NEW CASTLE - Wall Street Journal Editorial Board member Stephen Moore subtitled a forum featuring former House Speaker Newt Gingrich held at the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel Thursday "How Republicans and Conservatives Can Get Their Mojo Back."
There was ample evidence, even among the highly partisan audience of approximately 70 Republicans, including former New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson, that this kind of forum was needed. An informal polling of the audience resulted in an approval rating for President Bush of only a "C+," with the Republican-controlled Congress coming in with a disma* D."
"I talked to people before we started and they seemed a bit demoralized at the performance of the Republican Party," Moore said.
Gingrich said that was because the system he inherited when he first became a congressman from Georgia’s 6th District in 1978 is gone.
"Now (the federal government) just stands there, eating our money and doing nothing," he said.
"Real change is going to take real change," said the architect of the highly effective initiative dubbed the Contract With America, which gave Republicans control of the House for the first time in 40 years. "Congress needs to be taking apart the system. The way we’re going, it’s politics as usual, policies as usual and bologna as usual."
Gingrich said the Republicans are using the wrong approach to governing the country.
"(Since both Houses of Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party), they assumed that we’re all Republicans, so we should be able to work things out," he said.
"That’s not the way the Constitution works; there has to be a tension between the legislative and executive branches.
"They are afraid of embarrassing each other, so now we have the worst of all worlds; we have bureaucracy and ‘pork,’" Gingrich said.
The former speaker also did not have kind words for President Bush.
"One of the major mistakes the president has made is not vetoing things," he said. "In the absence of aggressive oversight, democracy deteriorates."
The answer, Gingrich said, is for the Americans to force politicians to start thinking again, rather than simply doing business as usual.
"Big changes will happen when the country overwhelms Washington," he said. "We don’t have change when Washington tries to run the country."
Gingrich said he supports a balanced budget, an energy policy that includes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore on both coasts, Social Security savings accounts and a free market approach to purchasing prescription drugs.
He said that if enough people go to his Web site, newt.org, and express support for a run for the presidency, he would consider it, but that personal ambition was not his reason for showing up at events that support organizations such as The Heritage Foundation and the sponsor of yesterday’s event, Victory NH.
"Movements begin with the American people and then build on energy and intensity, which eventually overwhelms Washington, forcing it to change," material handed out at yesterday’s event quoted Gingrich as saying. "The kind of transformational change we need now as a country won’t come from elected officials, but from the kind of citizen activists that have come together to create Victory NH."