John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Newt Revisited

Posted on November 18, 2011
“I love Newt.”

That was the surprising revelation from my mother, in describing her affection for the somewhat rotund, always fascinating former House Speaker.



Gingrich has catapulted himself back into the race with a counter-intuitive strategy of campaigning as little as possible, using as few staff as possible, showing up at every debate and appearing on television often.

This is the same strategy used by his friend and rival Hermann Cain.

Newt is a lot smarter than Cain, though, and his debate performances have shown off all of the skills of America’s most controversial ex-Speaker of the House.

The media has made a meal out of Newt’s life after Congress.

How he got paid well by Freddie Mac.  How he took all kinds of money from the health insurance industry and from PhRMA.  How he appeared in television commercials with Nancy Pelosi talking about global warming and with Al Sharpton talking about education.

Not doubt, Newt has made himself a good chunk of money and kept himself in the limelight since leaving the Congress in 1998.

But, what else was he supposed to do?  Go to a monastery and chant Gregorian style?

The reason my mother loves Newt is because Newt has ideas.  Lots of them.  Some of them are good, some of them are great and some of them are simply terrible.

My mother remembers when Newt was pushing to put troubled kids into modern day orphanages.  She thinks having State sponsored boarding schools (as I called them) was a helluva lot better than shuffling these kids from one foster family to another.  I still think it is a good idea.

Newt is an environmentalist.  And that puts him on the right side of history if not the right side of the current iteration of the GOP base.  What kind of idiot would prefer to drink dirty water or breath dirty air?  I don’t think that global warming is man-made necessarily, but I do think we need to constantly move forward to improve our environment, and the government can work with the private sector to make that happen.

Newt is a smart thinker on health care.  And our current health care system is not the best in the world.  It could be with a few relatively minor tweaks.  But it costs way to much money and the unregulated market (the one where poor people can just fend for themselves) simply doesn’t work well enough to uphold our values as a nation.  So Newt thinks that at the state level, there should be some way to compel everybody to buy health care insurance.  You don’t have to both hate Obamacare and hate Romneycare.  You can hate one and like the other one.  Newt knows that because, well, he knows his health care stuff.

Newt has had trouble in his private life, and he has a penchant for making outlandish and irresponsible statements that either get him in trouble or make him look like the biggest hypocrite known to man.

But Newt has his strengths.  He believes in activist government, not libertarianism.  He believes in American greatness, not in isolationism.  He believes in a strong safety net, not survival of the fittest.  In other words, he takes an expansive view of the place of government in he lives of the American people.  He understands that most Americans don’t like the government as it currently functions, but he doesn’t buy into the notion that we can become a great society without any government whatsoever.

When Newt was Speaker, he appealed to characters as diverse as Bob Walker, a tried and true conservative, and Chris Shays, the last real Republican moderate.    Like my mother, they liked Newt’s ideas, if not necessarily his character.

Mitt Romney can learn a lot from Newt Gingrich, especially on the ideas front.