A political visionary discusses the path forward for conservatism.
Editor's note: Below is the video and transcript of keynote speaker Newt Gingrich's address at the David Horowitz Freedom Center's 2012 Restoration Weekend. The event took place Nov. 15th-18th at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.
Newt Gingrich: Thank you. Thank you all very, very much. And thank you for that introduction. And, Louie, thank you for the suicidal moment of bravery, which I'm sure pleased John Boehner beyond belief.
David, it's always great to be back with you. And you are, in fact, an institutional and cultural warrior. You understand exactly what needs to be done and we are thrilled to be with you once again.
I also want to invite all of you -- we did a movie called City Upon a Hill, which Callista and I will introduce at 2:30, working with Citizens United. And it really communicates the American exceptionalism which is at the heart of Callista's two books in which Ellis the Elephant introduces four-to-eight year olds, which I thinks fits a little bit of what Robert Davi was talking about. We have to be in the culture, communicating creatively and effectively and attractively in order to be directly competitive.
And that's part of the reason we've had such a great time now making seven documentaries altogether with Dave Bossie and Citizens United and why we've had a good time at Regnery introducing both children's books, where they reopened their children's division, and the books I've written with them.
In addition, I have a -- and we've launched an American Legacy Book Tour, which has gone very well so far. This is my third volume on George Washington as a biography, a series of fictional novels. This is one is Victory at Yorktown.
Particularly I want to single out somebody who was in many, many ways responsible for us doing these three volumes. And that's Gay Gaines, whose leadership at Mount Vernon was just unimaginable. If you want to see an example of fighting the cultural war effectively, go look at the Education Center of Mount Vernon and the great job they do. And I hope -- we haven't worked out the details yet, but I hope with her help that I'll be able to actually teach a course online from Kaplan University on George Washington from Mount Vernon on his birthday. And I think that it's the kind of thing where you open it up to the whole country.
Part of our commitment has to be that in the long run truth beats falsehood. And the fact that we are so incompetent as a party that we can't tell the truth as well as the other side lies is shame on us. I mean, it's not their fault they lie. Given their values, they have no choice. But it is really pathetic that we can't tell the truth more effectively than they can lie. That's apparently where we are. (Applause)
I want to comment Robert for being here because it, frankly, takes more courage for him to be in this room, given the reception that we have back in Los Angeles, than any other single person. And so we're thrilled that you're here and we appreciate you. (Applause)
I also want to note that Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert were two of the five members who I called the National Security Five, because they had the courage to ask the question about influence in the State Department and the national security process. And that took real courage. They were assaulted for having the courage to ask good questions.
But, candidly, I think the same question has to be raised again. And I may, at the risk of getting them in trouble, resurrect their letter for the following reason. To what extent was the fundamental total dishonesty of the administration on the cause of the attack at Ben Ghazi a function of the internal influence of Islamists who refuse to concede that terrorism is from Islam? (Applause)
And let me just remind you, if you stand up for the truth, you will be in a fight. When you run into Republicans who are too proud, too organized, too courteous, wear clothing that's too neat in order to be in a fight, you're watching people who are prepared to surrender. And I'm very concerned that the leadership in the House doesn't understand that they have a President who's going to take everything he can get.
And my major comment on revenues I'm doing this week, tomorrow morning, is real simple: Let me see what Obama is prepared to bring to the table that he will endorse and deliver Democrats on fundamental reform of spending and entitlements. And then I'll look at a variety of things. But this idea that we should walk in, as we did in 1982 under Reagan, as we did in 1990 under Bush, we should lead it to taxes, they should promise that at some point in the distant future maybe under certain circumstances they might conceivably eventually cut some spending as long as it's not real. I mean, how often do you have to be stupid to decide you shouldn't be in the business? (Applause)
Now, the other person that I want to mention who was here earlier and I think may come back is Colonel Allen West. And I certainly hope all of you will help (applause) -- he clearly needs financial support to go through the recount process and, as they've already discovered, entire boxes that weren't counted, 1,000 votes that have disappeared, a variety of small, typical in a Democratic county that's trying to win the election situation. Allen needs your help. He deserves it. He's a tremendously courageous person and a real, real asset.
Now, Robert Davi got me to thinking, because I thought he had a very, very useful conversation. And, by definition, sees the world from a different angle and through a different set of experiences than virtually anybody else in the conservative movement. Because he and a handful of very courageous people are actually conservatives in a zone where it is a very heretical thing to do and can be very dangerous for your career.
And I think his whole point about the incrementalism and reversing the incrementalism led me -- this has been a very difficult period for me. I was totally wrong on election night. And Callista and I -- I had been so convinced that you could not carry 7.9% unemployment, $2.00 a gallon extra for gasoline, the largest deficits in history, radical policies, dishonesty about Ben Ghazi -- you couldn't carry all that and win the election. So I'd been fairly convinced we -- I said publicly I thought we'd win with 315 electoral votes and 53% of the vote. Because, given my understanding of the country I used to campaign in, that's what would have happened.
And the first thing we knew was, frankly, was listening to Frank Luntz's phone call about 5:30 when he read the exit poll numbers. And the exit poll numbers were so stark and so consistent that we just kind of stared at each other when we hung up.
Now, I'm going to come back to this, but part of what I have concluded is, all of my career I've believed this is a center-right country and that essentially our job was to organize and communicate and we would win. I believe now, because we have lost the entertainment world, the news media, and the academic world, this is, in a sense, at best a centrist country with a dominant left and we're, in fact, fighting to reclaim lost ground, we're not fighting to consolidate the [current.] And I think that's a very different strategic situation and will require deep thought. And I'll come back to that in a minute.
Let me just ask you -- and I want you to think about this a minute. How many of you thought on Election Day Romney would win? Okay. Raise your hands again. I just want -- just look around. Okay. Because I want to make a point about this. Robert's saying no, because he was in a different vantage point, living there. He's -- "Are all these other people stupid?" (Laughter)
Robert Davi: (Inaudible - off microphone)
Newt Gingrich: That's right. But it's part of the whole thing. Okay, so, let me just ask a couple -- how many of you would have believed Tuesday morning of election that Romney would get 1.5 million fewer votes than McCain? Think about this. Probably with the numbers he's down about 1.5. But, okay, 1.5 million, 2 million -- less, okay? How many of you would have believed that he would have done worse with Asians than with Latinos? Think about this. How many of you would have believed that Obama could churn out -- I talked to Tommy Thompson, who pointed out that in Milwaukee the turnout was 87.5%
Now, it raises two questions. One is, how did they do it? And the other is, in the five or ten biggest Republican counties, why didn't we do it? I mean, think about it. And this was pretty consistent across the country. This is not -- you have to look at how big their margins are. You can say, okay, maybe Port St. Lucie has some voter fraud. They don't have voter fraud on that scale in every single place that they were winning big. They had intense, focused, two-year-long organizational politics, which we are totally out of sequence with.
Now -- so I think that we are in a challenging -- and this is not a Romney problem. This is a Republican institutional problem. Romney's just a symptom. We lost North Dakota in the US Senate race. We lost Montana in the Senate race, and I think also the governorship. These are not states that we should have been losing. George Allen lost in Virginia. You just go down the list and you have to say to yourself, there is something profoundly wrong.
Now, I want to tell you, having been reasonably successful for most of my career in politics, when I am as wrong as I was election night -- and I had, thanks to R.C. Hammond, who is here -- we had brilliantly scheduled me into CNN and CBS the next morning so that I could explain the meaning of the Romney victory. (Laughter) And actually, with Dave Bossie and Citizens United, we ended up not going to the RNC victory party for obvious reasons, starting about 8:05 or something. And we went -- I think we closed down (inaudible) because we just kept sitting there, stunned.
Now, one of our people, maybe the smartest person that works for us, Vince Haley, went to bed at 9:30. He said, "I get it. I don't want to deal with it. I'm not -- " And he went to bed. He refused to watch TV. We weren't that smart, we were masochists. We're sitting there going -- and another piece of bad news comes in. I mean, it was really -- it was just amazing.
So there I am the next morning. And I was about to go on CBS News first, like at 7:00 in the morn - -- it was really truly one of the dumbest scheduling I've done in a long time. And I thought, what do you -- because obviously I had said the day before I thought we'd win the 315 electoral votes. So I walked in and I boldly took the following position: I was wrong. I was so wrong and so profoundly wrong that it's going to take several months to think through just how wrong we are.
And I want to start with that. I'm launching a project through Gingrich Productions with Callista and we're going to try to raise money from about 25 people or institutions at 25 each. We're going to take half our staff and put them full time on going through all the data. And not just about votes, but about campaigning.
We did The View this week as part of our American Legacy Book Tour. They could never get Romney on The View. I did The Colbert Report. They couldn't get Romney on The Colbert Report. I was at the University of Texas two days ago. Do you know how many kids walked up and said they saw me on Colbert? Dave was telling me that his son, Griffin, who's now nine, noticed that Romney wouldn't do Nickelodeon. So you have Barack Obama, President of the United States, finds the time to be interviewed by a kid on Nickelodeon, but the Republican can't, who's the challenger who needs the votes, can't find the time. Why? Because I suspect one of his staff said, "Oh, that's not our market."
And so if you have a 50 -- if you have a 47% view of America, it's amazing how many places you concede. In fact, if you have a 47% view of America, you're not going to be President, you shouldn't be President, you couldn't govern as President. Because you have to have a 100% view of who you're going to lead, and you have to communicate with 100%. I mean, it's just -- period. (Applause)
We have gotten into a cycle -- those of you like David who are in California live through this, like Robert. We've gotten into a cycle we say, "We're not going to carry California so let's not spend any effort in California." Therefore we don't carry California. We don't build a party organization. We don't have people who are out there every day. The only thing we do is go to California to raise money. And the net result is guess what? We're not going to carry California.
Now if you write off the largest state in the country you hand it to your opponent. Say, "Here. You don't have to campaign there. You don't have to spend a penny there. You don't have to worry about it. We're giving you this gift to start the day." I've been describing it as having a football coach who said, "I know there's 53½ yard width of a football field. But I've decided our game plan is to focus on 30. And we're going to dominate that 30." And then every time we go out there we find out that our opponents, who have studied the game films, on every play score a touchdown because they run in the 20 yards we're not -- that we've conceded. And then we have a meeting afterwards. They say, "You know, if our defensive backs had just been prettier." (Laughter)
And then we have these other games. We say, "They cheat." They're out in these areas they're not supposed to be in. If they weren't out there they couldn't score every time. But it's very hard for us to get a group in a room to say, "You know, maybe we better learn to play the whole field. And maybe we'd better learn to fight for every inch." (Applause)
So, probably -- I hope this will all going to be published by Regnery probably by June. And it will have with it a video package. Because you have to see some of the stuff. You have to see the Obama ads on Spanish language media that show Romney explaining that it's okay to deport your grandmother. Now, I don't care how good your argument is over economics. When you explain to somebody in a community that we're going to deport grandma, they kind of go, "Hmm. Let me get this straight. I can have a less adequate job but Sunday lunch. Or I can have a really great job and send postcards." It just becomes emotionally impossible.
And we were doing this over and over and over. And it's not Mitt; it's the entire Republican consultant class. (Applause) You know, you look at the amount of money that Rove-related operations spent. You look at the philosophy behind it, the technique they used. And you say, "You think you're going to win? " If we had spent 10% of that money in year one of the Obama administration competing head to head with messaging and then 10% in year two and 10% in year three, we'd have been in a battlefield that was even.
Instead what we do -- and this is partly because of many of you -- we have a donor class that gets extraordinarily excited around Labor Day, and rushes in and says -- I've got a very smart guy who said to me, "Which counties do you think we should focus on?" Because he drank the Kool-Aid. "Boy, if we carry Hamilton County --" And I said, "You know, there's a country."
The most efficient way to communicate in this country is national. Rush Limbaugh is in 50 states. Sean Hannity is in 50 states. (Applause) And that doesn't -- I know a fair amount about targeting. But when we won a majority in 1994, we beat Danny Rostenkowski in downtown Chicago because we followed Wooden's theory of a full court press and we wanted to compete everywhere.
And that's the way we've got -- we want to serve the whole country. We want to compete in the whole country. We want to take the left on intellectually, but we want to learn the tools and techniques of taking them on effectively. And if it isn't effective we're just wasting our time. (Applause)
So what I'd like to do is open up a few minutes to questions. I k now you guys are running late and I don't want to keep you too long. So David, I suspect, will give me the hook at some point. But let me toss it open for comments, thoughts, and it's yours. Yes, sir?
Unidentified Audience Member: Thank you for all that you do. What can the House do relative to executive orders or EPA regulations to impede Obama's ability to rule by fiat?
Newt Gingrich: They could refuse to fund it. They simply say, "We're not going to pass any bill which provides any money for doing these things." Then the President would say, "Well, I'll veto the bill." And they you'd be -- you'd do what we did. We closed the government twice. The second time we closed the government I think it was for an amazingly long period of time. People couldn't go up the Washington Monument. They couldn't go to the Smithsonian. Tourists were really mad at us. The Washington Post was melting down. And most of the country said, "Well, that's cool. I mean, you guys are actually serious. You want to balance the budget."
So part of it would have to be to say, "Look, we don't live in a dictatorship. He did not win a parliamentary election. He can't unilaterally do things. Article 1, Section 1 is the House, not the Presidency. There are two mandates, the Republican mandate and the President's mandate and you need to negotiate somewhere in the middle of those two." But if we passively allow him to run over us over and over, he will learn how to run over us. And they've learned a great deal in the last two years about how to govern without Congress. And it's very dangerous.
But the ultimate congressional tool is money. It's designed that way and if somebody wanted to -- again, take somebody who's willing to get scarred up. You have to be prepared to go to the mat and say, "You know, we're not going to provide you money for those purposes. And if you are determined to do that we're going to have a crisis because you are breaking the Constitutional framework and we're not going to sit here and let you do it." But it would be that tough. It would make the 2014 elections pretty extraordinary.
Unidentified Audience member: (Inaudible - off microphone) In the last panel we were talking about -- Paul brought up a list of on November 1st what television networks were being watched to see where we're getting our information. Well, my generation hates paying for TV and cable. So what do we do? We go to YouTube. And guess what? The day before the election Obama had a beautiful ad on YouTube. It took up an entire [banner] right there underneath the search bar. So guess what? My generation goes to YouTube to watch the news and who do they see? They see this man up there right there in their face before they search the video, find the news.
I love my generation and my generation can be brought back over to this. How do we communicate to them? I want to share this with you all because this is crucial. Newt, I love what you do. What do we need to do?
Newt Gingrich: Well, that's part of why I'm going to write this report. Because, as I said, it's not just about voting patterns. It's about the use of technology and it's about texting. It's about YouTube. It's about Google search.
First of all, remember that in the 2008 campaign, one of the cofounders of Facebook was the leader of the IT effort at the Obama campaign. So we hire a couple of consultants who come out of politics, but have studied computing. They're the guys who are inventing the social media we're competing in.
And, as Robert said -- and I learned this first with Clinton. You know, Clinton was extraordinarily good at going to Hollywood and getting Hollywood to design the advertising. Politics, like most movies, is about storytelling. If you can't tell a story, people can't understand what you're doing. And we're just in a profound mismatch across the whole system.
So part of what I would argue -- I said this all through the campaign. They should have spent 30% of their budget on the internet. They should have spent 30% of their total budget on Latinos, for a very simple reason. If we don't break through and we're not competitive we're not going to be a majority party again in your lifetime.
Now, if something is really obvious -- it's kind of like being on the side of the road with a flat tire. If you're not prepared to fix the tire, you could be at the side of the road for a long time. And so you stand there and you say, "I wonder what the theoretical situation is that we're in here?" You have a flat tire, stupid. "Yes, but what is the larger gestalt within which we are dealing with this?" You're tire's flat. "I understand, but that's work. And I dressed up this morning and fixing the tire I would get dirty."
I mean, for example, to deal with Latinos you'd actually have to work with Latinos. Have you looked at our consultants? They don't even want to work with people who are themselves. (Laughter) When we have a consultant class which is too arrogant to actually listen to anybody, why would you think they can understand people they've never met?
It is this fundamental a change that we are faced with if we are serious about taking back our country.
Unidentified Audience Member: First, I'd like to thank you for your service to the country. I would like to thank all the speakers here. (Applause) This is my first time at David's conference and I'd like to thank David. And I'll be going to more conferences. Anyways, my grandfather's Spanish. My mother's from Argentina. My dad's American. So what I get from this weekend is I have a good access to the Latin community. And I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction, how -- who to talk to, who to network with, where to put money to attract the Latin community back to the Republican Conservative party. Thank you.
Newt Gingrich: Well, this is just from my personal frame of reference. There is somebody who a few of you know from California named Eric Beech, who is putting things together. And my older daughter, Kathy Lubbers, who lives in Miami, who ran a project called The Americano for seven years, that was a conservative Latino website, is working with him to look at how -- because we're very close to Univision.
Go back and look at when Obama's Univision advertising began. Again, this is pretty basic stuff. They were on for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks. It started in May. And this is the kind of stuff I want to, frankly, pull together so I can give you actual data and show you, whether it's how to reach young people -- I want to find out every show that Obama did that Romney didn't do.
And you'll be startled how many places -- because in terms of people under 30, more people under 30 get news from The Daily Show and Colbert than get news from Fox. Now, if you're not in The Daily Show and Colbert you're not even in their world. And I think that's the kind of stuff we just simply have to map reality, think it through and be prepared to compete anew.
Unidentified Audience Member: Newt, what are the three effective arguments or explanations you can give to a liberal-minded friend or family member that you can use instead of having to choke them? (Laughter)
Newt Gingrich: Look, I think it's pretty simple. If you value fairness more than jobs, you're going to have everybody equally unemployed. Okay? That's the first big principle. As Margaret Thatcher put it, "The problem with socialism is you run out of other people's money to spend." So the first principle is simple. Their model of society doesn't work. And if you're happy that we have more people on food stamps than any time in American history, this is working. Okay?
The second principle is equally simple. Do you think you and your doctor should worry about your health? Or do you think your doctor should be constrained by a bureaucrat you never met who has never been in your state, does not know what your disease is, but has a mathematical model which suggests that on average this will be fine, even though your doctor thinks it's crazy.
Now, you decide. You want Washington to run your -- I tell people, the folks who are failing with Sandy in Long Island and Staten Island are the folks that they want to have run our health system. So if you think they're doing a great job in cleaning up New Jersey, you're going to love it when they start controlling medicine. Which is why -- there is a reason conservatism will come back. The only question is how stupid we are and how long it takes it. It will come back.
The third is, do you think the primary danger in the world is that occasionally Americans make dumb movies and Danes make dumb cartoons? Or is the primary danger in the world is that there is a faction that genuinely wants to kill us and that practices figuring out how to kill us on a regular basis and proves it? And I think you begin to find these kind of fundamental divisions about reality.
Yes, way over here.
Unidentified Audience Member: How to you defund when you're governed by continuing resolutions?
Newt Gingrich: The way you defund is it you don't put it in the continuing resolution. You just say, "Nothing in this resolution shall fund 'X'," whatever X is. And then you get in a fight, then. And then it's going to get nasty and mean. And then you're going to have all the network television people saying, "The Republicans are being obstructionist because they ref- " You know. It's like Big Bird. Big Bird gets $317,000 a year as an actor. And Sesame Street makes $800 million a year, 94% of it from the private sector. Now, you should be able to communicate, "I want Big Bird to live, but I want him to live in freedom." (Applause)
This lady right up here. And then I want to come to Gay.
Unidentified Audience Member: My question is regarding the length of the primaries. Can you comment? Because I felt it was so long and we started so late.
Newt Gingrich: You see, I think, again, as a matter of fact, Hillary Clinton was still competing with Barack Obama on June 3rd. So I don't think -- if the primaries were a problem for us it's because we ended up nominating a candidate who was vivid in the primaries at saying things that made great commercials. But I'm not sure you can say, "Gee, I don't want to have our candidate be -- say these things in the primaries because I'd like for him to say them in the general." So then I don't think there's anything wrong with -- the Democrat primaries were longer by two months.
But the other difference is, you go back to watch Obama in '08, he filled the summer. He did not wait for the convention. And, frankly, this idea that the convention was a problem is absurd. We knew who the nominee was going to be, so he could behave as though he was in the general election from late May.
And then they say, "Well, they were out of money." He gave $42 million personally to win in 2008. They could have somehow found the money if they were serious about winning. This idea that they had to sit passively while Obama attacked them for three months is nonsense, I mean, just plain nonsense. They had to model the campaign. The model didn't work. We proved it on Tuesday a week ago.
And, again, I'm not blaming anybody else. I thought we were going to win. The model I had in my head was as wrong as the model the Romney team had in their head.
And, Gay, I think you have to be the last question.
Gay Gaines: Monica mentioned this morning the education system has been taken over by the left. And, Newt, we've had this conversation. How on earth are the people of the United States going to vote Republican and believe in the Constitution if they've never studied, with three generations of historically illiterate students and the teachers themselves don't know American history?
So I'm thrilled you're coming to Mount Vernon. We're going to build a library at Mount Vernon for George Washington which opens next September. And you have to come there and teach from the library, as all of you do. Monica, I'm inviting you. I'm inviting Laura Ingraham. Because we can beam into the classrooms across America and start getting them to understand. But what else can we do? What else (inaudible - multiple speakers) --
Newt Gingrich: But start -- just stay with that for a minute, because I think it's useful [to expand on] and a nice way for me to remind you that we do have a documentary film at 2:30 and that we have books that are American history. We're going to sign them there.
But here's what I want all of you to think about. There's an institution called the Khan Academy, which you can see, by just putting in K-A-H-N Academy. This is a guy who was an investment banker who began doing YouTube videos on math for his nephews who didn't understand certain aspects of math. And the videos began to go viral. He now has 3,000 hours of free material, and really was the person who broke through in a huge way.
The Vice President for Development at Google decided he was going to teach a course at Stanford for 400 students in advanced design. But he decided he would put it on the internet. He announced casually at some speech in Palo Alto and within three days -- this is a 400 student course -- within three days they had thousands signed up. They ultimately had 100,000 sign up. They had 40,000 complete the class.
When they took the exam the top student at Stanford was number 42. Forty-one other people who had taken the course by long distance outscored him in the final exam. And it was a great recruiting device for Google because you now had thousands of people across the planet interacting that they could look at and say, "Oh, gee, we might want to hire you some day."
Now, I'm giving you those examples because the reason we have an agreement now with Kaplan, and we're trying to think through how to offer a series of courses and how to do it in a way that combines video, combines music, et cetera, so that you create compet -- we're never going to fix the public schools. The unions are too entrenched. They're too left wing. The length of time it would take us to fix them, that will be after the victory.
Between here and the victory what we can do is offer better products that are more exciting, and simply drain away the vitality and the energy. And when you now have Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Virginia all offering their courses online for free, you're really seeing the breakdown of the whole structure of the old order. (Applause) And I think we want to --
So Gingrich Productions actually wants to work with people like Robert Davi, both on his cinema side and his music side, because it's the composite of it all -- it's making it come alive in a way that people say, "I want that," as opposed to, "You have to have it."
And if we can do that well enough, I believe that the truth beats lies. I think that history beats fantasies. And I think that the world will, in fact, validate our philosophy and invalidate their philosophy. And I think we have to be as courageous as George Washington and refuse to become defeated, refuse to become depressed, and commit ourselves to getting this country back on the right track.
Thank you all very much. (Applause)
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