The following is a transcript of Newt Gingrich’s speech to the “Wednesday Morning Club.” You can order a copy of his new book Winning the Future from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore – The Editors.
Thank you very, very much. Hearing all of this actually makes me a little bit tired. When people start going through my list of accomplishments, I have to think about how many hours a day I’ve been putting into this: 24 sounds about right. At least you get very nice introductions….
I am always reminded of reality, however. When I was a relatively junior congressman, Congressman Bill Dickinson from Montgomery, Alabama, invited me to come and do a fundraiser. He started thinking about the fact that not many people knew who I was at that point, so to make sure that his fundraiser would be successful, he invited Charleston Heston to be the other speaker. After the event, we had a photo line. Dickinson would greet people, and put them between Heston and me. Later on when they sent me 250 pictures to sign, I had the very humbling experience of realizing that in all 250 pictures, not a single girl was leaning toward me.
As I’ve gotten older and more fragile, I’ve rigorously avoided any joint appearances with Governor Schwarzenegger, because I couldn’t stand to go through that experience a second time. But it is great to be here. It’s great to be at an institution which is profoundly changing the context in which American academic culture and political behavior will be discussed over the next generation. What David has done is truly historic. You see it in that there are now debates over issues that people just tolerated 10 years ago. There are people who said stunningly outrageous things 10 years ago without consequence, who now have to actually defend themselves. This is the beginning of a very healthy period.
I want to take two principles as the core of my text today: one from Margaret Thatcher, and the other from Ronald Reagan. When she was prime minister, Lady Thatcher used to assert that first you win the argument, and then you win the vote. I want to stick with that first principle for a minute. You’ll see why when we pass this out (a questionnaire handed out to attendees also available at www.Newt.org in electronic format.) We put these ten questions together because the Left has a totally false notion that America is closely divided.
America is not closely divided on values. For partisan reasons, however, America is closely divided, largely because Republicans so radically underperform among African-Americans and Hispanics. If Republicans could reach out and create a new sense of inclusion, the natural governing majority of this country would be somewhere around 70 percent. This was illustrated in an article I wrote last July called “What’s at Stake.” I looked at 34 issues, and John Kerry was in a 77-17 percent minority, on average, in 33 of the 34. The only area where we Republicans don’t perform as well as we have to is the environment, so we’re working on creating an activist conservative environmentalism that solves problems, without using heavy-handed bureaucracy, and without accepting the interpretations of the Left.
Besides the single area of the environment, item after item after item reinforces the fact that on core values, the country is pretty clear about who it is. So we put together this set of questions and we gave it to you. You can also get the electronic version if you want to send it out to your friends. Today, I had somebody in the news media who had taken the questionnaire walk up to me—I won’t tell you her name, because she won’t let me—and say, “Okay, I took your stupid test.” She said, “I am a lot more moderate than I thought, and I am not telling you the score.”
I think if you sit down with people and say, “All right, let’s start a discussion,” you’ll be shocked at how big the difference is. So the first thing I want to talk about is winning the argument. A key part of winning the argument is defining the argument. The second thing I want to talk about is what Ronald Reagan understood so brilliantly. He was in a very small league of presidential and national leaders who have been able, by the sheer power of their words, to change reality.
Reagan understood that to win the argument at its most profound level, you have to have clarity, simplicity, cheerfulness, and brute repetition. Reagan didn’t mind saying the same thing for 25 or 30 years. Reagan first said, “Tear down this wall” in 1967 as governor. He was just repeating it in 1987. It shows you how little things have changed, that he had to put it in his speech three times, because the State Department kept taking it out. He kept hand writing it in; the third time they finally got it.
Of course, Reagan understood something else. I am going to walk you through what that is, and a lot of you are going to say that it’s not possible, or we can’t do that, or it’s too hard. I want to suggest to you, that if you have a yes attitude rather than a no attitude, you’ll be surprised how many solutions we can find. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be hard work. I know this from experience because I became a volunteer in Columbus, Georgia, in 1960 as a junior in high school student. I won a congressional seat in Georgia in 1978. In December 1978 I became chair of the Long Range Planning Committee to create a majority. And we got a majority in 1994.
You know people mistake the question, “Can I get it done Tuesday?” for, “Is it do-able?” Reagan understood that you must take two things into account: whether you are allied with the core beliefs of the American people, and whether you are flowing with the natural stream of history. Reagan, for example, was very pro-technology. Why? Because his whole career was technology. He was born before commercial radio existed. His first job was at WHO radio in Des Moines, when it was illegal to broadcast radio news; a regulation that the newspapers had passed through Congress, citing an unfair competitive advantage. You really could not legally broadcast the news. Dan Rather, by the way, was thinking about a similar law for blogger sites.
Reagan came to Hollywood right after talkies began, and at the early stage of Technicolor. He then went into television when it was black and white. So Reagan understood the great stream of technological and scientific opportunity. He also understood, as a Midwesterner, the core values of the American people. He articulated them, and he personified them, which is why the only time he tried to play a bad guy, in his last movie, The Killers, it failed. You could look at him and think it was a nice try, but nobody believed he was the killer.
Let me talk about where we are and where we’re going. I want, as Reagan said in one of his great speeches, to talk about controversial things. I wrote Winning the Future, because all the really large changes in America come from the country, and then force the capital to change. I know of no occasion in American history where really large-scale change started in the capital, because the capital is traditionally a conspiracy of timidity and caution. And that’s perfectly natural. People who already have power don’t want to lose it. So they’ll all surround each other at various cocktail parties, and they’ll all reassure each other that being bold is what you and I would regard as being timid, and that doing the necessary is in fact impossible.
Let me again give you an example from Reagan’s career that I think is seminal to what I am about to describe for you. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union was a fact. You can go back, pull up the information, and you can study it. I would challenge any left-winger to debate this. In the 1970s, there were only two ways of dealing with the Soviet Union: there was liberal détente and there was conservative détente.
Practitioners of conservative détente said the Soviet Union is a fact. The Soviets are stunningly dangerous. They’re probably going to win in the long run, but we can slow them down. In contrast, proponents of liberal détente said the Soviet Union is a fact. The Soviets are probably going to win sooner than that, and we should hug them a lot.
You' remember the Jimmy Carter interview after the Russians invaded Afghanistan, when he went on national television and talked about how shocked he was. You probably thought: “He lived through the Hungarian invasion of 1956; he lived through the Soviets coercing all of Eastern Europe; he lived through all these other indicators of Soviet intent, but it actually took the invasion of Afghanistan for him to think they’re not nice?” After that poin,t he promptly showed them how tough he was. He cut off American grain sales to punish Iowa, and he blocked Americans from competing in the Olympics in Moscow. As you can imagine, Brezhnev was trembling at the thought of what Carter would do next.
Then Ronald Reagan came along. A reporter said to Reagan, “What’s your vision of the Cold War?” Reagan said just four words: “We win, they lose.” Everybody in Washington understood that was goofy. First of all, “we win” is a hostile term, implying one side would do better. “They lose” was crowding them into a corner. How could you expect a dictatorship with nuclear weapons to treat you, if you say they’re going to lose? People like Strobe Talbott were on the edge of heart attacks for four years.
Of course, 11 years after Ronald Reagan said that, the Soviet Union disappeared, at which point Ronald Reagan disappeared. If you watch the Left’s explanation of the end of the Cold War, it has something to do with Mikhail Gorbachev being a wonderful reformer, who out of pure humanitarian conviction magically brought the Soviet Union to an end, despite right-wing, reactionary leaders in Britain and the United States. I am not exaggerating, because the Left can’t admit it was wrong – because then you’d ask, “What else is it wrong about?”
I am going to give you examples of the Reagan/Thatcher principles of setting up arguments so profound that the other side can’t win them, and then just sticking to it. I am going to give you a couple of areas to think about: patriotic education and patriotic immigration. In order to explain the context of patriotic education and patriotic immigration, I am going to talk a little bit about the centrality of our Creator to understanding America as an exceptional country, and I am going to talk in that context about how we re-balance the Constitution by bringing the courts back into the American system, and taking them out of their current dictatorial biases. Then I’ll take questions.
Somebody asked me a question that concerned them. They said, “How does John Q. Public prevent the ACLU from running roughshod with the removal of a historical cross and God?” This is a reference to the Los Angeles County problem. I’ll start by saying the Los Angeles County problem was not the ACLU. The Los Angeles County problem was cowardly commissioners. They didn’t go to court. They didn’t wage a fight. You have to beat them. You have to find people with the courage to go out and run.
Again, this is hard work. It is not easy. You will say, “It’s really hard doing it in Los Angeles.” It’s really hard doing it in Los Angeles, because you allow the current political structure to define Los Angeles. For example, if you went through Los Angeles and took a poll, and asked how many believe we ought to have the right to say “One nation under God” as part of the Pledge of Allegiance, the answer will be, at the most liberal, 85 percent, and maybe as high as 93 percent.
I would argue, even with Republican tactical incompetence, that somewhere around 85 percent you should have a winning issue. But that means you’d have to actually go out into Hispanic neighborhoods and probably talk to people in Spanish. And you’d have to say to good Catholics, “Do you think saying something about God is okay?” This is a fairly strong issue among Catholics. They tend to believe you should be allowed to talk about God.
Next, you need to ridicule the Left. What I mean is that somebody needs to propose that the city should become known as Secularville. How can you be known as Los Angeles, if you are not allowed to have a cross? How can you have angels? Which is it? Either the angels are okay, so put the cross back up, or the angels are wrong too, so change the city’s name.
This is the core question – and I emphasize this, because it is the core defining issue in American culture and will be for the next 13 years: As a nation, on a non-denominational basis, we have an underlying belief that our rights come from God. This is a debate we need to have. I say to all of my most secular friends, “If you are not endowed by your Creator with certain inalienable rights where do they come from?” By the way, this term comes from the Declaration of Independence, which is an historical document, not a religious document. If you tell me that you’re randomly gathered protoplasm, and that you have contract rights, you have just explained totalitarianism. If all you are is randomly gathered protoplasm, then why can’t I have a Holocaust? Why can’t I torture you? Why can’t I brainwash you? Why can’t I eliminate your historic memory, by doing things, for example, like taking the cross off of your seal?
So you’re one or the other. There’s no middle ground here. I start with history; not with ideology, not with theory, but with history. The founding document of the United States of America says we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. It makes us the most exceptional country in history. We are the only country that says each one of you has these rights, and this includes the atheists. They may not recognize God but God recognizes them.
At the back of my book, which is downloadable for free for any of your friends that are coming to Washington, there is an entire walking tour to God in the national capital. The reason I was determined to put in a walking tour to God in the national capital is because my secular friends would rush up and say, “Well, Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and we know he was a Deist.” They don’t have a clue what that meant, but they felt good about it. They knew it meant he wasn’t Baptist or Catholic, so they somehow felt more secure.
I suggest you go to the Jefferson Memorial, which on three of its four walls has a quote about God. Around the top of the memorial, it says the following: “I have sworn upon the altar of God Almighty, eternal hostility against all forms of tyranny over the minds of man.” And I say to my secular friends, “What do you think Jefferson might have meant by the term ‘God Almighty’?”
Now, because they’ve got tenure in the kind of universities that David describes, they promptly say to me, “This was actually a stunningly subtle use of language,” because if they actually believe that Jefferson meant God Almighty,’ then he would have meant Creator. If he meant Creator, and Creator was God Almighty, their entire theory of America just disappears.
They will then say. “Aha, Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danville Baptists saying that there should be a ‘wall of separation’ between church and state,” which is exactly right, and by which Jefferson meant we should not have a nationally funded (established) church, which I agree with. They then mean separation of church and state has now become anti-religion. Well, what they won’t tell you is that two days after Jefferson signed that letter, he got in his carriage at the White House, rode up Pennsylvania Avenue, went to the U.S. House of Representatives Chamber, and went to church, because the U.S. House was used as a church until after the Civil War. Furthermore, Jefferson turned over the Treasury every Sunday to be used as a church, so it’s a little hard to explain how Jefferson thought you couldn’t say, “One Nation, Under God,” or have a prayer, or do a variety of really radical things, like posting the Ten Commandments.
I am citing this as background, to simply say that if you go to the Lincoln Memorial, you will see that in 732 words of the Second Inaugural, Lincoln refers to God 14 times, including two quotes from the Old Testament. Now if we’re going to truly become secular, we need to sandblast the memorial, because it’s the Gettysburg Address where “One Nation, Under God” comes from. You can just imagine how much work there will be for liberal sandblasters in the next cycle.
Now I am going to describe what we mean by patriotic education, because otherwise it becomes a meaningless term. I don’t mean automatically saluting the flag. I don’t mean automatically saying America is always right. I mean immersing young Americans, and immersing first-generation immigrants, in rediscovering the founding fathers, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln, the rise of America, all of the difficulties we have had for 200 years, and developing the country, which is home to the richest, freest, and most remarkable society in human history.
My answer to all of you is if your school system isn’t doing this, change it. If the teachers aren’t doing it, change them. If the school board won’t do it, defeat it. If the state legislature won’t do it, replace it. Yes, it’s hard. Well, welcome to the world of Ronald Reagan in 1965. This is how a free country has this debate. You put markers down, and you say, “We’re going to fight over this.” Over time, people say, “You know, you’re right. I am with you.”
Let met talk briefly about judges, and then I am going to talk about education and immigration. The issue of judges is not a complex one. It’s just a question of timidity. There is no judicial supremacy. It is an arrogation of the Warren Court in 1958, and has no historic precedent. Jefferson, when asked if there was judicial supremacy said that would be an oligarchy. Lincoln’s First Inaugural, in describing the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court—which extended slavery across the whole country, led Lincoln to run, and ultimately led to the Civil War—said we were not going to let a handful of judges redefine the American Constitution. It would be inconceivable.
So what do you do about it? Again, I am trying to embed this in historic fact. This is not theory. This is not ideology. This is fact. In 1802, the Jeffersonians, faced with courts deliberately packed by the Federalists, passed the Judiciary Act of 1802, which abolished over half of all the sitting federal circuit judges. The act didn’t impeach them; it simply said their jobs didn’t exist. They wouldn’t be paid, so they shouldn’t bother to show up. The judges were deeply offended. They promptly went to court, and the remaining federal judges essentially said, if we overrule the Congress, they’re going to abolish our jobs.
I cite this, because of the Ninth Circuit Court. We should just close the jobs of the two judges who said that it was unconstitutional to say, “One Nation, Under God” as part of the pledge. Let’s just say, “Terrific, you’re now retired.” I am citing this, because the first step to getting this done is to have people like you talk to your delegations, and then presently somebody will introduce a bill. Initially people will say that it’s very radical, but then as the courts behave more and more stupidly, people will get madder and madder. Finally, one morning we’ll do it, and then the judges who are left will realize that maybe they don’t want to be quite that bold.
This is a straight-out fight. The elected branches, the legislative and the executive, have every right to re-balance the judges under our Constitution. Remember, if you read The Federalist Papers, they refer to a division of power. There’s a balance between the three branches, so when the judges say that they are all powerful, the correct answer is, “No, you’re not.” The only way you prove that is to have the legislative and the executive branches take steps to change them.
Senator John Kyl, for example, has a bill in Congress that would block the Supreme Court from even considering the Pledge of Allegiance. If Congress passes that bill, and the president signs it, I think the court is blocked. I think it’s clear under the Constitution that it is blocked. But if the court were to overturn that law, my next step would be to change the court. Again, that wouldn’t be abnormal. The struggle for power between appointed lawyers and the rest of us has been going on for 200 years, and for the last 40 years, the lawyers have been on the offensive. Well, now it’s our turn.
I think you will find that over the next few years, the judges will increasingly be on the defensive. I don’t know how many of you looked at the decision concerning whether or not the death penalty could be applied to someone under 18 years of age. It is amazing to read, because it is clear that the Supreme Court is saying that it actually doesn’t have any grounds for this decision, but the justices have changed their minds. So, by 5-to-4, the Supreme Court has changed the rules of the United States, because the justices believed they could. But what is truly fascinating is that this particular decision represents another example of a recent phenomenon, which is citing non-American judges.
So you have the majority justices saying that they want to be like the European Union, which we don’t. In one case they cite Zimbabwe. In other case, they cite Jamaica. I want to suggest to you two principles. Principle number one is we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, and if the Europeans want to give up their rights, or if Zimbabwe wants to suffer under a dictator, or if 19 nutty people in some other country do things, we’re not going to stop them. That doesn’t in any way change American exceptionalism.
It’s a very important argument we’re going to have to have over the next 10 or 15 years, because as the world has gotten smarter, as people see each other, our elites have grown timid. They don’t like going to Davos and having lots of other people unhappy with them. They don’t like visiting Paris, and having lots of people unhappy with them. We have to say to them that that is really unfortunate, but in fact their job on the Supreme Court is to defend and interpret the American Constitution, within American history, and not give us a lecture about the latest Russian jurisprudence.
Let me speak last about immigration, because I think that the greatest vacuum in dealing with reality in American today is immigration. The Left doesn’t want to touch it. The Right doesn’t want to touch it. Everybody wishes it would disappear. A Pew poll came out on Monday that indicated there has been a 23 percent increase in legal immigration under President Bush, suggesting there are now an estimated 10,300,000 illegal immigrants in the United States.
Some of you may think that number is low, but I want to make two sets of assertions. The first is based on Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss’ statement the other day, in which he said he expects a Weapon of Mass Destruction to come in, either from Canada or Mexico. Remember that the Canadian border was where most of the people who carried out 9/11 crossed, not Mexico, so while it’s fashionable to focus on Mexico, when I talk about borders, I mean both borders.
First of all, for national security purposes, it is a tragic joke to tell us that we are safe, if there are 10 million people illegally drifting around the country. I work on some projects for Fox TV, one of which is a special on international gangs and border security, focusing largely on MS13, the El Salvadoran gang. MS13 is now in about 30 American states, and it’s a very violent and a very dangerous gang, whose members routinely go back and forth across the border. We found one border patrolman who we almost talked into testifying—with a screen, so you didn’t see who he was—about the ease with which non-Mexican extremists could come across the Mexican border. It’s patently obvious. We have all sorts of TSA security at airports, as though our opponents are dumb enough to only go to the places where the Americans have maximized the chance of stopping them.
The likelihood is high that the next terrorist will come in by boat or by driving across either the Canadian or the Mexican border; Canada is fully as easy to get across as Mexico. So the first point I’d emphasize is just plain national security. We have an absolute national security obligation to have control of who enters the United States of America, and we should insist on it.
I’ll make two secondary points about that. We need to change our deportation laws, so that anyone who is clearly illegal can be deported in 72 hours. The current system is a joke. Of the 200,000 non-Mexican illegals picked up two years ago, over 90 percent were never deported, because the current system is so cumbersome, so bureaucratic, so legalistic, that they were released on their own recognizance. Somebody who has already broken the law to get in here is told if they don’t show up in three weeks so we can kick them out, we will really feel bad, and of course they promptly say, “I’ll be here. I promise.”
This is madness. Let me suggest one other direct action item to get the federal government to pay serious attention to the border. The states—and California would be the biggest winner of this—should file for the federal government to pay all costs of imprisoning illegals. For example, a remarkable percent of felons are illegal, and the states should charge the federal government for all health care done for them.
Let me tell you, if the budget committees in the House and Senate looked at the cost over the next ten years of paying for federal failure, their incentive to tell the House and Senate leadership to fix the problem would be staggering. Because what do we do? We have selected places that pay disproportionately, because the federal government has failed, and in the process of failure, has created a nightmare.
Let me take this two steps further, one of which some of you won’t like. Nonetheless, I want to say it, because in my judgment you cannot solve the border problem without a green card/work permit program. The reason is straightforward mathematics. There are too many human beings who want to come here to work, to ever seal off the border. We don’t have the kind of country that would run that kind of border. The Soviets could do it, because they put up barbed wire, minefields, and machine guns. We’re not going to do that, and we don’t want to be an America that does that.
We have a governor who is an immigrant. We have a former secretary of state whose parents came here from the West Indies. Go down the list. We had another former secretary of state who came here from Germany in the Second World War. We have Nobel Prize winners who came from all over the planet. We want to be a country that is open to legal immigration, and I think we want to be a country that is open to legal temporary workers. But we want to have a couple requirements.
First, we have to have a biometric, which means either an iris scan or a thumbprint, so we know who people entering our country really are, and so we can track them. Second, immigrants have to commit to obey our laws, to pay our taxes, to be involved as honest people. And we have the right to deport them in 72 hours if they break these rules.
Third, there is not an automatic presumption that working here means becoming a citizen. There’s a separate hurdle to become a citizen.
Fourth, everybody here illegally has to go back and apply to come here, because we should not reward people who have already broken the law, and in the process, punish everybody who has been waiting for their green card or their work permit, because they’ve obeyed the law.
People will ask how we’ll do this. First of all, if you can deport illegals in 72 hours, you have a little leverage. Second, how many people who are illegal in Southern California go home at Christmas anyway? People ask me how they would get home. I know all sorts of first-generation people with work permits in Fairfax County, Virginia, who fly to El Salvador to see their relatives, because they’re legal and they can go back and forth. They don’t wonder how they’ll do this.
The idea is that somehow everybody who got here can’t find a way to get here a second time, so “How could we actually ask them to obey the law?” This is the core of the Reagan principle. You’re either for obeying the law, or you’re for not obeying the law. And if you’re for not obeying the law, a lot of people will be there with you because they don’t feel like they need to obey the law either. So if we’re going to truly reform immigration, we have to truly reform it.
Finally, I would say that people who get to be American citizens should have to pass a test in American history and English. I believe if we implemented these principles, we would, in fact, have a country that was economically vibrant, open to talent from all over the world, willing, and pretty relaxed about any people who come here, because we would understand that at the cultural level they were coming here to be Americans.
This is my last item about the Left. I visited the high school in Northern California where students were told they shouldn’t have the American flag in their senior class picture, because it was a divisive image. True story. Every once in a while you get a nutty person in schools.
I am perfectly prepared to say to people that I am happy for you to come to America. I am happy for you to work and learn how to be an American. But, in fact, my intention is for you to enrich America, not for you to turn us into a different country. That’s a debate we have to have openly and honestly, and it crosses all boundaries. That is, I would have the same debate with Chinese-Americans or Russian-Americans or Mexican-Americans. We ought to have this out in the open. This is a unique society, endowed by its Creator, which has brought more people together, from more parts of the world, to work more productively, with less friction, than any society in the history of the human race. And we have to protect and argue for that.
Order a copy of Newt Gingrich’s new book Winning the Future from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore.