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Former Gingrich press secretary Tony Blankley tells ConservativeHome USA that the popular desire to elect someone with ideas and substance has fueled the former House speaker’s rise to the top of the polls.
“While most of the people who are running for president are pretty well informed and pretty bright people, most just end up in talking points,” Blankley says. “There’s not a lot of depth to their discussion, and I think that Newt’s standing out in the debates as somebody who’s actually thought deeply on these issues, cares about them and who discusses them both conceptually and in detail.
“And I think that’s why he’s moved up from single digits to anywhere from around 22 to 24 percent after a couple of months of debates.”
Blankley observes that a candidate like Gingrich has appeal because he stands for ideas and results at a time when both parties can’t seem to get the job done. The Supercommittee’s Super failure stands as the latest and most searing example of Washington’s inability to place the country’s needs before political considerations.
“I think not just a lot of conservatives, but also a lot of independents and moderates want to hear somebody who has some idea of how we can improve things,” Blankley says. “That’s Newt’s strength, and now is his moment, I think.”
Gingrich’s former press secretary jokes that you would need a “really large vehicle, maybe an ocean liner” to affix a bumper sticker that would fit all of Newt’s ideas in one place.
But on a more serious note, Blankley suggests that a Gingrich presidency would be the most ambitious of any in recent memory. Blankley saw Gingrich up close on an almost daily basis throughout the Contract With America and the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.
“I was with him about 12 hours a day, particularly before he became speaker where it was just the two of us and a secretary in the room,” Blankley says. “I know him very well.”
According to Blankley, Gingrich was just about the only person in the room in the run up to the 1994 midterms who thought the GOP could win early on and made it happen with his dogged determination.
He predicts that the first eight months of a Newt presidency would be not unlike FDR’s in the event he would win along with sizeable GOP majorities in the House and the Senate.
“It would be like 1933, but we’d be going back in the other direction toward markets and traditional values,” Blankley says. “It would be a really thrilling thing to watch.
“We had a bit of that during the first eight months of the Reagan term in ’81 had some of that; it was a pretty invigorating period where the ideas of the new president won support in Congress and the country.”
Gingrich’s record from the 1980s shows he consistently ran to the right of the Reagan administration, particularly in his insistence on a spending freeze in 1983, which put him at loggerheads with people like James Baker and then OMB Director David Stockman, as Evans and Novak reported in January of that year.
Blankley predicts Gingrich would likely have sizeable majorities in both the House and the Senate, but exact number in the latter chamber being more open to question.
“I think you would see a remarkable period of legislation on deregulating, on attracting health care into a more market-oriented system and on reforming taxes,” Blankley says. “But I can’t imagine anyone who would bring the intellectual vigor or policy agenda to the table as Newt would.”
He characterizes Romney as someone who would be more like “a manager” who would manage the nation’s policy problems incrementally rather than in large jumps unlike Gingrich.
“I think we need to do it in larger jumps,” Blankley says. “So I think comparing a Romney to a Gingrich presidency, I think would see a far more dramatic effort under [Newt] more like he did when he was speaker.
“I think the motivation for him to deliver once he’s committed on something is really powerful.”
To date, Gingrich is the only American politician who committed to balancing the federal budget and succeeded.
Blankley predicts based on his knowledge of Gingrich’s character that the former speaker would only choose people in his cabinet who would get the job done and be most effective. He notes that Gingrich bucked House tradition when he tapped people like now Ohio-Gov. John Kasich to chair the House Budget Committee and Henry Hyde to chair the House Judiciary Committee.
Gingrich is man who isn’t restrained by Washington convention, but who instead has consistently bucked custom to get things done.
“Newt believed you picked people who would deliver people who would deliver the results you committed to,” Blankley says. “And I think you’d see that kind of selection in top appointments, and [his] people wouldn’t be there because some faction of the party wanted them to be there, but [rather] because of the policy commitments he made during the campaign.”
When asked about what he would advise Gingrich to do in response to questions about his personal and business dealings, Blankley suggested that his old friend be direct and truthful with the American public.
Blankley says old accusations such those insinuating that he brought “disrepute on the House” for how he funded a college course he taught while he was speaker will be trotted out. But the facts are in this particular case were that the Clinton IRS found him innocent of the charges against him after he left Congress.
And the same goes with the mistakes he made in his first two marriages.
“I think we’ll have a better opportunity this time to get the truth out than the mischaracterization of it, and I think we’ll have to see how the public balances out the pluses and minuses,” Blankley says.
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