While Herman Cain told Sean Hannity and The Union Leader newspaper in New Hampshire that he would drop out of the race if his wife wanted him to and Rick Perry went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to try to rehabilitate his image, front-runnner Newt Gingrich spoke at the Polk County, Iowa GOP dinner and again showed that his passionate embrace of American exceptionalism often makes him immune from his own bombast and hubris in a cycle in which many voters feel as if they are choosing among the lesser of all evils.
Gingrich showed his retail skills by joking about how Iowa was a place where old can be new again.
“In terms of my candidacy, I like coming to a state you could have been out of office for a while and can return and win the governorship,” Gingrich joked, referring to Iowa’s Republican Governor Terry Branstad. “You could use a lot more Terry Branstad and a lot less Barack Obama.” Gingrich also heaped praise on Iowa’s Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.
“Back in June and July, I was supposedly dead…”Gingrich said. “We’re in a mess. We’re in a mess in Washington, with radical Islam, with radical judges…”
Gingrich said though that instead of solely focusing on the mess that America is in, he would also focus just as much on rebuilding “the America we love.”
He called Obama a “Saul Alinsky radical” who believes the United Nations is more important than the Congress.
Gingrich also said that he would run an “American campaign” and not just a “Republican campaign” and that Republicans must be a party open to every person of every background who believes in proper assimilation and citizenship.
Gingrich spoke passionately about the American experience that was in danger, an experience in which people come to an exceptional nation, “become absorbed, become American” and quit fighting over the past.
“People learn to be American faster than you thought possible,” Gingrich said before giving the example of Serbian and Bosnian kids who come to this country and instead of fighting each other end up playing soccer together on the same team.
Citing fellow historian Gordon Wood on how radical the idea the American experience was in that it was based on a society in which the citizen was the sovereign and his rights were given to him by God and not by the state, Gingrich movingly noted that, just like in Colonial times, people often become more American when they leave the country and come back.
“Unlike our president, I studied American history,” Gingrich said in framing Obama as a president who did not fundamentally get the concept of American exceptionalism. “We have to clean up the Congress as much as the executive branch.”
Gingrich also said that Republicans had to be open “to an American campaign” and not just a “Republican campaign” and be “open to every person of every background” who is willing to assimilate and embrace American exceptionalism and the responsibilities that come with citizenship.
Gingrich asked the audience, in invoking the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to “embark with me on a voyage of invention and discovery as bold as the Wright Brothers” to help restore “every aspect of American life.”
“I can’t guarantee you success,” Gingrich said. “I can promise you I will do everything I can to rebuild this country for my grandchildren.”
His campaign so far has been a similarly exciting journey. And as his opponents hone in on the new front-runner, Gingrich may have to be extra disciplined in the campaign in order to convince Americans to embark on a journey with him.
It is often said that one campaigns in poetry and governs in prose. For Gingrich, the opposite may be true. He needs to campaign more in prose so he can govern more in poetry.