Gingrich preaches dialogue, blasts guerilla ads

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) blasted a new ad that exploded in the blogosphere this week, calling it the “‘Entertainment Tonight’ version of governing a great country.”

The ad, which plays off an Apple Computer commercial and portrays Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in a negative light, may have been posted originally by an anonymous supporter of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). It has created the biggest buzz of any ads of the early election season thus far.

While Gingrich, speaking to the Independent Women’s Forum at the National Press Club, described the ad as “clever,” he also said it was harmful to a national dialogue and an impediment to problem-solving.

“It is utterly, totally destructive of the process of thought,” Gingrich said.

The former Speaker went on to challenge whomever becomes a presidential nominee to engage in weekly 90-minute discussions with his or her counterparts from other parties, beginning Labor Day of 2008 and continuing through Election Day.
Gingrich continues to poll well nationally, and many conservatives, unhappy with the top tier of Republican presidential candidates, are hoping he will enter the race.

Gingrich said after the meeting at the press club that he won’t consider a run until after Sept. 30, but in response to an audience question, he did say a Gingrich administration would be “very open, very fact-oriented” and with as little partisanship as possible.

But when asked later if the events of his tenure as Speaker of the House, including the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, had contributed to what he described as a bitter political atmosphere, Gingrich blamed Democrats for the rancor that existed both then and now.

“I think the Democrats never got over the fact that we won [in 1994],” he said.

In beginning his remarks, the former Speaker lambasted the use of campaign consultants and focus group-tested campaign models, and said afterward he would not run such a campaign.

He stopped short of saying he would not employ consultants in the event that he runs, adding that they serve a purpose in modern presidential campaigns.

“It’s a question of who drives the system and who defines the system,” he said.

In expansive remarks to the group, Gingrich touched on issues ranging from the evil of terrorists to the need for expanded prenatal care.

When asked about religious conservatives in the second tier of the presidential field, Gingrich said it takes time to build national name-recognition. He added that an anti-conservative media, coupled with an early presidential season, have kept candidates such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) in the second tier.

When asked if a decision by former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) to get into the race would affect Gingrich’s, the former Speaker said no; he respected and remained friends with Thompson but it would have no bearing on his decision.