Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at the National Press Club.
My name is Michelle Bernard, I’m the president of the Independent Women’s Forum. I want to thank all of you so much for joining us today. We are very excited to have each of you here; we are particularly excited to have Mr. Gingrich here with us. Those of you familiar with the Independent Women’s Forum are probably used to hearing me say over and over and over again that all issues are women’s issues. It is our mantra at IWF, it is something we believe firmly in, and as we head down that road to 2008, and as each of us get ready to decide who we are going to pull the lever for, hopefully that person is sitting in the room with us today.
We have inaugurated a Leadership for 2008 series at the Independent Women’s Forum; we are deeply honored to have Mr. Gingrich inaugurate that series for us. We will be talking on a bipartisan basis about the issues that are important to all Americans, men and women alike, whether it is foreign policy, international women’s rights, domestic issues such as healthcare or Social Security, you will see IWF at the forefront with the major policymakers of our time discussing those issues.
It is no surprise, then, that we have asked Mr. Gingrich to join us today. Back in 1995 when Time magazine dubbed him “Man of the Year,” one of the things that they said was, “Leaders are people who make things happen, but there is that category of exceptional people who make sure that things are inevitable.” Mr. Gingrich was put in that category of exceptional, and it is for that reason that we have invited him to join us here today.
I am going to ask the chairman of our board, Heather Higgins, to do the honors and formally introduce Mr. Gingrich to you. And again, thank you for joining us.
I too want to so thank you for coming to this series that IWF has started. We really appreciate, particularly on a busy morning, so many of you being here. We could think of no one better to introduce a series on ideas and the importance of serious discussion than Newt, because he is, after all, a man known for the breadth of his ideas; a prolific writer, thinker, a man who is comfortable tackling big questions. What does America need to do to survive? as he addresses in his book Winning the Future, and so many of his other speeches and books.
In being asked to introduce Newt, somebody who has achieved that unique status of being identified by one name only, it tells you that you really don’t need to tell much about how he accomplished what he accomplished, because I think that is well known to all of you. So I want to do something slightly different. For those of you who spent a fair amount of time around Newt, you know that he has certain words that he uses with greater frequency than others. And three of them, cheerful, amazing, and profound, strike me as words that are useful in actually capturing some of what makes Newt himself so special. Cheerful because he has got this unbelievable capacity, however daunting something may be, to wake up every morning and go do it again with a smile on his face. I think that in part he does this because it is excellent for morale of his own team when taking on a large problem, but part of me suspects that it is also because it irritates the heck out of the other side.
He is amazing. I have been privileged, as I’m sure many of you have on occasion, to hang around on occasion and watch some remarkable exchanges. Some of my favorite memories involve going to various museums or zoos, meeting with scientists who clearly were seriously annoyed at their development people, that they were being forced to spend time with a bozo congressman who was just going to waste their time. You could see the offline eye-rolling with their staff. And then they’d meet Newt, and he’d start to ask them questions and talk to them, and you could see the jaws go slack and the eyes start to pop out of their heads as they realized that this was somebody who actually not only knew their material, but knew it with depth and could have a serious discussion with them about it.
I remember another meeting in the Speaker’s office, I just happened to be a fly on the wall waiting for something else to happen, and some people came in to explain to Newt things that were going on between Greece and Turkey and the history, and the very deep, specialized particulars of ethnic and religious differences that were unique. And he trumped them, he already knew all about them, and he actually wound up telling them some things that they did not know. He knows more than many of the people who think themselves to be experts in their particular areas.
And that gets me to profound. I think he gets to be this way because I have heard from any number of people who have had the experience of when he wants to learn a new subject, going and talking to him and coming away saying, “He had the most rapid assimilation of those facts of anyone I have ever talked to. I have never talked to anybody who picked up on why something was important or how it worked nearly as quickly as I did with Newt.”
And then, I think, he takes that and he does something even more remarkable. He has the capacity to vector it in terms of both his historian’s long view of why something is important, what the larger goals are, what the potential impacts might be, but he also has a keen sense, the politician’s sense of what’s pragmatic, what’s possible short-term. That’s a very unique combination that you almost never meet, and it’s part of why I think that this type of series is so marvelous, where we get to hear Newt in long format, not just shallow 30-second sound bytes, but extensive thinking.
IWF has had, as Michelle referenced, a particular interest in Iraq and Afghanistan, as we’ve tried to assist with democracy and building and the restoration of civil society there, as we are interested in those ideas here as well. The question is, is there any good news? We certainly saw women who were extraordinarily accomplished and hopeful and ambitious for their countries when we were doing training over there, but you wouldn’t have any sense of it from listening to our own media. And so as we turn this over to Newt, I want you to join me in welcoming an exceptional man to hear his interesting responses to the larger questions of the day.
As you can tell, Heather and I are very close friends, but I must confess that as she elaborated that introduction, I began to feel less and less adequate to be the person who followed. I thought that was fairly remarkable, and I am delighted that you came down, and also that you brought your son for this opportunity to learn more about the shuttle and to be part of a Washington political event. Thank you. We do go back a long way, and we used to walk at six in the morning here on the Mall and talk about ideas back before we were a majority, and we developed a lot of ideas together.
So I’m glad to be here, and frankly when I got the email from Heather explaining that I would be here, I knew it was easier to send back “yes” than to get involved in whatever level of pain she would raise before I finally said yes. I just caved immediately. I’m also delighted to be here with Michelle. I think that Michelle is providing tremendous leadership and that the Independent Women’s Forum is going to have a very significant impact, not just here in Washington, but across the country. I’m delighted at the leadership you are providing.
I want to start with this idea of large discussions and then go to foreign policy, but let me first talk about the whole concept of having significant discussions. I believe we are faced with more challenges in the next 20 years than any time since the Civil War. I think if you look both at our domestic challenges, from controlling the border to defining American citizenship to the nature of immigration, to the question of the role of God in public life and whether or not our rights actually come from our Creator, to the structure of the court system, and on to dealing with the baby boomers living vastly longer than anyone ever planned and all the implications that has, to the fact that we’re going to have four to seven times as much new science as we did in the last quarter century, and nobody knows how you take advantage of or cope with that bow wave of information, to the rise of China and India as economic competitors, to the challenge of the irreconcilable wing of Islam and their allies among the dictatorship. All of those different pieces are going to come simultaneously. History is not going to say to us, “Which part of the menu would you like?” And yet it’s very clear that our current political system is utterly, totally incapable of serious conversation.
I don’t know how many of you have seen the YouTube commercial about 1984, which was presumably done randomly by some really clever person with pretty good technology. It’s a very interesting attack on Hillary and modest promotion of Barack Obama, and it is utterly, totally destructive of the process of thought. There is not a single thing in that commercial that enables America to solve a problem. Oh, it’s clever, fills up space on television, people can talk about it. It’s the Entertainment Tonight version of governing a great country, and it’s very dangerous, because we have no habits anymore of serious dialogue, we have no habits of serious citizenship. Everything is reduced to gossip, attack, whose consultant is clever, and it’s really very destructive. I think we have to set a new standard. I think your series is a step in that direction, and I would encourage every candidate in both parties to take advantage of this kind of opportunity.
Recently Governor Cuomo and I did an event at Cooper Union, and with Tim Russert as a moderator we spent 90 minutes actually talking about ideas. And the people who were there and the people who’ve seen it on C-SPAN or seen it on the webcasts were kind of stunned that you could actually have two adults have a serious conversation, that you could be polite to each other, you could engage in entire paragraphs of conversation, and that clearly neither of us had asked our consultants what their focus groups indicated we should memorize. It’s a totally different model.
So one of the things that I have started proposing, which I would love to have you take up the banner for, is that we challenge every candidate in both parties to commit that if they are the nominees next year, that they will agree to a 90-minute dialogue one night a week, every week from Labor Day to the election. So once a week, with a timekeeper and no moderator, no Mickey Mouse questions, no gimmicks, two adults, much like Lincoln and Douglas– it’s actually the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln and Douglas debates, which were seven three-hour debates– two adults, the future of America, and a conversation. And I think that will do more to take the poison out of the system and it will do more to return consultants to what they ought to be, which is technicians. This idea to have a consultant-designed national campaign is a nightmare.
If you go back and look at historic figures, up through Reagan, you saw figures who actually knew what they believed before they took a poll, understood what they wanted to communicate before they got their speechwriter, and were prepared to gamble their career on actually talking sense to the American people. That’s true of Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan. And we’ve been decaying now for a generation into a system where the candidate thinks they shouldn’t move until they’ve consulted with five people, none of whom know anything. All they know is how to be technicians. And so we’ve had a steady decline in the whole quality of our ability to deal with issues. It’s a very serious problem for society.
The reason it’s particularly serious is I think we are in a period in foreign policy which increasingly resembles the late 1930s. It’s very clear that the elites on the Left have temporarily won the argument about the nature of the war, and that the right to hate George W. Bush is a vastly more important right than the necessity to defeat terrorism. And therefore Washington is currently grappling– historians will look back on this period with utter amazement. You know Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who probably was lying, but nonetheless testified rather extensively. And the reason he’s probably lying is that al Qaeda publicly says, when you get captured, lie. What he said was designed for the world. Mike Shoyer just did a brilliant analysis of it and pointed out that if you take what he said, it fit every single model of what al Qaeda is trying to say. Nonetheless, what he said was horrifying. I don’t know how many of you looked at it, but it was purely horrifying.
The result of the two U.S. senators, one Democrat and one Republican, who went down to watch him testify, the lead story about their reaction was their concern that he had been mistreated. Now here’s a man who said he cut off a journalist’s head and held it in his hand, and their worry was that the man who had done the beheading– this was a man who was trying also to knock down the Empire State Building, and he goes through this list of things he wanted to accomplish, that he felt sad he had not yet killed enough Americans. And their concern was that he had been mistreated. They didn’t walk out of the room and say, this is a frightening example of how serious our enemies are. They walked out and worried that we weren’t dealing correctly with a man who wanted to slaughter us. And it just tells you the underlying psychological dilemma we have.
William Manchester in his biography of Churchill talks about “the men of Munich”–and in our era we would have to talk about the men and women of Munich– and he said that the elite in Great Britain had decided it wanted peace at any price. And they had gone to Munich and they had told Hitler basically, “You do not need to attack the Czechoslovakians because we will disarm them for you, and we will turn them over to you, because we know that if we satiate your need for Czechoslovakia, you’ll relax and we’ll live happily ever after.” And as Chamberlain said in October of 1938, “We have peace in our time.”
Well in spring of 1939, Hitler, who simply couldn’t contain himself, broke the agreement, occupied Prague, violated everything he had told Chamberlain face to face, at which point Churchill said, “We better have a Ministry of Munitions, because we are going to be in a war and we better start preparing.” The men of Munich, as Manchester described it, were so deeply committed to avoiding war that even after Hitler had clearly broken his word, committed another act of aggression, even when every major newspaper in the country was on Churchill’s side finally, even when the opposition party was on Churchill’s side, the people who had made the mistakes could not bring themselves to come to grips with it. So they said, “We’re not going to do it.” And the result is, for example, that Churchill was not brought into the government until two days after Hitler invades Poland in September, because they just can’t bring themselves to do it.
Now I tell you this story because we are in a similar cycle. It was announced yesterday that terrorists had used two children to disguise a car bomb, were waved through a checkpoint by American soldiers who could not imagine that children would be in a car bomb, and when the terrorists got to their target they walked out of the car, leaving the children behind, and blew up the car. Now, I want to make two points about this that I think we don’t know how to have this national conversation. The first is, there is a word for people who would put children in a car and then blow the car up: the word is evil. And we need to go back and pick up old-fashioned words. The testimony in Guantanamo about cutting off the reporter’s head was evil. The men who put children in the car and blew it up were evil. The couple who were going to use their 8-month old baby to disguise the bomb as baby food and take it on a plane who were arrested by Scotland Yard in August were evil. It’s very important to render this judgment, because we have to understand what we are fighting. This is as ferocious and as terrible a threat as the Nazis ever were, and if they win, we will learn this. But nobody in our society is prepared to be serious about it because we’re too busy playing political games, we’re too busy maneuvering against each other.
So where’s the congressional outrage? Where are the resolutions of condemnation? By the way, there is no place in the Koran that says you can kill innocent children. This is just evil. For me the revelation came, and where I believe that the Independent Women’s Forum has a huge role to play, is in driving home how real this is. My experience of it was doing a BBC broadcast about three years ago, being interviewed live– which was very important, because they couldn’t edit my response– and the young woman who was interviewing me, it was mid-summer and she was in a short-sleeved dress, and we were halfway through talking and she was clearly, in the BBC tradition, deeply anti-American. So she’s asking me these questions, and in mid-interview I stopped and I said, “Do you like your job?” and she said, “Yes, I love my job.” I said, “You better hope we win.” She said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, the Taliban would not let you on TV, not let you appear in public, not let you have a job, not allow you to vote, not allow you to go to school. Do you have some notion of what the stakes are here?” And you could just see that she was stunned; that wasn’t the script. She had never been told it was real, it was just this weird stuff Americans can do. And all the sudden it was an entirely different conversation.
I think the great opportunity you have is to challenge the left-wing organizations, which supposedly represent women’s rights, but in fact actually represent a leftwing machine which values hating George W. Bush vastly more than they value defending women. I think that there are specific examples, and we are going to give you some background material that Michelle said she will send out to all of you as an email, and we’ll post it at newt.org. But I think it’s important to remember some of these things.
I have a colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is a remarkable woman who ultimately, born in Somalia, spent time in Saudi Arabia, ended up as a Dutch citizen, ended up in the Dutch legislature, was under death threats from extremist elements, ultimately came to the United States in part because the Dutch government wouldn’t protect her. And her story is a perfect example for every woman in America to look at, because she tells in an intelligent and effective way exactly the kind of things she was faced with in Somalia. She left the country originally to avoid genital mutilation, which was common among young girls, the experiences she had in Saudi Arabia, where there was total domination of women, her mother could not go to the store unless accompanied by a male– the whole process. It’s useful to understand this is real, this is not made up somewhere, this is not a Hollywood script, this is not “24” run amuck, these are real things happening in the real world.
Second, I think you should challenge in San Francisco, in Boston and elsewhere, both among women?s groups on the Left and among faculty on campuses at Berkeley and Harvard, where are the marches for justice for Saudi Arabian women? Two weeks ago, a Saudi Arabian newspaper reported that a Saudi woman had been kidnapped at knifepoint and gang-raped. She was sentenced to 90 lashes for the crime of being in a car with a man she was not related to. You couldn’t imagine it, except that it’s true. The whole notion of repression, the fact, for example, that under sharia you have to have four men testify in a rape case. If you do not have four male witnesses, you are automatically guilty of having had sex inappropriately. And in fact, I think 70 percent of the women in jail in Pakistan are in jail for having had sex inappropriately. We do not understand the life of women in situations of absolute repression.
The whole issue of Afghanistan, where you all have done great work, and where the fact is– despite the current skirmishes with the Taliban, despite the occasional attack — women in Afghanistan are radically better off today. You could make an argument that by the single act of defeating the Taliban and liberating the women of Afghanistan, the United States did more to help women’s rights on the planet in the last five years than any other single thing. The Taliban had closed every school in the country for women, and in fact still target schools that have women in them. They do not want any girls educated. And immediately after the country was liberated, we began educating women. And yet, this story isn’t being explained, and the fight with the Taliban is almost never explained in part as a significant women’s rights issue; that if the Taliban wins and recaptures Afghanistan, it will immediately begin to repress women and drive them back into a world of absolute servitude, absolute ignorance, and absolute control. So this is a very powerful part of where we are.
There are also some issues that are not very much talked about by any group that I think are just horrifying. There’s a new movie out about Wilberforce and the end of slavery, but it’s misleading. Last year, 800 thousand people were sold into slavery across international borders. We didn’t end slavery, we changed it. Modern slavery is over 90 percent female, overwhelmingly for sexual exploitation, and literally 800 thousand human beings were carried over international borders for the purpose of being sold. And very little is done about it.
It has two effects. The first is, it is horrifying to be doing this to our fellow human beings, it’s horrifying to tolerate. And by the way, legalized prostitution in Holland is a major cause of the problem. Holland and the United States are major centers of slavery, and they’re almost all related to prostitution. And there is slavery in the literal sense: people are killed if they are not obedient. But there is a secondary threat, which is true of both human trafficking and true of drug trafficking, and that is if your border is open enough that illegal criminals can cross it carrying slaves, it is open enough that they can be paid to cross it carrying terrorists. And the need to have absolute control of the border, which would stop slavery, stop drug dealing, and protect us from terrorists, is a real national security issue and one that ought to be raised at that level.
I’m going to talk about two last areas that are domestic. Left-wing so-called women’s groups are actually fronts for a leftwing machine. The test case for this is Detroit. In the city of Detroit, one of the highest paid and maybe the highest paid school systems in the United States, 21 percent of entering freshmen graduate on time. Why don’t you think about that: four out of every five entering freshmen in Detroit are being cheated. Now this has horrifying human implications: if you’re an African-American male and you drop out of school, you face a 73 percent unemployment rate in your 20s and a 60 percent likelihood of going to jail. This is real human consequences, this isn’t just some abstract idea. And yet, where is any cry on the Left to save the children? Where is there any effort to say, the number one criteria for the Detroit schools should be children learn, and if they don’t learn we should change the schools? But the need to take care of the leftwing machine, the need to prop up the bureaucracy, the need to pay off the union is so great, that you can’t have the conversation.
I think a national debate that says we should put the children first and education money should follow the child and education money should follow achievement would be a debate in which probably 80 percent of the country would be in favor of doing whatever it takes to educate the children. And if our basic proposition is that we want children to go to college rather than jail, and we want children to have a career rather than a crime, then I suspect we can go into any neighborhood in America and have a conversation that starts a whole new way of thinking and that creates a whole new set of relationships.
Lastly, we need a very profound focus on women’s health, starting with prenatal care. It is irrational for this country to have an inadequate prenatal care program and then pay the cost in human suffering and the cost financially for premature babies. If you look at international health statistics, one of the major contributors to the United States not doing better is the number of particularly very young women who do not get adequate prenatal care, do not have any parenting skills. And as a result, you create lifetime challenges, which both show up in terms of special education needs but starts with neonatal care. One neonatal baby can cost over a million dollars. The amount of prenatal care you could do for a million dollars is astonishing.
And I think you play take on a leading role in taking on women’s health and looking at how we can fundamentally reshape the system. At the Center for Health Transformation, we have developed an entire new program on prevention and wellness and early detection. We believe if we take the right steps that we actually can provide insurance coverage for 300 million Americans in a personal system where there are 300 million payers, not in a national health system of single payers, and we can do so inside the current budget with the sheer waste in the way the current system operates. And I think you would be in a remarkable place to be able to go out and say, we would like to have better health for women, we would like to have better prevention, wellness, and early treatment for prenatal care, we would like to actually have people live longer with fewer problems, and we can do it for less money. I think that is literally possible in the next decade, and I believe you have the opportunity at the Independent Women’s Forum to actually help develop these ideas in a way that they enter the general politics. But it won’t happen by 30-second attack commercials; it will happen by meetings like this, by mornings like this, by developing newsletters, by developing arguments, by using talk radio where you can have a long form, and by having these things go out across the country.
Rodney Livingstone, SPNN.net television. How would things be different in the current state of affairs and this could be the short version with a Gingrich administration? Then the follow-up question would be, should all people believe what they see and hear if it’s not real-time, live, in that type of authenticity in the 21st century?
You ask two really very different questions. Let me start with the second one. I think we live in an age where computer-generated graphics are so amazing that you can’t necessarily believe it even if you see it and hear it real-time. Those of you who have TiVo know, it’s amazing, and if you go and you look at the way in which graphics are evolving– one of the reasons I’m hoping we can move towards a dialogue model is I think the country at its best has a national conversation. And people get on chat lines and they talk to each other and they email each other. How many of you ever email your friends something you run across that you think is really cool? There’s a whole national dialogue underway. And I think people gradually render judgment based on lots of information and lots of conversation. That’s why I think when you take these snapshot polls, they are very misleading, because people talk things through over time.
My favorite incident in the 2004 campaign was when CBS News discovered President Bush’s National Guard documents. And there was a hobbyist outside of Pittsburgh who was the world’s leading expert on font– which, I have to confess, even with all the nice things that Heather said about me about liking to learn arcane things, the idea of somebody who had spent their entire career memorizing every font and every typeface on the planet, this is a person who is leading a narrow-focus life. And this guy was actually a liberal Democrat who was for Kerry, but his commitment to font-ness was greater than his commitment to liberalism. And so he literally felt compelled to start emailing his friends and say, “These documents on CBS can’t be real because that font was not invented for six more years.” Now nobody at the Bush campaign would ever have known that; you could never have found this out. But then his friends began emailing other friends, so they began showing up in blogs, it then got picked up by talk radio, then got picked up by Fox News, and ten days later– and something that could never ever have happened before in history– a national television personality ended their career in a fight with a guy who is a font fanatic. I mean, think about this.
So I believe what you’re going to see is a whole new style of national dialogue that is going to be very, very different than anything we’ve ever seen before. All I can say about discussing a Gingrich administration, which I think is too narrowing, is it would be good for America to have an administration that was very open, very fact-oriented, and as minimally partisan as possible. And it’s sad, what we are faced with is so enormous that we need every American of every background helping solve it, so that people had to opt out in order to be partisan because there is a presumption that as Americans, they would like to help solve these things. I think that would actually change the whole tone of the country in a remarkably short time.
You talked a bit about the threat from Islamism being as ferocious as Nazis, and I think one of the reasons is that, for instance in the example you gave of the children being led through the checkpoint and then being used in the car bomb, is that they are able to use our love of life and our respect for the sanctity of life against us. So when you’re fighting sort of an asymmetric threat that’s not a conventional, against big army threat, and people who are glorifying death the way we celebrate life, how strategically do you face that challenge? How do you fight a different type of war differently than we’ve been doing it over the past five and a half years?
That’s a good question. Let me say first of all, that in terms of tactics, the fact that the Nazis had death camps and were systematically massacring people didn’t require us to adopt the same tactic. It did require us to decide decisively to completely defeat them. So in other words, they can’t draw you down to their level if you are prepared to insist on being who you are.
Second, I actually think strategically we’re doing better than people think. Gallup just did a whole series of polls, they’ve done a world poll for the first time in history, and they’re in 125 countries, and they’ve committed to doing it annually for the next 100 years. And Gallup has the resources and the scale to do this, and they actually know how to do polling in very, very unusual places. So they know to hire the right people randomly in the right village to go around and do interviews.
I just spent a good part of Monday at the Gallup Organization reviewing their data. In the Middle East, there has been a dramatic decline in respect for bin Laden and in respect for the terrorists. And again, this is why I think what you are doing here is so very, very important, that if you think about it, our natural ally against the Taliban are the women of Afghanistan. This notion that women have some great desire to be totally oppressed by men and lead narrow lives of total ignorance is absolutely out of control. It’s not just an Americanism that in fact, women have a deep concern about their own lives, their daughters lives, etcetera. But in addition, there is a maternal instinct which is true across the world. Women do not approve of killing children. And I think, to the degree that we’re prepared to say, people who have the following characteristics are evil, they should be totally ostracized from society, I think we need a new Geneva convention which sets a new set of rules. The way we defeated piracy and slavery in the 18th and 19th century is we made them outside the law. By 1820, if you were a slave-owner, a Royal Navy ship could hang you. Period. They just said, that’s it, we’re not going to tolerate it.
I think we have to decide that these people are so –and that’s why I’m using a very deliberately moral word, we have to render judgment that people prepared to engage in the killing of civilians and people prepared to do horrifying things are evil. They are not just people who need therapy, they are not just people whose trial lawyer ought to have an extra five weeks to prepare; these are evil people. Now I think convicting somebody of being that person has to have a process, but when they decide to show up on TV and tell you about it on videotape, I think we should take them at their word. We have got to change the rules. Remember also, the people who this week are using children to set off a car bomb say very publicly that the first chance they get to use a nuclear weapon and the first chance they get to use a biological weapon so that they can kill millions of Americans instead of one at a time, they’re going to do it.
We need to be honest about how serious this threat is, and that’s why I’ve said that one of the first things we should do is have Homeland Security run two nuclear and one biological exercise a year for real. And the first time you watch Seattle or Cincinnati or Boston and you understand, this is what it will mean if they pull this off, this is how bad the damage will be, this is how many people will die locally, people will have a much deeper sense of reality that this is serious. If they had used a small, North Korea sized nuclear weapon at the World Trade Center, the footprint in southern Manhattan would have been horrifying. People need to look at that and understand, this is all real.
Charles Kilmer, I live in the burbs of DC and watch the TV and work off the Internet. Probably the only media thing I’ve ever done was repost about 200 times that font story on Free Republic on Thursday night. The reason I want to address a question here that might be more appropriate to the media here, the short part of the question is, there are currently about 20 news stories out on the national press right now about how there is increasing crime in the U.S. cities. What they’re not saying is that a large part of that crime is the result of illegals. How do you get that information out? For example, currently there is information that about 16,657 murders were committed in the U.S. in 2005, and that 27 percent of the people in the federal penitentiaries right now are illegals. But you can?t get that information, exactly how many people were killed by illegals. Los Angeles, right now you could go to their website and see that all the people who are currently on their wanted for murder list are of Hispanic origin. Up until three weeks ago when the LA Times ran an article on crime in the big cities, they posted their countries of origin, their nationality, and they were all foreign and mostly Mexican. If you look at the wanted for murder list in Washington, D.C., all of them are Hispanic. If you look at the wanted for murder list in New York City, all of them are foreign nationals. In San Francisco, they are all foreign nationals. The reason this is profoundly shocking is because everybody has this picture in their mind that they are all black, inner city American gangsters, but this is not what it is. Something radical has happened and it is not being communicated to the American public. Part of the reason is because there is not any good data right now; nobody from the press is going to LexisNexis and going through and doing a count and nobody is going to the government under the Freedom of Information Act and saying, exactly how many Americans are being killed by illegals? So there are two different approaches and neither of them are being done right now. My question is, how do you get that done?
First of all, I think you raise a very interesting point. I did a special two years ago for Fox News on MS13, which is the El Salvadorian gang, which is an international gang, which is in over 30 American cities. It is a very sobering pattern, because in fact foreign nationals are much more likely to be routinely violent–I’m not talking about the average worker who comes here to work construction– but the people who are in these gangs are in fact dramatically violent and very aggressive about using their violence. And in Los Angeles, there are very severe ethnic wars underway that are a significant problem.
First of all, you as a citizen could file under the Freedom of Information Act and start the process. You could also set up a website, and don’t underestimate the potential to grow that out. I mean, we live in an age of personally invented media. In addition, you ought to contact three or four members of Congress. It struck me, just listening to you, I could imagine three or four amendments that would be very interesting; one requiring the posting of whether or not the person being pursued was a citizen. I think it is useful for the country to learn to what degree is illegal immigration a substantial factor in homicides in the U.S. That’s a legitimate question. Now on the Left they will promptly jump up and down and scream, but I think that’s a good debate for us. I think for the Left to say, “No, no, you should never indicate whether a person is here illegally is a dead loser in the country at large. I think it would be a very useful conversation. So I encourage you to contact people in the Congress and I encourage you to consider creating your own website.
I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what you see as the likelihood of the Iranian nuclear threat coming sooner rather than later, what you see us doing about it, and how our presence in Iraq may affect those decisions.
Let me say first of all, there is no reason to believe that we have any idea how close the Iranians are to a nuclear weapon. We were consistently wrong about Saddam’s program up to 1992, we were very surprised when we got the information after the Gulf War of 1991; we were very surprised how close he was to getting nuclear weapons. He was much closer, at least five years closer, than the CIA thought. We were very surprised in 1995 to learn by accident that he had a biological weapons program, which we clearly didn’t know he had.
Iran announced about a year ago that they had been lying to the International Atomic Energy Agency for the last 18 years. This is a good example of what Manchester meant in his description of “the men of Munich.” Nothing North Korea or Iran can do is bad enough for the American State Department to take them seriously. So if they announce, “We’ve been lying for the last 18 years,” they say, “Yes, but isn’t it terrific that they’ve admitted it,” as opposed to, “Gosh, I wonder if they’re still lying.” I mean, what would lead you to believe that somebody who lied for 18 years had suddenly decided not to lie?
So I am very concerned. This is part of why I concluded we had to start having Homeland Security exercises. Because if you watched us with North Korea last year, it was a Chamberlain-like performance of absolute appeasement. We announced in June to the North Koreans that it was “unacceptable” for the North Koreans to fire missiles. The North Koreans chose the Fourth of July to fire seven missiles in one day. Now I don’t think it was a random action, I think it was a deliberate insult. And by the way, we accepted it. The North Koreans announced in the fall that they were going to have a nuclear test, we said it would be “unacceptable” to have a nuclear test. They didn’t set off a nuclear weapon, nobody that I know doubts that they set off a nuclear weapon, which is fairly frightening because it means that North Koreans have a working nuclear weapon. Now what is the chance that they will sell it to terrorists? What is the chance that they will sell it to Iran? What’s the chance, by the way, that they’ve already sold it to Iran.
I used to tell the intelligence community– and this goes all the way back to the Rumsfeld Commission in 1997, 1998, which I helped create and helped get Rumsfeld appointed to chair– and they came back and they said, “Nobody at the CIA believes there’s a world market.” So if you say to them, “How soon can a country develop a weapon?” they never say, “Could they buy it?” So I have said, from the day the North Koreans set off a nuclear weapon, I said the minimum length of time for the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon is the flight time from North Korea to Iran. So if you don’t have that as part of your calculation, then one Thursday morning you’re going to find out there are seven nuclear weapons from North Korea sitting in Iran, and the North Koreans are going to say, “We don’t own them anymore, why are you picking on us?” And then what are you going to do?
I just think the administration now is so defensive and has been so morally defeated by the Left that it’s trying to appease its opponents at home and it’s trying to appease its enemies abroad. So my working assumption is that we are going to have a very serious security problem and that Israel is going to face a nightmare. I know of no reason to believe that the Iranians won?t eventually use these weapons, because in fact they have a religious background which makes martyrdom a legitimate future. So they might well be prepared to swap Tehran for Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And I think we have to confront that. They might well decide to swap Tehran for Washington or New York.
They tested firing a scud missile off of a boat in the Caspian Sea in 1999, so it is not inconceivable that one morning they will just announce that 40 miles off the American coast they have three missiles with nuclear weapons. You don’t have to be stupid, you don’t have to say, “it would be cheating for me to use anything less than an ICBM.” So why would you believe, in a world of car bombs, that these people won’t try to find clever ways to do this? Which again is why we need to have absolute control of the border, because if they can bring it across in a truck, it’s going to happen someday.
Robin Reed. The political landscape here, I’m not certain how we can get there, where we need to be, when we realize that 27 million women decided this last election, and 30 million women will decide the next election– 30 million single women, older voters primarily. And they’re not concerned about security as much as they are control; control of the situation, control of their lives, and peace — not necessarily world peace, but peace of mind. How are we able politically in this country to be able to have the right leadership when the NASCAR dads of yesteryear and the soccer moms of yesteryear are single women, older voters?
I think every generation historically has to find a way to communicate with people– leadership has to find a way to communicate with people on their terms about their lives in a way they find understandable. And I think that’s historically always been true. It was true for Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan. And I think we have to have a set of messages, we have to have a set of solutions. We have a project called “American Solutions,” which is developing an entire generation of solutions designed to meet the scale of the challenge that I described at the very beginning. We will have workshops on the Internet on September 27th, which is the anniversary of the contract of America, and will repeat it on the 29th, which is a Saturday. One of the key aspects of this will be to understand how to take a solution and communicate it to every segment of society. So if you are a relatively well-off 65-year old living in the suburb, it has to be understandable in your terms, but if you are a 25-year old living in Los Angeles, it has to be understandable in your terms.
Politics is interestingly complex in part because it unifies everybody. You can make a terrific living in the commercial world off of a niche; Tiffany’s has a relatively small market share, but it’s fine. Politics does require you to find a way to communicate to a very broad range. I have never believed in narrowing down your appeal; everything I have done in my career has been focused on the idea that you want to appeal to 60, 70, or 80 percent of the country.
I’ll give you three examples of this conversation that I think you can have. Ninety-one percent of the American people believe you should have the right to say “one nation under God” as part of the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, 91 percent means that even on the Harvard and Berkeley campus, you probably have a slight majority. There’s almost no place in the country where you would not have a majority. So you can have a conversation on that topic, and every group you described would be nodding yes. Eighty-four or 85 percent of the country– two polls, Zogby was 84, Rasmussen was 85 — but about 85 percent of the country believes that English ought to be the language of government, that that’s what unifies America. Well at 84 or 85 percent, you tell me the group you want me to appeal to– by the way, a majority of first-generation immigrants believe their children should learn English because they wanted their children not to be trapped in a ghetto; they want their children to be able to own the company, not work for the company, and they understand that English is the language of prosperity. So that would be an example. Third, on healthcare, 93 percent of the country– remember, I said 91 percent said you ought to say “one nation under God”– believes you ought to have the right to know price and quality before you make a decision in healthcare.
So I think you can have conversations, but they’re not the narrow, partisan, political conversations we’ve been having. They’ve got to be on values, they’ve got to be on solutions, they’ve got to be about people’s lives. If you talk about people and history so somebody can say, “I understand how this relates to me and I understand how this relates to my country,” the politics will take care of itself. If you focus narrowly on politics, I think you actually alienate people and they don’t want to pay attention.
How important do you think that the pro-life issues of abortion, embryo-destructive stem cell research and others, how important do you think those are in the national debate? Do you think they’re too divisive, as you just mentioned in the last question, and then, what are your views?
Well, I think they are very important, because they start with the fundamental question of how do you define life, what is it you’re protecting? So that if you take the case a couple of years ago, of the mother who was killed and the baby who was killed, because she was expecting, I think she was at 8 months or 9 months, was killing an 8-month old baby homicide or not? That’s a fairly important question. This is not a trivial, ideological, Right versus Left question; it’s a core question of defining America. What do we mean we’re protecting? So I do think these are serious issues.
The highest value to America for ethical and scientific purposes is to find a way to stem cell research that does not use either the products of an abortion or the products of an embryo, because if you can find a way to get stem cells that doesn’t destroy an embryo, and doesn’t require an abortion, you can then have all the scientific research you want without any of the ethical concerns. In addition, if we can find a way to use your stem cells, so that you in effect become your own resource for your own health, so we have no problem of your body rejecting you, you radically increase the likelihood it will be successful.
So I think we should take the position that we are for the correct kind of research, because the Left desperately wants to make us look like we’re anti-science and we’re anti-knowledge. But I think we should also pose the question, we should challenge the Left. Again, the fight that made a huge difference when I was Speaker in the ’90s was the whole issue of partial-birth abortion, because the more Americans learned about it, the less they were for it. I think that if I were offering advice for the campaign next year, whoever the nominee is, I would say, you can plant a stake in the ground on that and watch your opponent, who will be trapped by leftwing ideologues, be totally unable to deal with an issue where the very substantial majority of the country has now reached the conclusion that it is utterly incorrect and wrong. And I think that’s the sort of position you ought to take, you ought to work your way through it. But I don’t think you should ever run from these things.
Can you talk about what kind of relationship you would like the U.S. to have with China going forward? There’s been a lot of controversy about their political and economic motivations.
That’s actually a very good question, and it’s a very good question to end on because it describes the world of the future. As part of this Gallup poll, I saw the most amazing number. Among urban Chinese, 97 percent have color television. That was just stunning. Now, 25 years ago, it would have been inconceivable, and yet what you’re seeing– any of you who have visited China in the last 10 years know– what you’re seeing is this extraordinarily industrious, extraordinarily exciting period. So let me say a couple of things, some of which might be slightly controversial.
First, Chinese and Indians are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If a billion, 300 million Chinese want to roll up their sleeves, work their tails off, try to have a better future, give their kids greater prosperity, fine. What is it we’re supposed to be frightened of? I watch Dobbs occasionally on television, I don’t do it often because I can’t take the pain level, but I watch him on TV and it’s this unending pessimism. I don’t know what country he lives in. This is the most successful, dynamic, creative, entrepreneurial society in human history. We have things we have to fix, so let’s fix them. But if we fix our litigation and regulation and taxation and education and health and energy, we can compete with the Chinese for 100 years. Their entire economy is about the amount of money we spend on healthcare, just to put in scale the systems. We are much, much, much bigger.
Second, as they get bigger, as they get wealthier, they’re going to have a stronger military. This should not be a shock to any of us. Remember, the last time an American plane was hit by a Chinese plane, our plane was off their coast. Because we assert the right to wander around the whole planet, so we get offended if we are within 20 miles of you and you annoy us. We ought to have a certain perspective. I am totally in favor of watching the Chinese, I am totally in favor of us knowing what’s going on, I’m totally in favor of the Pacific fleet being capable of projecting power, but then I don’t get panic-stricken because the Chinese look up and go, “The Pacific begins at our shore and is an American lake?” There has to be some sense of realism here, that they are a great people, they have a proud history.
When I was over a few years back when I was Speaker, we had just had the Jerusalem 3000 ceremony in the Capitol, and I started my conversation with the president of China by saying, “It’s wonderful to have two ancient civilizations together.” And that we represent 3000 years of tradition, you represent 3 to 5000 years of tradition, and I said, “It’s true that our government is much older than yours, but you’re learning a lot. And I realize that we’re sort of inscrutable to you.” And he was an intellectual– he was actually an American studies student– and it was a very interesting dialogue, because all of the sudden it was totally different from whatever they were expecting, and we could converse on it.
So here are my key points. All the challenges of competing with China economically and scientifically are inside the U.S. We need to fix our schools, not be irritated because they actually educate their children. We need to encourage more scientists and fewer lawyers, not be irritated because they graduate more engineers. So we need to get our act together.
Two. We should be determined to be the largest economy and the most powerful nation for at least three more generations to ensure that the Chinese have the time to evolve away from dictatorship to democracy, because I feel much safer with a democratic America being powerful than with a dictatorial China.
Three. We should do everything we can to have good relations with the Chinese people– not necessarily with the Chinese government, but with the Chinese people. Because if the American and Chinese people decide to pursue happiness together, we have changed the history of the entire human race and we have begun to create a late 21st century in which we will just gradually crowd out all the dictatorships and have a dramatically better world.
But China is in many ways a success story. They’ve got huge challenges, people should not underestimate how hard this is going to be.