Hillary vs. Condi. Hillary vs. McCain. Hillary vs. Giuliani.
The handicapping for the 2008 presidential contest has been under way since the day after George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. One name that isn’t mentioned much is Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House and the chief architect of the 1994 "Contract with America" that ushered in the current era of Republican dominance in Washington.
Gingrich was Speaker of the House from 1994 to 1998 when Republicans toppled 40 years of control by the Democratic Party. Gingrich left politics in 1999 to start a communications and consulting firm, lecture and write books, including his most recent, "Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America."
What did Gingrich learn from his 20 years in Washington?
"Traditional politics is dominated by and defended by a collection of elites who are deeply opposed to the solutions America needs to renew its civilization and ensure its economic and national security interests," Gingrich writes. "These elites want a dramatically different world from the values and aspirations of most Americans."
So while Hillary Clinton, the calculating liberal senator from New York, wants to be the first female president and John Forbes Kerry, the disdainful senator from Massachusetts wants another shot at the White House, maybe we should start looking outside of Washington for leadership.
Why not Newt? Is it the name that bothers you? Would America elect a man named after an amphibian as president? Stranger things have happened.
Gingrich has positioned himself in an interesting place. A former Washington insider (20 years in Congress), he has spent enough time away from the Beltway to give him a fresh perspective on the nation’s problems.
And there’s no doubt where Gingrich stands. In addition to frequent appearances on Fox News, which keeps him in the public spotlight, the former history teacher offers a detailed blueprint of how to fix all that ails the country.
There are five key issues, Gingrich says, that must be addressed if America is to survive and thrive: win the war on terror; defeat the secular forces that have driven a wedge between public life and God; resolve the immigration crisis; emphasize math and science to rebuild our failing schools and fix Social Security.
A pretty tall order, but the alternative is unacceptable, according to Gingrich.
Start with the war on terror, which Gingrich argues needs to be fought with the same conviction as FDR showed in World War II and Ronald Reagan showed in pushing the Soviet Union over the edge to win the Cold War.
Gingrich has a harsh assessment for the John Murtha-Howard Dean-Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party.
"If anyone thinks terrorists don’t threaten us, the question is: What would it take to convince you? If nearly 3,000 Americans dying on American soil in one day does not frighten you, what would?"
In addition to fighting Islamic fascists abroad, Gingrich sees a homegrown enemy, the radical left, which works to weaken American society.
"There is no attack on American culture more deadly and more historically dishonest than the secular Left’s unending war against God in America’s public life."
Gingrich also addresses the growing immigration problem, largely ignored by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. "What worries me is the breakdown of will on the part of America to control our borders and to ensure that new immigrants learn to be American."
Gingrich also blames the left for watering down American citizenship — specifically refusing to force immigrants to assimilate into American society. That’s why you can become a citizen without speaking English or knowing anything about the United States.
Gingrich is the only politician on the national scene who talks about the decline of science and math in American schools.
Gingrich also tackles personal responsibility and the bygone sense of civic duty. He wants ordinary Americans to take a more active role in deciding who governs them, at all levels. "As an American, you are part of the freest, richest, most powerful country in history. We owe it to our children and grandchildren that we keep it that way. If you want to win the future, don’t complain, do something about it."
And for good measure, Gingrich offers solutions to a few other problems — the U.S. health care system, balancing the federal budget, corruption in Congress and election reform — in the pages of his latest book.
No sitting U.S. senator has been elected president since John F. Kennedy. It might be wise for both parties to look beyond Hillary and McCain in 2008 and nominate someone who isn’t part of the Washington establishment. Newt Gingrich is looking better all the time.
E-mail Tony Phyrillas at firstname.lastname@example.org