It's in vogue these days to claim that Newt Gingrich is not a real conservative.
When Newt Gingrich emerged as a front-runner in recent weeks, a withering chorus of criticism came from frequently reliable conservatives and some not-so conservatives, such as former elder Bush administration official John Sununu.
I've known Newt for a long time. In my book, he's always been a conservative.
Sure, I've had disagreements with him. But we agree on most core issues.
And, unlike many other candidates, Newt has a long track record of walking the walk.
In many ways, Gingrich deserves credit for helping to restore American conservatism in the 20th century.
During the Reagan era, he co-founded the Conservative Opportunity Society (CoS) with Jack Kemp, Bob Walker, Vin Weber, Connie Mack, and Duncan Hunter — the Reagan Revolution’s franchise players in the House of Representatives.
By 1984, CoS members were creating the most intense battle of ideas among conservatives since vocal anti-slavery activists created the Republican Party in 1854.
“The Amigos,” as they called themselves, were undeniably conservative — and yet some in GOP ranks criticized them.
The young Turks in the CoS were inspired and borrowed liberally from the conservatism of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. They devoured the economics of Jude Wanniski and Arthur Laffer and, as the first supply-siders, they were focused on high-growth policies.
Gingrich was heavily invested in the 1981 Kemp-Roth tax cuts. Those cuts, which President Reagan signed into law, laid the groundwork for the greatest economic boom in the nation's history.
Later, as speaker of the House, Gingrich persuaded President Bill Clinton to sign the most sweeping welfare reform law, abolishing the program as it had been known.
Through his 1994 "Contract with America," Gingrich confronted the go-along-get-along politics of Washington. He coerced the Clinton administration to restrain spending and slash taxes. By the end of the ’90s, the economy was booming and federal coffers were surging. The nation witnessed actual budget surpluses.
After he left government, the former speaker’s conservative leadership continued. He campaigned to end the crippling moratorium on offshore drilling at his American Solutions think tank. There, he also testified against cap and trade and opposed the Kennedy-Bush illegal immigrant amnesty plan, even running a commercial against the measure.
At his Center for Health Transformation, he developed a solid, clear, concise, and conservative argument against Obamacare.
Today, the former speaker talks of balancing the budget by controlling spending, growing the economy, and implementing money-saving reforms.
Gingrich is a true believer in a core principle of conservatism: He believes that the private sector is superior to the public sector when it comes to getting the job done.
Gingrich’s campaign tax plan also comes from the right: He has pledged to eliminate the capital gains tax.
He also will reduce the corporate income tax to 12.5 percent and end the death tax.
He also has promised to cancel 2013 hikes set to take place when the Bush tax cuts expire, and offer Americans a 15 percent flat-tax option.
The speaker also proposes a national energy system, with America’s “long war” in the Middle East as a driving factor. He’ll move immediately for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that will transport 700,000 barrels of American oil a day to Gulf Coast refineries to lower energy prices and create 100,000 American jobs.
In fact, his campaign’s “21st Century Contract with America” contains a growing list of executive orders for “Day One” that would radically alter the course of our post-Obama nation — and every single one is Reaganesque.
America loves a second act, and Newt Gingrich may be on the cusp of his own comeback.
Two things are clear: Newt Gingrich is undeniably a conservative. And for those go-along-and-get-along types in Washington, 2012 is starting to feel a lot like 1994.
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