This is the second in a two-part series of Michael Bendetson’s interview with Newt Gingrich. The first installment, which ran in Tuesday’s paper, focused on the effectiveness of the Republican Party’s 1994 Contract with America and on Gingrich’s views on ending the recession and reforming health care. Today’s installation will focus on Gingrich’s views on climate change, President Barack Obama’s appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the future of the Republican Party.
Michael Bendetson: Mr. Speaker, you have been a maverick within your own party when it comes to the issues of climate change. You acknowledge that climate change has the potential to be a major threat, but you remain skeptical of government creating too much regulation and litigation. Instead, Mr. Gingrich, you have introduced the concept of green conservatism. How would you define this term, and why do you feel it is the best method to deal with climate change?
Newt Gingrich: Growing up and throughout my professional careers, I have always believed that we need to have a sound conservation program for our environment. However, I am very saddened at what happened to the environmental movement over the past three decades. [The movement] became in many ways intellectually dishonest, politicized and an instrument of the left to get bigger and bigger government. I think you need to have honesty and be clear about the science behind what you’re doing. Finally, you need to have a bias behind innovation and entrepreneurship for better results. The current environmental models tend to be bureaucratic, punitive and litigation-based. This is exactly wrong. I cannot tell you for sure if we have global warming, and I do not believe anyone knows. We have huge, sweeping climate changes in the earth’s history that are vastly bigger than anything we are currently talking about.
I can concede that there has been an increase in carbon in the past 20 years. As the words conservation and conservative are related, I would minimize carbon loading of the atmosphere. When I tell you that, I do not wish to promptly go out and kill the American economy. This is what the Waxman-Markey bill does. [The bill] will drive businesses to relocate to China and India where they will have more pollution.
MB: Throughout your career, Mr. Speaker, you have always advocated against judicial activism in federal courts. In recent months, you have voiced major disapproval in President Obama’s selection of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. What are the reasons behind your strong objections to a Sotomayor judgeship?
NG: I would probably have voted no if I were in the Senate. I want a more conservative justice closer to the Roberts-Scalia model. I found it very interesting that she testified in a way that distanced her from her own words. Since [Former Supreme Court Associate Justice David] Souter turned out to be so totally unknowable, it is going to be very interesting to see whom Sotomayor turns out to be. Her testimony was much more centrist than her speeches have been. If as a Supreme Court justice she is as moderate as her testimony, we [conservatives] will be surprised and so will her liberal supporters.
MB: There are estimated to be over 12 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States. The question as to how to both address those here illegally and reform border security has resulted in much debate. You voiced strong opposition to McCain-Kennedy in 2007 for fear over amnesty. What types of reforms do you feel can be made that both enforce our laws and show our humanity?
NG: I think we have three primary values that really matter to us. The first is security. The second is legality. The third is becoming an American. For the first one, you have to get control of the border. You need to know who comes in the United States. Every sovereign nation has the right to know who crosses its border. For the second, I believe people working in the United States should be here legally. I do not think we should have an underground economy. I do not think we should have people living in the shadows and in fear. I think that is fundamentally wrong. For the third, people who do come to the United States, I want them to become American. By American, I mean English should become the official language of government. They should also learn some American history.
You start the discussion by saying we want to assimilate people into being American. We want them to be here legally and have control over our border. The secondary question becomes how would you design that? I would have a guest-worker program that was driven by economics. When you have a boom period, you have more people in the guest-worker program. When you have a recession, you have less people in the program. However, one thing I do not want to have is a blanket amnesty. This will send a signal to the world that it is okay to break the law, because America will have a third amnesty in a decade.
MB: The Republican Party has now experienced back-to-back resounding defeats in national elections. The Democrats hold a supermajority in the Senate and a strong majority in the House. Nationally, the Republican Party appears to lack any true leadership. As one of the major leaders of this storied party, what are some of the essential measures the GOP needs to expand their base and return to power?
NG: You take a governor like Bobby Jindal, who is a first-generation American and a brilliant policy innovator. You take someone like Governor Linda Lingle, who has won twice in one of the most Democratic states in the country: Hawaii. You take someone like Governor Tim Pawlenty, who has been a real reformer in Minnesota. I think we have a whole new generation of people coming down the road. We are much stronger than we were after Watergate; this [situation] is much closer to 1993. You are talking about a party that controlled the president for eight years and the House for 12 straight years. I do not think [Republicans] have problems; we had a performance failure that led people to decide that they did not like the product. You are now watching the Democrats have an even more discouraging performance failure.
Michael Bendetson is a sophomore who has not yet declared a major.