Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) might not have the role he initially wanted at the Republican National Convention — that of nominee — but he’s nonetheless using his time wisely. With the help of the RNC, he’s launching Newt U, an apparently ongoing effort in partnership with the Washington Post Company’s for-profit education arm, Kaplan. At the end of the second session of Newt U on August 28, 2012, he explained more about the thinking behind the his and Kaplan’s efforts.
“There are three key intellectual arguments that we have to get much better at making, and this is part of the reason that we are creating the whole concept of a Newt University and developing our site at newtuniversity.com, because we think these kind of arguments our own activists, our own volunteers, and next generation need, because the schools are so far to the left we have to create online capability to sort of counter the false information, the false ideologies,” he told the crowd.
Among the “false information” and “false ideologies” Newt U intends to arm its students to counter is the supposed idea that public service is noble and the personal acquisition of money is not.
“We need to reassert,” he said, “the nobility of creating jobs and wealth.” Though it was Gingrich whose supporters, during the primary campaign, released a long-form ad attacking current nominee Mitt Romney’s (R-MA) method of wealth creation later defended by Gingrich, he told today’s crowd: “If you listen to people like Obama, there’s this contempt that sort of says you know, ‘If you go into public service and you end up as a good bureaucrat, that’s really noble,’ but if you’re to take the same skill level and go out here and just create wealth, it’s ‘That’s really not noble, that’s somehow beneath us.’”
Gingrich began his post-collegiate as a college professor in Georgia, after working on Nelson Rockefeller’s 1968 campaign, and first ran for office in 1974. He won his Congressional seat in 1978, holding it until he resigned in 1998. It was only after that resignation that Gingrich worked in the private sector or, reportedly, amassed his own wealth.
Gingrich illustrated his point about the nobility and necessity of “wealth creation” by citing international examples, though he failed to mention the negative impacts of racism and colonization by Western powers. “We need to go back and remind people, if you really want sub-Saharan Africa to become successful, if you really want Haiti to become successful, if you really want the poorest communities to directly become successful, it would be helpful if they had a habit of creating jobs and creating wealth,” he said. “That happens to be the entrepreneurial mind.” In an apparently reference to international aid organizations and USAID, he added, “So all these do-good bureaucrats who would like to provide help, provide help in such a way that undermines the spirit of create jobs and therefore it doesn’t happen.”
In addition, Gingrich said one of the roles of Newt U would be to help redefine the meaning of “public,” and he used Habitat for Humanity and charter schools as examples. “Public does not mean bureaucratic. You can have many public activities in which we voluntarily come together,” he said. “I worked for years with Habitat for Humanity, and Habitat for Humanity was the community coming together to provide funding to work with the people who would put sweat equity into the build a house. It was a process of mutual help. It was not government.”
He used charter and private schools as an example of how conservatives could reclaim the word “public” from liberals. “If I’m for schools that accept young people with public money that comes from the public, those are public schools. And so I would argue that there’s a difference between bureaucratic schools and public schools,” he said.
The point was, of course, that civic-minded volunteers can replace government services in many instances. “And we shouldn’t have ourselves in a position where we have given up the word public, and we need to take that word back and point out that for most of American history, public has meant voluntary civil society, it has not meant bureaucracy,” Gingrich said. “And it’s meant people voluntarily donating: it hasn’t meant the government coercing it through taxation.”
Finally, Gingrich told his audience that they needed to win the argument that God is the basis of the United States. “This country makes no sense, ceases to be America, if we give up the provision in the Declaration of Independence that says we are endowed by our creator,” he asserted. “We’re not endowed by Barack Obama, we’re not endowed by the Supreme Court, we’re not endowed by the Department of Health and Human Services,” he added, in an apparent reference to the Affordable Care Act. “I think it’s almost impossible to state how central this fight is to defining America’s future,” he concluded.
Megan Carpentier is the executive editor of Raw Story. She previously served as an associate editor at Talking Points Memo; the editor of news and politics at Air America; an editor at Jezebel.com; and an associate editor at Wonkette. Her published works include pieces for the Washington Post, the Washington Independent, Ms Magazine, RH Reality Check, the Women's Media Center, On the Issues, the New York Press, Bitch and Women's eNews.
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