Last week, while visiting Iowa, I was again reminded why the Iowa State Fair is listed in the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” This time, however, I was able to see it through the eyes of my 5-year old grandson who, along with my son-in-law, came with Callista and me to this great fair. We had a great time together. The people of Iowa are very friendly. Most everyone we met greeted us with a warm, “Welcome to Iowa, I’m glad you’re here.” More than one million people visit the Iowa State Fair each year, and this year is no exception. Iowans are proud of their state and proud of their fair for good reason.
Why Iowa? As you know, Iowa along with New Hampshire are the established proving grounds for presidential candidates. It is also true that I have been in both states several times in the last two years, leading many to speculate that I have my eye on running in 2008. And candidly, I have not ruled out running, but it is not my focus. As I have written to you before, I believe that we face enormous challenges that threaten our American way of life. I believe you would have to go back to 1861 to find another time similar to the scale of challenges we face today. No, we are not on the verge of a Civil War, but we are at a crossroads where we, as the American people, must define who we are and whether or not we are going to do what is necessary to lead the free world over the course of the 21st Century. I am confident that we will do what every generation of Americans has done — meet the challenges before us. But it will be very hard and will require massive amounts of energy and creativity from this generation of Americans. I’m not trying to create a presidential campaign. I’m trying to create a citizen-centered movement — a movement much larger than personal ambition, one big enough to “Win the Future.”
There are several ways in which I am communicating a vision for winning the future — and the movement required to achieve it. It started with my book “Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America.” This HUMAN EVENTS e-newsletter is another effective way. My 90-second radio commentary series, “Winning the Future with Newt Gingrich” (to which I include links in this e-newsletter), which is heard daily on more than 400 radio stations, is still another. You have probably seen me on the Fox News Channel or heard me on talk radio — conservative and sometimes otherwise. You may have seen my editorial opinion pieces in newspapers around the country, including this one from last Friday that I wrote for the Washington Post. Here, I am responding to former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke’s op-ed from the day before in which, in my mind, he argues in favor of a foreign policy strategy that does not understand the urgency of the threat faced by the United States and her allies from the Iranian regime’s efforts to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. I also reiterated the point that no amount of diplomacy will work against an enemy determined to kill us, especially one that acquires nuclear weapons.
The fact that we have enemies determined to kill us was made all too vivid on Thursday morning when we learned of a terrorist plot to simultaneously blow up as many as 10 trans-Atlantic flights in an al-Qaeda-style attack that, if not foiled, could have killed as many people as were lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
Another way to communicate the challenges of winning the future is, you guessed it, to show up in New Hampshire and Iowa. By doing so, I am trying to shape the debate around the ideas and solutions that I think are required to win the future. It is my hope that a forceful and articulate presentation of these ideas and solutions in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere will lead to a substantive dialogue in the years to come about America’s future.
Real Change Starts with New Ideas and New Solutions
We need real change to meet the challenges we face as a nation. As I have written before, our government institutions are not keeping pace with the challenges of the information age and are continuing to lose ground everyday. Therefore, we must set about transforming our government institutions from an outdated model of bureaucratic public administration to one of entrepreneurial public management. We must do no less than transform our government bureaucracies consistent with a free people and applicable to our modern world.
Simply put, good public policy solutions must be implemented effectively. These solutions start with good ideas, but whose ideas?
On the way to Iowa last Thursday, I made a stop at an event in Orlando, Fla., and observed the beginning of what I believe is a revolutionary model for the future of successful governance. Marco Rubio will be the next speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. He created a model called “100 Ideas for Florida’s Future” based upon the premise that the best ideas will not come from the politicians and special interests in Tallahassee but from the people themselves. He began holding “idearaisers” around the state where people would come not with their complaints, but with their ideas. Think of it as a town-hall meeting in reverse, where instead of people asking politicians why this problem or that problem has not been solved, people come and ask, “Have you thought of trying this or that?”
All the ideas were collected at these “idearaisers” along with those collected on the 100ideas.org website, and the best of these ideas were discussed by legislators and experts at the 100 Ideas Policy Summit last Thursday as they began the process of culling the list down to the top 100 that Speaker-elect Rubio will then use as the blueprint for his Speakership. He will ask Florida voters to judge his leadership on his ability to turn them into legislative action. Think of it as a “Contract with Florida Voters” — after all, it’s their best 100 ideas.
Which brings me back to Iowa. When I heard about these “idearaisers” last year, I immediately began to share it with people around the country. My good friend Iowa Rep. Jim Nussle (R.) who is running for governor was the first to pick it up. He calls his, “99 Ideas to Energize Iowa’s Future,” to represent each of Iowa’s 99 counties. After Thursday’s 100 Ideas Policy Summit in Florida, my son-in-law, my grandson, and I flew to Sioux City, Iowa, to attend one of Jim Nussle’s “idearaisers.” The event was webcast live so that all Iowans could listen in. You can listen to it too. I believe that if every Republican candidate would adopt this model, the GOP from city hall to the White House could begin to solidify a governing majority over the next two years that would last for a generation.
In addition to “idearaisers,” we should promote bipartisan dialogues about ideas. If we conservatives believe in the power of ideas, then we should be willing to test them on people other than ourselves. Two weeks ago, I wrote about how we must produce more affordable energy in America rather then have to rely on oil-rich dictatorships for our energy needs. I also mentioned that I planned to discuss this with Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D.) at the State Fair. Well, we did just that at a Renewable Fuels Dialogue. The governor and I shared with the audience our ideas on how to cut our reliance on foreign oil. I will post a video of the event in the coming days on newt.org.
In Iowa, there is a lot of exciting innovation occurring in biorenewable fuel technologies such as ethanol and biodiesel. While we were there we had the opportunity to ride in a Jeep Liberty that runs on biodiesel fuel made from soybeans. We also visited the Iowa Soybean Association booth where there was a contest to win a two-year lease of a biodiesel Volkswagen Beetle. These carbon-neutral technologies perform as well as, if not better than, petroleum-based fuels. If they were widely available at the gas pump and, in the case of ethanol, if automobile manufacturers used flex-fuel technology on all their gasoline-burning vehicles, we would begin to secure a better, cleaner, safer energy future. We need to accelerate the development of alternative fuels so that money spent at the gas pump would stay right here in America and cut the funds now going to terrorist-supporting regimes.
One other item: While at the State Fair, I met with 16 foreign correspondents who were covering the political significance of the Iowa State Fair. It struck me how strange it must seem to them that the process of electing the President of the most powerful country on earth passes through a state fair in rural America where more than one million people come with their families to eat nearly anything that comes on a stick, compete in numerous agricultural competitions and contests, ride the rides, enjoy the shows and see the “butter cow,” but that is how we do it in America, where a free people get to put their candidates to the test face to face.
P.S. – Last week’s defeat of Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic Primary to appeasement candidate Ned Lamont is a major blow to those Americans who believe that we must stand strong in the face of an emerging Third World War that threatens our safety. The idea that the Democrats in Connecticut would reject a courageous defender of freedom, who not long ago was their nominee for Vice President, does not speak well of the direction the left is taking them.
While I disagree with many of Sen. Lieberman’s policy positions, he has been a consistent and tenacious defender of a strong America. Perhaps the bright side may be that Sen. Lieberman’s defeat will force us to have a long overdue national discussion about our leadership role in the world and what it will take to keep it.
Strong national security Democrats like FDR, Harry Truman, JFK, and Joseph Lieberman are dwindling, driven out by an appeasement wing of American politics that is gaining momentum. We have been here before. A weak America always leads to further acts of aggression by our enemies. It is a lesson the left may never learn.
Each week, this newsletter features questions from its readers. Have a question? Send an email to Newt at email@example.com.
What steps can we take to curb the insidious power of the ACLU to further weaken the religious and patriotic underpinnings of this country?
Bedford County, Pa.
Thank you for the question, John. In the new paperback version of my book, “Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America,” I wrote about this very question. Indeed, I believe that there is no attack on American culture more destructive and more historically dishonest than the secular left’s relentless effort to drive God out of America’s public square. The United States is the only society that I know of whose founding political document recognizes that each person is endowed by God with the most fundamental human rights. The government does not grant rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In America’s understanding, these rights come from our Creator and cannot be qualified by any government. It is this fundamental American belief that makes dictatorship morally reprehensible to the American mind.
If God is not the ultimate source of our liberty, than we are left with those justifications that often lead to totalitarianism. That’s why I believe the 2004 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the phrase “under God” is unconstitutional represents a fundamental assault on our American identity. A court that would unilaterally modify the Pledge of Allegiance as adopted by the Congress in 1954, signed by President Eisenhower and supported by 91 percent of the American people is a court that is clearly out of step with an America that understands that our rights come from God.
To protect ourselves, we must urge Congress to reassert itself as a check against the power of the judicial branch. Fortunately, there are bills in Congress — from protecting “under God” in the pledge to preserving the Mount Soledad Cross in California — that do just that. One in particular, deals directly with your question.
Liberal interest groups like the ACLU currently abuse a civil rights law that was passed to ensure that individuals and organizations with little resources can avail themselves of the legal system when their rights are violated. The Attorney’s Fees Award Act of 1976 stipulates that in any civil rights suit, a successful plaintiff (even if only partly successful) may have the defendant pay all legal fees for both parties. It does not work the other way around.
Large, wealthy interest groups such as the ACLU use this law to threaten small communities and school boards, which barely have enough money to hire a defense team, much less compensate the other side’s lawyers. So they usually acquiesce without a legal fight, because the cost of even a partial loss is so high.
Even worse, if these communities do decide to defend themselves, liberal advocacy groups will often obtain legal representation from high-priced corporate law firms working on a pro-bono basis. However, the law’s current structure requires the defense to compensate the plaintiff at a market rate, which the ACLU and like-minded groups then keep. So if the ACLU loses the case, they lose no money on legal fees. If they win the case, they get to keep the money meant for the compensation of their legal costs.
Fortunately, a bill introduced by Rep. John Hostettler (R.-Ind.) would put an end to this abuse. The Public Expression of Religion Act would amend the Attorney’s Fees Award Act so that while plaintiffs could still ask the courts to rule on church/state issues, they could no longer receive payment from the taxpayer. That would eliminate the financial incentives for large, wealthy liberal interest groups like the ACLU to take on relatively small church-state cases and reduce their ability to use the specter of catastrophic legal costs to bully small communities into submission. The law would actually restore the intended purpose of this civil-rights law to help individuals or organizations pursue justice notwithstanding limited financial resources.
The Public Expression of Religion Act is currently in “markup” in the Judiciary Committee but is expected for a full vote in the House in September or October. I hope you will contact your member of Congress to urge them to support the Public Expression of Religion Act.