Newt for President?

Newt Gingrich

Political Players is a weekly conversation with the leaders, consultants, and activists who are shaping American politics. This week, CBS News' Brian Goldsmith talks with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich about dissatisfaction with the current Republican candidates, and whether he might jump into the race. There is a new AP poll, showing that the most popular Republican candidate for president is named undecided. Do you think there's a reason there is such a hole in this field, and that Republicans don't feel happy about their choices?

Newt Gingrich: Well, look, I think that the average Republican understands that we need very large change in Washington. I think they keep looking for a candidate who can articulate with passion and directness the scale of the change, and what they would do differently.

And while the people who are running are solid folks, they don't think any of them have connected yet in that way, and it is ironic from my perspective. If you think about it, that the people who told me all spring, "You had to make a decision, you had to make a decision. You have to run, you have to run." Now we are faced with a situation where nobody is much above 30 percent.

McCain, who was the frontrunner, is gradually disappearing. Thompson, who didn't exist, is now almost the frontrunner. It strikes me, it is a pretty good vindication of a theory that this whole thing is way too long and consultants are making way too much money. I think that it's perfectly reasonable to wait around for a while, and see what happens. But is there an argument to be made that you need that much time to build the organization, if not to vault to the top of the polls?

Newt Gingrich: Well, I would ask John McCain. If you think you are the guy with the big ideas, if you think you could win, why wouldn't you run?

Newt Gingrich: Well, I think first of all, I'm using this time to develop American Solutions, a new generation of solutions at all levels, not just for Washington, but for school board, county commission, city council, state legislature. There are 513,000 elected offices in the US.

And I think my first job is to try to understand what we need to do to be successful as a country. How can we organize ourselves to do it? And to try to launch a mass movement of people across the whole country who are committed to that scale of change, and who want to apply it. Not just to the presidency, not just to the House, the Senate, but to every level of government. I think that is my first job. And until I have completed that educational job, I am very, very unwilling to spend my time and energy on politics, if I can avoid it. And I see that beginning on September 27th, the 13th anniversary of the Contract with America, you are going to be reaching out to all these elected officials throughout the country, proposing solutions on energy and education and health care. What do you think the results of the conference are going to be?

Newt Gingrich: Well, first conference, first briefing is actually this Monday, from 12 to 6 Eastern time, at the US Chamber of Commerce. And it will be webcast at American Solutions. There will be six hours on moving government from the world that fails to the world that works, and outlining a first layer of solutions and tools.

And you get a little taste of it if you go to YouTube, and look at FedEx versus Federal Bureaucracy, which is a little piece of a speech I gave at the American Enterprise Institute, that begins to illustrate the scale of change I think we need.

Second, I think that my goal is going to be, on September 27th and 29th, when we webcast to the whole country, to try to reach out to Democrats, Republicans and independents, with practical, common sense, sound solutions that lead people to believe that they can get things done in an effective way. Why haven't the other candidates embraced your ideas? You've said a number of times, it would be a lot easier for you if someone else would do this.

Newt Gingrich: Well, you ought to call them and ask them. I mean, let me give you an example. English as the language of government is an 85 percent issue. I don't know why candidates don't campaign on an 85 percent issue. The right to say "one nation under God" as part of the Pledge of Allegiance is a 91 percent issue. I do not know why candidates don't campaign on standing up to the Ninth Circuit court, which has just been so profoundly wrong and so anti-religious.

By 89 to seven, the country believes that science offers great opportunity to find solutions. And yet I do not sense any candidate in the race talking about the centrality of science, and the importance of rethinking all of our regulatory processes to maximize the rate of innovation. You ought to go ask the candidates. I think what happens is all of these candidates talk to their consultants.

None of their consultants know anything. The consultants all tell them to stick to whatever they read in the Washington Post, or the New York Times that morning. That is how you get kind of a circular conversation among people who do not know very much, telling people not to say very much.
  • Brian Goldsmith