Q & A: Newt Gingrich
As the Republican Party searches for a future leader, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich pops up on the short lists.
Gingrich has kept fairly quiet about his recent conversion to Catholicism, but today he spoke to Christianity Today about his faith, the future leaders and constituencies of the Republican Party, and where the fights on same-sex marriage and abortion currently stand.
As the Republican Party tries to redefine itself before the next presidential election, where will evangelicals fit? Are they seen as a prominent part of the party or just one constituency?
I think they are a very significant constituency of the party, and I think the kind of issues that an Obama administration is likely to create, and the kind of things we're seeing in places like Connecticut, where two legislators introduced legislation that would in effect abolish the Catholic Church, the attack on the conscience clause that permits Catholics and evangelicals and Orthodox Jewish doctors to not perform abortions ... on a number of fronts, I think you're likely to see a number of groups beyond just evangelicals who are very, very likely to play an important role.
Can you give a political assessment of where we are headed on abortion and same-sex marriage?
I think on traditional marriage, it's likely to be a long, complex struggle with the courts making it, I think, worse, because they are intervening without regard to popular opinion. On the case of right-to-life, I think the cause of the right-to-life community is gaining ground, because I think as people look at more and more advanced technology, all of the underlying assumptions that were at the heart of Roe v. Wade simply fall apart. Roe v. Wade is based on viability of life, and life, of course, is now viable at a very, very early age. Once you start getting into questions of Is it a baby or not?, people get much shakier about their belief that you ought to have the right to abort a baby than they were 30 years ago.
Who do you see as the emerging leaders in the Republican Party: Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin?
Bobby Jindal is certainly brilliant and has a great future. Tim Pawlenty has a great future. There are a lot of people who are terrific. The fact is, I think that you can look at [governer of South Carolina] Mark Sanford, Paul Ryan in the House, [California congressman] Kevin McCarthy, or Eric Cantor [in the House]. I just think we're likely to have a dramatic resurgence. We have two great candidates in Ohio, John Kasich for governor and Rob Portman for the Senate, who are likely to be very, very effective.
Do you see any women emerging in the GOP leadership?
I would start, frankly, with Linda Lingle in Hawaii, who was a terrific governor who got re-elected in very difficult circumstances. You have Kay Bailey Hutchinson running for the governorship of Texas. If she wins that, she will automatically be a national figure because she'll be the governor of the second largest state.
You didn't mention Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin has an obvious role if she wants it. The question for her has to be, are she and her family willing to go through another couple of years of the kind of media coverage that they currently get? Is she willing to do the kind of development of national issues and development of a national profile that would be required? She is a celebrity in her own right. She is probably the most successful figure in the party right now, and she's a formidable figure. I think to go from there to becoming a national leader would take a significant amount of work.