people wouldn't have.

MR. ABRAMS: Let me follow up on this. You describe the development of the sort of left culture in universities and out of them, and of course this was a period in which the left/right struggle was the primary international struggle and dividing line. Now, we seem to see the same, as you I think accurately described it, the same mentality, the same attitudes, but of course left/right is not what we read about everyday in the newspaper. We read a little bit of it, Chavez, but most of it is places like Afghanistan and the problem of radical Islam. Why is it that that leftist mentality is applied to this new division? The only non-variable, the only continuing aspect there is really patriot of the U.S.

MR. GINGRICH: There is an old French rule, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." The core enemy is bourgeois Western middle class democracy. That is the great threat to Chavez. It is the great threat to Castro. It is the great threat to Al Qaeda. It is the great threat to left-wingers in America. All of these bourgeois middle class dull people who insist on making a living, raising their families, following values that are obviously inappropriate, watching the wrong movies. And so you look around the planet and you find -- there is greater sympathy in Great Britain today in the elite for Sha'ria than there is for Christianity. Christianity is a threat, Sha'ria is really just one of those interesting things that people talk about. And that is why Yale agrees not to print the Muslim cartoons because after all you wouldn't want -- freedom of speech means having the "Piss Christ" at a public facility so people can come and look at Christ in urine. That is totally appropriate. But now a cartoon that shows Mohammed, oh, that would be highly inappropriate. Well, that is where we are. What I said may be politically incorrect, but I think it is technically absolutely correct about the reality we live in.

MR. ABRAMS: Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Governor Romney at lunch talked about American decline and the NPR elite kind of on board with that. Obviously, President Obama, I think you would agree is on board with managing our decline. So I was wondering if there is a legislative strategy to kind of pull that out of Obama's lips so that is something that you or Governor Romney or Governor Palin can run against in 2012?

MR. GINGRICH: Well, I don't think you want to necessarily run against anybody. I think it is much like the Contract with America or like Reaganism, you want to run for something.

Let me say, first of all, we did this movie last year on Reagan, Callista and I did. It is called, “Ronald Reagan, Rendezvous with Destiny." It is a lot of fun. Seeing Reagan on a screen is just totally different than reading about him, watching the way he handles things, the way he walks, his style. It is amazing to watch. But we have six minutes in the film of Jimmy Carter. And it is worth just watching the six minutes. And when you get to the "malaise speech" and you hear Carter talking from the Oval Office to the people of the United States and saying, "It is a crisis of confidence. It is sort of invisible." And you know that the average, normal, rational American is going, "No, it is not a crisis of confidence. It is called being incompetent."

And that is why Reagan had a great campaign theme. Remember now again, Carter by the end, this was not true at the beginning, by the end, Carter has 13 percent inflation, 22 percent interest rates, and gasoline rationing every other day based on the last number of your license plate. Now, Dave Bossie at

Citizens United pointed out to me he was 13 that year, and every morning his father would give him the screwdriver to go out and switch licenses so the car that needed gasoline had the right license plate, which I thought was classically American.

So Reagan campaigned in that environment, and he had a very simple campaign theme. He would say, "When your brother-in-law is out of work, it is a recession. When you are out of work, it is a depression. When Jimmy Carter is out of work it is a recovery."


And it just caught the rhythm of it. So I would argue, if you look at some what -- Obama is dangerously close to the "malaise speech." And remember that, he was on TV the other day, it may have been yesterday, but somewhere in the last 72 or 96 hours, he did a show where he said, "There is really good news about the economy in terms of what is happening on Wall Street. Now, it hasn't translated into any jobs yet." Now, you could imagine a Republican saying that because all of their friends would be doing well on Wall Street, but a Democrat is supposed to be worried about the jobs. And I believe the odds are very high we will be above 10 percent unemployment by early next year. And if you count in the under-employed and those who quit looking, we will be at around 18 percent. California will be above 20. Every fifth person in California will not have a full-time job. And I think at that point he has a big problem.

We are trying to get Carville to send me a copy of the original poster that he had in Clinton's Little Rock campaign headquarters in '92 that said, "It is the economy, stupid." And I really think if Obama were clever, he would put that poster up in the Oval Office, and they would make no decisions that didn't increase jobs because if they would stumble in 2012 at 9.5 percent unemployment or 10 percent unemployment, this country will be in a significant mess.

And at American Solutions, we frankly have outlined an entire tax strategy that we think would fundamentally get us back to dramatic economic growth because some time at the end of this year or the beginning of next year, you are going to see a demand for another big spending package because they are going to say, "Well, we didn't spend enough in this stimulus." And that will be exactly counter to most Americans, overwhelmingly the American people are fed up with government spending, and that is going to pose a huge tension between the elites in the country.

MR. ABRAMS: Yes, ma'am, right on the aisle? Would you identify yourself?

MS. USCOBA: Yes, my name is Marquetta Uscoba (phonetic), and I am a graduate student at the University of Maryland. Mr. Speaker, it is very, very nice to finally to meet you. I have been watching you for years on Bill O'Reilly. So I just wanted to ask you in my view, I think this is a fantastic opportunity for the Republican Party to get it back together. I'm sorry, I don't mean to offend anybody, but from my point of view, what is it that the Republican Party should do to attract not only new, young voters but the leaders because we need leaders to lead us through not only this bridge but then also in this new world. We need new leaders, young leaders, fresh leaders. What do you think the Republican Party should do to attract them, to recapture the power, to win the election and start re-doing all of this what we are talking about? Thank you.

MR. GINGRICH: Well, I think in general, I offer this advice to both parties, I think the key to creating a generation of leadership is to focus beyond the immediate. I have a standard I use everyday. We have two grandchildren, Robert who just turned eight and Maggie who will be 10 in October. And I want to know what do we need to do so when they are in the 40s and 50s, they are in the most productive, most creative and most prosperous country in the world because if they don't have that characteristic in their economy, they won't be the strongest country in the world. If they are not the strongest country in the world, freedom will be very much at risk.

Now, I believe in order to get to that future, you have got to re-think litigation, regulation, taxation, education, health, energy and infrastructure. And you have got to re-think every single one of them against a simple standard: What is it going to take to compete with China and India and succeed?

And any of you who doubt how big this is going to be, get a copy of Robert Compton's, "Two Million Minutes," which is a brilliant film. Compton is a health entrepreneur who has been very successful. You can get it at 2mminutes.com. Two million minutes is four years of high school. He studies two Chinese, two Indian and two American high school students. And at the end of the movie you realize that we are a country aggressively preparing for the 1956 Olympics. And that we are totally out of sequence with being able to compete in the next 30 or 40 years. And I think a party which says to the country, "I think it is important for our children and grandchildren to be in the most productive and most prosperous and most creative country in the world, and we are prepared to change whatever it takes to make that happen," I think that party has an enormous opportunity.

And in the process, you would recruit a generation of leaders because no two or three or five or 10 people could possibly think through a project on this scale. There are 513,000 elected officials. And if you really want America to change on the scale I am describing, you have got to have a program that reaches out through the Internet and that tries to encourage people at every level to run for public life.

MR. ABRAMS: Yes, ma'am?

MR. GREEN: Green with Georgetown Global Education Institute. And I just wanted some observations about your recent trip to China and taking in how we can be more competitive. I am hoping that we can embrace competitiveness, and I don't see that going on with the Obama Administration, and just what you saw when you were in China?

MR. GINGRICH: You raise a really good point. Let me say first of all I did my newsletter last week called, I do a weekly newsletter that you can get at newt.org -- brief commercial. It is free. I also tweet for those of you who are just fanatics. But my newsletter last week was called, "Snapshots from China." My personal favorite snapshot was being in Mulligan's Irish Bar in the Holiday Inn in Shenyang while a Thai band in yellow jumpsuits sang Abba. And it just sort of captured where the modern world is going. Here are you, down the street, two blocks away is this wonderful, I think the best Mao statue in the whole country, about a 35 foot tall Mao surrounded by 50 some heroic workers and soldiers. It is a circle, and it is in the middle of the circle. It is a fabulous statue. My wife is going to post all this on her website because she took hundreds, I think she took 800 pictures. But here we are two blocks from Mao listening to a Swedish band in English sung by a Thai band in an Irish bar drinking Guinness Export. And this is the modern China. This is what we are up against.

And what you have, and it is a great challenge for them. I was asked by a senior communist leader on the trip, he said, "What advice do you have?" I said it hadn't locked in until Callista insisted that we go back to the Forbidden City on our first day, and we had been there before, but this time it was a Sunday and there were probably 30,000 people wondering around, all of them wearing different clothing, different hairdos, different psychological attitudes, happy wondering around looking at things, it was a pretty, beautiful day. I said, "When you go down to Nanjing and you see the bridge that has the two giant cats," there is a bridge at Nanjing that has like 30 foot tall cats, a black cat and a white cat. And that is the city supposedly where Deng Xiaoping first said, "I don't care whether it is a black cat or a white cat, I care if it catches the mouse." I said, "The challenge you have got is you are now in the process of creating a 1,300,000 cats and cats aren't dogs. You can train dogs. You cannot train cats. And so you have got 1,300,000 people who you are saying over here in their productive life, 'Be pragmatic, be realistic, use facts, develop something that will work. We are going to measure you by whether or not you are profitable.' And then you are saying over here, 'This is your private life, buy what you want to, go where you want to, enjoy life.'"

I was told by one of our "minders," I said, "What is the real population of Beijing?" And she said, "I think it is around 17 million." She said, "I think it is 11 million officially registered, and six million who just drifted in and are not technically registered here." This is the national capital, which she thought was one-third unregistered people, okay.

I said, "Your problem is they are going to get used to making their own decisions about spending their money, and they are going to get used to making their own decisions about earning the money, and then you are going to come to this little box you call politics. And then you are going to say, 'Okay, now, pretend you are a dog because we are going to train you.'" I said, "There is going to be a morning," I said, "If I were you guys, I would figure out every possible angle to decentralize power out of Beijing because you want as many possible explosions to occur at a local level in a small way or one morning you are going to have an uncontrollable problem like the Taiping Rebellion, which by the way, 75 million people were killed, so it was a really bad experience.

And what was interesting to me was two things: One, in the three trips I have been to China, this is the first time in about 10 days of meetings no one asked me about Taiwan. It was not an issue. Everyone asked me about jobs. "What is the United States going do? What is the economy going to be like? How should we shift our strategies? By the way, would you like to invest in our city? We have some really great areas over here we would love to show you." Honestly, it was fascinating. Remember, a medium-sized Chinese city is 7 million people. So that part was really fascinating.

The other observation I have, and I wouldn't want to exaggerate this because, again, it is still a dictatorship, it still has all the weaknesses of a dictatorship, I heard more practical conversation about market share, investment, the right strategies, focusing on jobs, being competitive in the world market, I heard more of that conversation in 10 days of China than you would hear in 10 weeks eating at the House restaurant on Capital Hill. It was very interesting. We are today psychologically more collectivist than China, and they are today psychologically more market oriented than we are, and that is bizarre. For those of you who think the world can't change, you go back to 1965 with Mao, this is just inconceivable, but I think it is where we are right now.

MR. ABRAMS: Sorry, we are out of time. I promised we would finish on time at 5:00. So I would ask you to join me in thanking Speaker Gingrich.


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