Gingrich Foresees New Revolution in Gov't Reform

By Kevin Mooney | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - Americans are facing a new revolution that could transform obsolete, inefficient government bureaucracies into dynamic new entities to confront the challenges of the 21st Century, in the view of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

For the revolution to take hold, however, the efficiency, speed, quality, transparency and choice now characterizing U.S. productive society need to "migrate" to lethargic government agencies, Gingrich told college students at George Washington University Monday.

He encouraged students to become active in accelerating the transformation of government at a time when the country is facing pressing domestic and international challenges.

"We are in the opening stages of one of the great waves of reform in American history," he said. "You see these waves form in the countryside, and then they overwhelm the capital. They never begin in the capital. ... We are beginning to see the broad outline of a fundamental profound overhaul of government."

Gingrich invited the students to debate how dangerous the world is in the early years of the new century.

"The left would like to believe George W. [Bush] is dangerous and the world is safe," he said. "This is an enormous act of self-deception."

The Georgia conservative warned against a return to a 1970s mindset that believed "weakness could work." That approach would only invite greater challenges, he argued.

"Should we defend America before we lose a city, or should we wait until we have a nuclear Pearl Harbor before we get serious?" Gingrich asked.

He used the talk to reflect on the principles of the "Contract With America" that helped elect Republican majorities in Congress in the 1990s.

Appearing on Fox News during the weekend, Gingrich was asked about the 27-day shutdown while his party confronted President Bill Clinton over the federal budget in 1995.

Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace said that even Gingrich "would admit that, at least politically, President Clinton whipped you in that confrontation."

Addressing the students Monday, Gingrich asked: "If we lost, how come we were re-elected? We were the first re-elected Republican majority since 1928, and we were re-elected after that fight. How come we survived?"

Although "elite" opinion continues to view the budget fight as a "huge mistake" for Republicans, Gingrich said his party actually benefited from the struggle.

"We didn't sell out," he said. "We didn't accept a Washington compromise." The conservatives who helped elect a Republican majority took note of a principled stand and voted to re-elect the 1994 class, Gingrich said.

The Republican Congress exerted downward pressure on spending patterns, balanced the budget for four consecutive years, paid off $405 million in debt and passed the first tax cut in 16 years, he said.

The current generation of Republican leaders could learn much from the budget fights, he contended. When asked how the Bush White House and GOP leaders in Congress today compare with the party leadership in the 1990s in terms of keeping government in check, Gingrich responded, "not as good."

"It is a little unnerving to think we actually restricted the growth of government more under Bill Clinton [than under Bush]," he continued.

In a phone interview, Gingrich told Cybercast News Service that Republicans became complicit in excessive spending because party leaders failed to educate a new generation of congressional members to understand the value of the "Contract With America."

"They became [committee] chairmen, and they took their power for granted," he said. "We had an opportunity create a second 'Contract,' and we didn't do this."

Gingrich advised the GOP minority in the House to resist the urge to "go negative" and instead offer constructive amendments designed to restore fiscal discipline. The amendments, he said, would force "Blue Dog Democrats" -- many of whom represent districts carried by President Bush -- to choose between their district's values and those of their own party leaders.


In response to a student's question about his political ambitions, Gingrich said he would make a determination on the 2008 race after reviewing the matter with family members on Sept. 30.

If he sees that the ideas which he has been promoting among the presidential contenders are being expressed by viable candidates, he would "probably not run." But if the reform proposals have not found a strong advocate, he may reconsider and join the race.

Gingrich also put forward a proposal he argued would produce a more issue-oriented campaign. He challenged every presidential candidate in both parties to agree now that, if they win their party nomination, they would take part in 90-minute, one-on-one dialogue each week between Labor Day and Election Day -- with a time keeper but no debate moderator.

This new format, he said, would "take half the poison out of the current system."

Students in attendance, including Ainsley Stromberg and Brittany Segneri, said they were particularly impressed with the proposal, saying Gingrich was attempting to start a "real dialogue" across party lines.

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