Friday, I capped off a busy week at a dinner in New Hampshire with my friends at the Manchester Republican City Committee. It was an active, engaged gathering, as New Hampshire gatherings typically are. The newly elected Republican Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta was there. Guinta won the mayor’s race in the midst of a very bad year for Republicans, and he did it in a predominately Democratic city.
I visited New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, for a very specific reason. I didn’t go to announce that I am running for President. I went to make a suggestion to those who are running — and to those who want to see real solutions and positive thinking reintroduced to our campaigns.
I went to talk about my hope that 2007 will be a year of solutions and dialogue, leaving 2008 to be a year of ambition and debate.
American Solutions, Not Just Negative Attack Politics
What do I mean by a year of “solutions and dialogue” followed by a year of “ambition and debate”? I mean that in this campaign cycle, we should spend some time focusing together on solutions before we get down to the usual business of partisan campaigning.
The reason I am suggesting this is that we face so many challenges — challenges from a growing alliance of terrorists and dictatorships, challenges from competing economically with China and India, challenges with developing an energy policy that is compatible with both a commonsense environmental policy and national security strategy, and the challenge of rethinking retirement and health care due to the very success of more people living longer.
These challenges require a lot more than the kind of negative, attack campaigning that we’ve seen in the past. These challenges require serious thought and real change. Not just Republican thought or Democratic thought, and not just conservative thought or liberal thought. These challenges require Americans’ coming together, sharing ideas, being pragmatic and finding what works. But as I have written to you before, Real Change requires Real Change.
A New Generation of Solutions in Health, Education, Environment, Energy and National Security
Here’s what I mean. We know that markets work — how do we apply them to lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs? We know that incentives work — how do we use them to develop alternative energy sources to achieve energy independence? We know that the work ethic matters — how do we eliminate the bureaucracy and regulation that stifles entrepreneurship? There’s a lot we can do to make America a dramatically more successful country.
For me, 2007 is going to be devoted to developing a new generation of solutions in health, in education, in the environment, in energy and in national security. With these new American solutions, we’re going to develop new ways of communicating them so the American people understand that there can be a much better future if we’re prepared to work together. Not just to have the same old, tired political fights, but to actually get something done for a change.
Better Lives, Longer Lives, More Active Lives
The reality of the 21st Century is that we will be experiencing four to seven times as much change in scientific knowledge during the next 25 years as we experienced in the last 100 years. At this rate of innovation, it is conceivable that we could develop vaccines for Alzheimer’s, AIDS and malaria within the next 10 to 20 years. It is also conceivable that we could end cancer as a cause of death for all Americans and have dramatic breakthrough cures in diabetes.
For us as individuals, this is a tremendous opportunity to have better lives, longer lives and more active lives. In fact, not only will it have a dramatic impact on the quality of life for seniors and their children, but the savings impact on the family, state and federal budgets would run into the trillions of dollars. For our nation, harnessing the scale of scientific change to improve health will be a key to better and less costly health care for one simple reason: Healthy people cost substantially less than people who get sick. Keeping people healthy should be our No. 1 health priority.
Incentives and Markets Work — Bureaucracy, Regulation and Litigation Don’t
One of the central insights that should guide a year of solutions and dialogue is the recognition that there are things that are working in America — and working brilliantly. We see them all around us, from laptop computers to mobile phones with cameras, to iPods, to credit cards that work in ATMs anywhere in the world to give you cash in seconds.
Again and again, we see breakthroughs. But where are these breakthroughs found? They’re in the private sector, they’re in the marketplace. They’re where incentives lead entrepreneurs to invent a better future and then to check their invention against the market by seeing whether or not people are choosing that future.
And where do we not see this progress? Where bureaucracy, regulations and litigation are allowing dead hands of the past to prop up failure.
You See It Christmas Shopping: More Choices of Higher Quality at Lower Cost
For instance, if we had had the same innovation in learning that we’ve had in consuming, today every young American would be outperforming every Japanese, every Indian and every Chinese young person because we would have the best learning system in the world.
If we applied these same principles to health care, we think we could take more than $130 billion a year out of the cost of Medicare by having better services, better diagnostics, better care and fewer mistakes, so people would live longer with declining health care costs.
You see it all around you. As you go Christmas shopping, look all the choices you have — more choices of higher quality at lower cost — because there is no bureaucrat propping up the past and stopping you from choosing the future.
American Values + Innovation and Knowledge = A Better Future
There’s one more critical element I plan to bring to our year of solutions and dialogue: the values at the heart of the American tradition.
Four hundred years ago next May, a people arrived in North American believing their rights come from God, and that with hard work, a belief in the future and a willingness to work together, they could create a better world for their children and grandchildren.
If we have that same courage to combine American culture — free-market principles, the work ethic and the values of American civilization that have allowed us to prosper for 400 years — with all the opportunities afforded by dramatically accelerating scientific and technological change, I believe we can have American solutions for virtually every challenge we’re faced with. I hope you’ll join me.
P.S. – I also visited my good friend Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. In case you missed it, the following is an exchange we had over my idea to prevent terrorists from hiding behind the 1st Amendment.
MR. RUSSERT: Are you concerned, however, that with carte blanche, that the government could move in and say, “This mosque is closed, this Web site is shut down”?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: No. You have — you have more censorship in the McCain-Feingold bill, which blocks the right of free speech about American campaigns than you have from the FBI closing down jihadists. We’ve already limited the 1st Amendment right of free speech by a set of rules that are stunningly absurd. In California, you can raise soft money to run negative commercials attacking your opponent through the state party and you cannot raise soft money to run a positive commercial on behalf of your own candidate. That’s California state law. It’s stunningly stupid and a clear infringement of free speech.
So we’ve had a 30-year period of saying it’s OK to infringe free speech as long as it’s about politics. But now if you want to be a jihadist, and you want to go kill people, well who are we to say that’s morally wrong? I think that’s suicidal. I’m using the word deliberately. A country — a Supreme Court justice once said “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” This country has every right to defend itself, and you saw the same thing recently on this U.S. Airlines provocation, where you had six people go way out of their way to cause trouble, and then claim they were infringed upon. And I think, frankly, the President should invite that U.S. Airlines crew to the White House and thank them, because we ought to set a standard that if you’re provocative about killing people, we’re not going to show you any mercy.