July, 23rd 2007

Breakfast with Newt

– Liz Mair

This morning, I had breakfast, together with a bunch of other conservative press types, with Newt Gingrich.

Newt talked a lot about Republican prospects in 2008, and how we've ended up in a situation where we have a deficit of ideas (something with which I wholeheartedly agree).

More interestingly, to me, though were his comments on the presidential race, some of which were alluded to in the mainstream media today, his comments on the President's handling of Iraq, and (to me, anyway) his interchange with one attendee on the subject of the Endangered Species Act.

Newt was at his usual punchy, somewhat grouchy and combative self when it came to the presidential race. He quipped "I'm perfectly happy to do what I do. Whether that leads to the presidency is the country's problem, not mine," and compared the other GOP contenders to pygmies saying in response to a question about him entering the field, "This is like going to De Gaulle when he was at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises during the Fourth Republic and saying, 'Don't you want to rush in and join the pygmies?'"

Nice. But pretty much what one banks on getting from Newt, and not a sentiment with which I entirely disagree.

Newt also commented that the President needs to shut up about Iraq. I wholeheartedly agree. The President's voice on the subject of Iraq is now utterly toxic. Newt's suggestion that Petraeus and the Congress needing to sit down and sort out what they're going to do about Iraq, and the President should basically shut up seems exactly right to me-- even though several people who attended this morning treated this as a rather controversial statement.

The other thing that I was struck by this morning? One attendee beat up on Newt a little for "refusing" to support a major overhaul of the Endangered Species Act. Newt got testy on this point, commenting that he loves animals, and making clear that he won't apologize for that, and he thinks protecting endangered species is important-- hence why he backed a compromise on the issue, as opposed to the more radical approach taken by certain other conservative Republicans. He also bashed on Al Gore for advertising An Inconvenient Truth using posters depicting penguins trying to march over sand dunes, which he made clear he thought was cruel and unacceptable.

I'm inclined to agree. And I think it's interesting that the guy who is becoming the biggest voice advocating green conservatism raised a point about Al Gore having at least appeared to engage in animal cruelty in order to sell movie tickets. Should Newt enter the race (and let me make clear that after this morning, I don't think he will), expect him to take no crap from Democrats when it comes to the issue of environmental protection.


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