Got a Question for Newt Gingrich?

Newt GingrichPhoto: Callista Gingrich, Gingrich Productions

Readers of a certain age may think of Newt Gingrich as a book critic, prolific author, and regular TV guest. But before that, he was one of the most powerful politicians in the land. A former history professor at West Georgia College, Gingrich was a long-serving congressman who, in 1994, masterminded the Contract with America, which helped the Republicans win a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years, and helped Gingrich become Speaker of the House.

After a poor Republican showing in the 1998 Congressional elections, Gingrich stepped down from the speakership and left Congress.

His latest book is Real Change: From the World That Fails to the World That Works. I haven’t read it yet, but I recently heard Gingrich interviewed on Tavis Smiley‘s public-radio show, and Gingrich was full of smart takes on complex issues. Here’s a bit from the book jacket:

Are you fed up with bickering politicians, self-satisfied bureaucrats, and a government that never seems to address the real problems facing our country? Can we create a government that is small, efficient, and responsive — from the state house to the White House? Is that kind of real change even possible? … As Gingrich points out, the American people are united on almost every important issue facing our country — including immigration, taxes, defending America, and freedom of religion. … Gingrich reveals why the Democratic Party can’t deliver real change and why the Republican Party won’t. He provides answers and a step-by-step, issue-by-issue toolkit for building a better America — the safe, innovative, and dynamic America we all want.

Here’s a brief taste of the book (and see this MSNBC link for an accompanying video):

The story of this book is in many ways the story of a video. Last summer, I posted a portion of one of my speeches on the popular Web site YouTube. It was a short, three-minute video in which I explained the difference between the world that works and the world that fails, using the example of FedEx and UPS versus the bureaucracy.

The UPS and FedEx systems are so capable and so efficient that they can track, in real time, millions of packages as they move across the country. UPS locates fifteen million packages a day; FedEx eight million — while they are moving. In contrast, the federal bureaucracy can’t locate between ten and twenty million people in this country illegally. Perhaps, I said in the video, the federal government should send each of these people a package by FedEx or UPS.

Besides writing books, Gingrich also keeps busy with his consulting firm, The Gingrich Group, and holds a great variety of board memberships and organizational fellowships. (He has also reportedly flirted with the idea of running for president). In Georgia, he is actively trying out new ideas in education as the architect of the “Learn & Earn” initiative, a program that has received private funding from a group led by Jackie Cushman, Gingrich’s daughter, and involves paying low-scoring high school students for better grades and time spent in study hall. (Sound familiar?)

Despite his negative feelings about the Times, Gingrich has agreed to field questions from the readers of this blog, so fire away in the comments section below. As always, we’ll post his answers in a few days’ time. Thanks in advance to Newt, and to all of you for participating.

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  1. Robin says:

    I’m sure I’ll catch some flack for a Ron Paul question, but I’m very curious to hear the answer from a Republican who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. :)

    Why is it that more Republicans/conservatives don’t sound like Ron Paul. He seems to have a very well reasoned platform based on strong conservative principles. It seems to me the biggest differences he has with the party at large are on social issues and foreign policy, mainly because of his libertarian stance. Are these issues alone why he is rejected out of hand? I have been a solid Democrat for my entire, albeit it short, voting life, but Dr. Paul really struck a chord with me and I know I’m not the only one. Shouldn’t both parties be looking very closely at this phenomenon? Isn’t it also odd that someone whose policies are relatively extreme politically could garner support from people with such a wide range of political views?

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  2. Travis Walker says:

    Mr. Gingrich,

    Has George W. Bush been good for the conservative movement?

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  3. Arlen says:

    Presumably people would be easier to track if they each had a bar code on the forehead and were “scanned-in” at every address they visited. Is this the more efficient America Gingrich envisions?

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  4. Hannah says:

    Mr. Gingrich’s comments in the last few years have been much more interesting to me and resonant with my questions about U.S. politics than I ever expected they would be.
    However, I still find his meditations on modern politics to be incredibly hard to swallow knowing how cruel, divisive, and hypocritical his framing of social issues (and policy issues) was in the 1990s. Mr. Gingrich, do you regret your past public behavior? Is there a moment or a cause for your shift in thought? Do you think you and the way you succeeded in 1994 are a part of the current unwillingness to change in the Republican Party? Thank you for sharing your time,


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  5. TSG says:

    What responsibility do Americans, both individually and collectively, have toward one another? What, if any, role should government play in helping Americans meet their responsibilities in this regard.

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  6. DJH says:

    Mr Gingrich: Your book’s jacket-blurb says, “Are you fed up with bickering politicians, self-satisfied bureaucrats, and a government that never seems to address the real problems facing our country?” This statement suggests that partisanship and issue-entrenchment (i.e. purposely keeping problems “alive” so as to continuously milk them by posing as “problem-solvers”) are bad for the country. And I agree fully! But with all due respect, your career in Congress was constructed on a foundation of intense partisanship and of flogging away continuously at various issues (e.g. abortion).

    What, exactly, brought about this apparent, sizeable change in your political thinking? Surely you see there is a credibility problem here; you now deride the very approach to politics which you once championed. Can you offer any explanation for your change of heart which makes your current claimed philosophy credible? Why should I, or anyone else, believe that you truly now oppose partisanship and issue-entrenchment?

    On top of that, given the current political atmosphere in the US … with hyperbolic rhetoric and raging sanctimony flying from both the Left and the Right, fuelled by a mass media which thrives on drama at all costs … why should anyone think it can ever be changed?

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  7. Andrew says:

    You discuss a united American front in the leaf of your book. What healthcare platforms do you think Americans will unite around?

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  8. Matt says:

    A few conservative friends and I came up with these questions off the tops of our heads:

    How long do you think it will be before Republicans can realistically secure another Congressional majority? How long before they will?

    How do you see the Republican party best able to return to the fore–returning to its conservative roots, like in 1994, or having a young, energetic leader in the mold of Barack Obama, Stephen Harper, or David Cameron reach out to people who traditionally have not voted for them?

    What do you think would be the effects on some of the programs you’re experimented with if school choice (i.e., vouchers) became a reality?

    Thanks to Messrs. Gingrich and Dubner for this opportunity.

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