Gingrich in GOP primary
The Republican candidate who can best take the fight to President Barack Obama and his liberal agenda, and revive the nation's sense of can-do optimism, is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The veteran battler of Big Government wields conservative ideas like a light-saber. Gingrich trusts individual ingenuity, not government dictates, to spark a recovery of both the nation's economy and its confidence. His proposals can be unconventional, but he's on target far more often than not, and he's willing to abandon schemes that prove unrealistic.Sure, he can be grandiose. His personal life has been, to put it kindly, complicated. But he has proved his ability to effect change — in a hurry. And this is what the nation needs. His "Contract With America," a detailed plan for cutting spending and curtailing government, helped the Republicans win the House in 1994 after 40 years of Democratic leadership. As speaker, Gingrich helped balance the budget, reform welfare and cut the capital gains tax. He countered the liberal agenda of the Clinton administration, which led to the infamous shutdown of government and proved to be a public relations disaster. But he learned from the mistake and worked thoughtfully with Clinton to develop sensible compromises. His tenure ended poorly, with ethical miscues. At the time he left office many of his supporters — including this editorial page — were weary of his high-handed ways. But we believe he has learned from that painful experience. He still is histrionic and overly confident. But he also appears more deliberate, reflective and inclusive. Many members of the Republican establishment, with muted enthusiasm, have lined up behind Mitt Romney in Florida's Republican presidential primary. He is smart and disciplined, a level-headed executive who has operated effectively in the business world and in government. We have no doubt the former Massachusetts governor would be a capable president. The same can't be said for his fellow candidates, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a principled but extreme libertarian, or former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is as sincere as he is unimaginative. But it is Gingrich who pledges to include the public in the problem-solving process, in stark contrast to how Obama hands down directives from the Washington clouds. Gingrich tells us he would go "to the American people so the pressure would be from back home." An early step in boosting the economy would be to seek the repeal of Obama's health care law, a massive expansion of government authority whose looming costs and directives discourage businesses from hiring. Romney makes the same vow, but he would have a difficult time making the case to voters because Obama's plan is based partly on Romney's Massachusetts health care system. There are important differences in the plans, but it takes some explaining. Gingrich would be able to attack the looming entitlement without apology. Gingrich also would eliminate investment-discouraging regulations and aggressively open domestic lands to oil exploration, which he says would create thousands of jobs. But his energy policy is more thoughtful than the "drill, baby, drill" strategy of other candidates. He would streamline the environmental approval process but also ensure a thorough review. He points to the BP disaster as a case where the cumbersome bureaucratic oversight did not protect the environment. Of specific interest to Floridians, under Gingrich's plan, half the federal revenues from the new oil royalties would go to lowering the deficit, the other half to a conservation fund that would pay for Everglades restoration and other efforts to preserve natural riches. And, significantly, he would maintain the existing federal buffer off Florida's West Coast, which allows drilling no closer than 125 miles. He would take Social Security off-budget so it would be a true trust fund, not a funding source for government spending that masks the deficit. For the young, he wants to allow workers to opt to put their portion of Social Security taxes into an individual investment account that they would control. The employer's share would continue to support the traditional system and provide an investment safety net. The Social Security change would be controversial, but Gingrich has an admirable willingness to tell voters, including the GOP base, things they don't necessarily want to hear. He is unafraid, for example, to say it's impractical to deport the bulk of the 11 million illegal aliens living, working and raising families here. "Do you think Americans want to go around deporting grandmothers?" he asks. Gingrich would focus on border control and deporting drug smugglers, gang members and other criminals. For illegal immigrants who have worked here for years without getting in trouble, he would establish local review boards that would approve legal residency, though not citizenship. This approach contrasts markedly with Romney, who has been harsh and unrealistic on deportation. Romney does seem to have softened his stance a bit recently in Florida, which has a large Hispanic population. Gingrich, a historian, knows the importance of a strong military that has the technological tools needed to fight those determined to harm us. As commander of chief, he would use his knowledge of global threats and his stern resolve to ensure a strong defense. As with any candidate, we differ with Gingrich on some issues. One position we find particularly troublesome is that he believes the U.S. Supreme Court has overstepped its authority in certain rulings, including giving rights to foreign combatants. He makes a compelling case in a lengthy white paper, but his remedy is disturbing: He would ignore court rulings he thinks excessive. This would create a constitutional crisis and threaten the rule of law. Rather than risk throwing the nation into turmoil, Gingrich should address the courts' ills methodically, with conservative judicial appointments and more focus on underscoring the constitutionality of all policies. Cool, cautious Romney may be the safer choice. But if GOP primary voters want an innovative problem-solver with rock-solid conservative credentials, Gingrich is their man. He would shake things up in a hurry, and this is a nation that needs shaking. In the Republican presidential primary, the Tribune recommends Newt Gingrich.