Monday, June 19, 2006

Newt Gingrich For President (Maybe)

Newt Gingrich is clearly running for President in 2008, and I am sorely conflicted. Alice and I were among the most fervent supporters of him and his powerful creation, “The Contract With America,” which swept Republicans to congressional power in 1994 for the first time in our adult lives.

We attended a Republican fundraiser in Walnut Creek featuring Newt in 1996, and Alice and I charged in amongst a crowd of protesters – paid union sign carriers, Berkeley “activists” (also paid), and other Democrat special interest groups – and we were so effective, just the two of us, that all the major newspapers the next day featured pictures of us, and none of the protesters. Can you imagine how bad that made the protesters feel? The Left owns protests. When you don’t have anything better to do with your time, like go to work, you can always join a protest. Yet there they were in Walnut Creek, spending their time carrying signs, yelling, looking for cameras to get in front of, and two Republicans in business suits get the front page pictures!

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One Democrat couldn’t contain himself. The following morning, Alice answered our phone. “I saw your picture in the Oakland Tribune this morning. You’re awful people! (Sound of phone being slammed down).” That was the first hint we had that we had become part of the previous day’s Newt Gingrich news coverage. Soon we got several calls from friends, who saw our pictures in the Oakland Tribune, Tri-Valley Herald, and the Contra Costa Times.

Not long after this I started having doubts about Newt. First there were his messy personal problems. The same journalists that gave passes on personal issues to Bill Clinton, Teddy Kennedy, and other prominent Democrats could be trusted to be all over any personal problem of a Republican leader. Have you noticed how a (former) Klu Klux Klan member like Robert Byrd can be the worshiped leader of the Democrats, can be the longest serving Senator ever, and yet an innocuous flattering remark to a retiring colleague can cost a Republican his leadership position. Isn’t that right, Senator Lott?

And then Newt started to exhibit an uncanny ability to lead Republicans in rounds of self-inflicted shots in the foot and other more sensitive body parts, of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” He started to exhibit arrogance in the conduct of congressional activities that I thought was reserved for Democrats only. He single handedly resurrected Bill Clinton’s pathetic presidency. Bill Clinton went from pleading publicly that his presidency was still relevant, when it wasn’t, to appearing as the champion that saved beleaguered citizens from Republican indifference. When he said, “I feel your pain,” he was probably laughing inwardly at the pain Republicans were inflicting on themselves. Bill Clinton still presided over a “do-nothing” presidency, but was able to step between the warring parties (Dick Morris’ “triangulation”) and claim Republican victories like Welfare Reform as his own.

So Newt is running for President in 2008, and I don’t know what to make of it. The guy is smart, sometimes brilliant, articulate in a way few modern-day politicians are, and able to look for answers “outside of the box.” I agree with too much of too many of his positions to dismiss him out-of-hand, like the American electorate will. Therefore I welcome his Quixotic presidential quest, because I hope his good ideas will be stolen by one or more of his rivals, propel them to victory, and end up reshaping the focus and nature of our political debate for the many decades to come. Even if he never gets the job, I think Newt is one of the few, maybe the only, American leader who can take us away from special interest politics and give us a coherent vision of a rational system of national governance.

I have taken the liberty of copying his latest newsletter and including it below. Read it, weep for what might have been, hope for what might become.

Winning the Future, by Newt Gingrich
A Twenty-First Century Contract With America
June 19, 2006
Volume 1, No. 9

The First War of Globalization

Watching Congress debate the Iraq War last week reminded me of how many politicians in Washington still don't get it. Some completely miss the lessons of history that teach us how important victory in Iraq is for the United States. Fortunately, the House passed a resolution to "complete the mission" in Iraq and rejected a date certain for withdrawal of our troops. But before House Republicans prevailed on this resolution, we had to sit through a debate in which some members -- amazingly -- suggested that the death of the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by U.S. air strikes means it is a good time to withdraw our troops, completely ignoring the fact that coalition troops, along with the Iraqis, have conducted nearly 500 more raids since killing Zarqawi.

It is difficult for me to convey to you how wrong I believe this cut-and-run attitude is.

The killing of Zarqawi, as I discussed last week, was a substantial win -- a win that should be built upon with greater resolve to finish the job in Iraq. It should not be used as a justification to withdraw before the job is done.

The ‘Grey World’ of Terrorism

More importantly, our efforts in Iraq have to be understood in a much bigger -- a global -- context. We are engaged in a global, long war with the irreconcilable wing of Islam. In many ways, this is the first war of globalization. Just as globalization lets us send messages all over the world instantaneously via e-mail, use our phones to call people all over the world, transfer cash in and out of stock markets all over the world and travel easily and globally, it also has a downside.

Former CIA Director George Tenet describes this downside of globalization as the "Grey World." It's the world of terrorists who can organize much more effectively and globally, trafficking in human beings for the sex trade and trafficking in drugs, international crime, illegal arms deals and illegal international transportation that is made possible by technological advances. This Grey World is the dark side of the stunning increases in standards of living, communications and transportation that have marked the modern world.

That's why Zarqawi in Baghdad has a relationship with terrorists arrested recently in Britain and Canada. That's why Zarqawi in Baghdad relates directly to what happened in Mogadishu, Somalia, where a group of Islamic extremists took control, creating the potential that Somalia could become a new Afghanistan-like center of opposition to the civilized world. And that's why Zarqawi in Baghdad relates to the developments in Aceh in Sumatra, where a local group made a deal with the central government allowing them to impose sharia, the extremist, medieval Islamic law, on all citizens, including non-Muslims. By acquiescing to the imposition of Islamic law, a new center of militant behavior is being created right in the middle of Indonesia.

President Bush Should Call a Long War Council

Each of these developments is tied together by the fact that in this globalized long war, terrorists reinforce each other's worldview on websites, they study each other, they communicate with each other by e-mail and mobile phones, and they very often travel to many different countries. That's why we have to recognize that while it was right for President Bush to convene a war council on Iraq last week, my hope is that he will convene a council to plan for the long war. And in the months and years ahead, we need to have an open, honest dialogue around the world with those who are willing to defend our civilization. We need to discuss how we're going to make sure that the forces of democracy, the forces of the rule of law and the forces of freedom defeat the forces of terror and tyranny who seek to threaten us in every country in the world. Your friend,

Newt Gingrich

P.S. - The rush to judgment over allegations of military misconduct in Iraq got me thinking about its effect on our fighting men and women. So I asked a former Marine who served two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom how all this talk is effecting morale. His remarkable answer follows:

It should be noted that the Marines on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan are the true embodiment of what America and Democracy are about. They are the 19-year-old young men and women that are making a sacrifice. They are not enjoying rush week at a university or going to the beach for the summer, but rather offering their lives in the defense of each other, their families and their homes. These 19-year-olds are the true tip of America's spear and bear more responsibility each day than most Americans do in lifetimes.

It seems that in this day and age there is more support and misdirected justice for prison inmates than these dedicated young Marines. For any American -- most especially the media -- to condemn or judge them is absurd. They will be investigated and judged by fellow warriors who understand the circumstances and the enemy involved. Rest assured, no one holds their people more accountable than the military, most especially the Marine Corps. "Keep our Honor Clean" isn't just a catch phrase.

Ask Newt

Question: How about this idea for "guest workers." Do you think it would work?

Any "guest-worker" immigration legislation must stipulate that a percentage of their income (10-25%) is escrowed by their employer into a U.S. bank money-market account in the state where the employment occurs. They get the escrowed money when they return to their home country on time and have not violated any U.S. laws. Funds not qualifying, because of violations, are to be given to the state where the money was earned to defray immigration costs.

Richard H.
Summerfield, Fla.

Newt’s Answer: Thanks for the question, Richard.

I think this idea, and similar ideas like it that have been discussed, could be a very effective part of a work-visa program. Before I get to why I think so, I would like to make the point that in addition to holding some portion of each paycheck in an escrow account, I would like to see all payments to work-visa holders made by electronic direct deposit for the same reason that it adds another tool for enforcing compliance. With electronic payments we would have a way to easily know where in the country the worker is employed and who is paying, and if there is a change in the worker's legal status, the account could be frozen instantly.

Now to your question and the two reasons why I like the escrow idea.

First, it creates an incentive for work-visa holders to return home before their visa expires. Not complying with the law or returning home after the work-visa expiration date would put their escrow money in jeopardy.

Second, it could help to level the root inequality in opportunity and the pervasive poverty that is driving the wave of foreigners, particularly from countries to our South, to the United States in the first place. Upon their return home from working in the United States, the workers would be able to use the money they have saved in their escrow accounts to start a new small business, perhaps even with another or several other former work-visa holders. Escrow accounts would not only give workers the incentive to go home in order to withdraw the money, it would create the motivation to dream about the day when they can open their own business back home, be their own boss and create and accumulate wealth for their families, and -- because small businesses create jobs -- for other families in their communities as well.

Helping hardworking people to start small businesses in their home countries will do far more to improve the long-term health of the economies of Mexico and other Central and South American countries than any amount of U.S. foreign aid that may be offered, which is often poorly spent and is almost never used to tackle the root causes of poverty.

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