While some analysts are asking if the violence in the Middle East could spread into a broader regional war, Republican Newt Gingrich says the crisis looks more like the early stages of World War III. The former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives was invited on “Today” to discuss his outlook on the escalating conflicts. In his book, “Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America,” released in paperback in June, Gingrich writes that the U.S. is “under assault from the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam.” Read an excerpt:
Real Change Requires Real Change
For me and for many Americans, a moment of decisive understanding came in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Government hadn’t done its first and most basic job, which is to protect citizens and their property. Signs of failure were all around us. I use the word “failure” deliberately.
- When you see on television for three days running an American body lying on an American street because the government can’t collect the dead, something has failed.
- When you learn that thirty-four senior citizens were abandoned in a nursing home and drowned in isolation, something has failed.
- When you realize that there were 22,000 people in the Superdome to whom the government couldn’t deliver water, while private companies had trucks of water going by on the streets outside, something has failed.
- The simple fact is the city of New Orleans failed, the state of Louisiana failed, and the government of the United States failed.
America is the most energetic, resourceful, and innovative nation in the history of mankind. But we are at a crossroads. Our government isn’t working for us. Washington, D.C., is mired in bureaucracy and bloated by pork barrel spending. Our faith in God and our identity as a people are challenged by a historical, secular elite. American civilization, rooted in inalienable, individual rights, nurtured by equality before the law, and celebrated in the free and open expression of our beliefs and practice of our faiths, is under assault from the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam.
All of Western Civilization joins us at this crossroads. Abroad we see countries surrendering to those who would censor our civilization and accepting lectures on tolerance from theocrats who oppress women and outlaw all religions but their own. We hear calls to ignore Iran’s genocidal intentions, despite the clarity of the Iranian leader’s hateful rhetoric. And we weather attacks from those who would abandon the people of Iraq to butchers, bombers, and rapists.
There is a better way — a way forward toward the defense of American values and the preservation of American civilization. I call it “Winning the Future.” To win the future means to chart a course, as Ronald Reagan once said, that “will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth.” It means to have the courage to persist cheerfully in this course against all those who would condemn or derail it. To insist on government that works and is accountable; to have a government that can respond competently to disasters like Hurricane Katrina; a government that can control our borders; a government that can solve our problems in an effective way.
So how do we get from where we are now to winning the future for our children and grandchildren? By embracing two simple truths:
Real change requires real change.
And real change requires a movement.
Americans are frustrated with government that can’t do what government is supposed to do: protect our lives, our property, and our way of life. Change is essential if our children and grandchildren are going to inherit the same free, safe, and prosperous America that our parents and grandparents worked and fought to give us. But the kind of change we need is real change.
Legislators who are scrambling in the aftermath of the Jack Abramoff scandal to enact piecemeal reforms to lobbying rules believe they are enacting change, and that may well be. But real change means understanding that the problem isn’t an individual lobbyist. The problem in Washington is a government so powerful and bloated that a special interest group would decide it’s worth their while to spend $80 million to hire a lobbyist like Jack Abramoff. Real change means understanding that government larded with pet projects and unnecessary spending is an invitation to corruption. The way to end that corruption is through a recommitment to limited but effective government.
A case in point: While thousands of people are desperate to restore battered homes following Hurricane Katrina, the federal government is paying seventeen times more than it actually costs to repair roofs in Louisiana. Seventeen times.
In a stunning expose, the Washington Post reported that the federal government was paying prime contracts of $1.75 a square foot to cover storm-damaged roofs with blue tarp. But these companies then subcontracted the work an additional two times. The local laborers who actually did the work were paid only ten cents per square foot.
Only a federal government bloated by pork and riddled with bureaucratic inefficiency would do business this way. Taxpayers deserve much, much better. After all, it’s our money, not the government’s. We deserve a government at least as smart as we are when it comes to making spending decisions.
But to have a government that spends money wisely and efficiently will require real change, and real change requires a movement. The kind of country we want cannot be achieved without a grassroots movement of citizen activists that insists on profound change in our government policies and our government bureaucracies. Washington is incapable of reforming itself. By necessity, the country must impose reform on Washington. All the proof you need of that fact came during President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address. Do you remember the representatives and senators — rich and privileged men and women — who stood and applauded the president’s admission that his effort to save Social Security had failed? Rich and powerful people who delight in the denial of a decent retirement to hard-working Americans are not the kind of people who challenge the Washington status quo.
Change, if it is to come, must come from us.
I know a little something about change. The reform movement that swept Washington in 1994 has been called a revolution. But Washington didn’t create that revolution; America did. In 1994, a bold, ideas and solutions-based, values-led grassroots movement finally arrived in the nation’s capital. This movement had been building for decades, led by a group of legislators who believed in transformational leadership, accountability in government, balanced budgets, lower taxes, stronger defense, and reforming the welfare state.
The challenges we face today are, if anything, more profound and more consequential than those we faced in 1994. They center around three big principles that have traditionally defined us as Americans. Our government, our media, our educational institutions, and too many of our political leaders have drifted away from these principles lately. We must find a way, through a grassroots movement of citizens, to bring our nation back to these truths.
Excerpted from “Winning the Future” by Newt Gingrich. Copyright 2005 by Newt Gingrich. Revised and updated in 2006. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from