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Gingrich shares his Republican vision

July 03, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

FREDERICK, Md. - He may no longer occupy the powerful seat of Speaker of the House, but former Speaker Newt Gingrich remains a player in Congressional politics.

Appearing in Frederick to help raise money for GOP candidates for the Maryland House - and to sell his latest book - Gingrich spelled out areas where he believes the country needs to change, and what state legislators can do to improve Maryland.

While his remarks clearly were tailored to the Republican point of view, Gingrich said he didn't believe anyone could predict what the majority party would be in future years.

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"The country is in a serious conversation with itself" about its politics, he said.

That said, Gingrich said the country needs "substantial change" in several areas to survive, arguments that are the basis of his new book, "Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America."

The first, he said, is national security.

"If we don't make the country secure, nothing else matters," Gingrich said.

The country faces "formidable challenges" from what he called "the irreconcilable wing of Islam," which he said represents no more than 4 to 5 percent of Islam, but still translates into "a lot of people."

He said the Bush administration errs in its use of the term "insurgents" for militants in Iraq.

"They are murderers, rapists, torturers and terrorists," Gingrich said, and are trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. The evidence, he said, can be found on their own Web sites.

Gingrich added that the country's borders are not secure enough, noting that CIA Director Porter Goss recently expressed concern that nuclear weapons could be driven across the border.

A second area, he said, is defining the nature of America. He argued that despite separation of church and state, the United States was not founded as a secular nation - and that even Thomas Jefferson, who coined the "wall of separation" in a letter to Connecticut Baptists, had attended church services in the House chambers.

He encouraged the legislators to introduce a bill requiring the Declaration of Independence to be taught in Maryland schools, focusing on what the founding fathers meant by their use of the word "creator."

"The United States is the only country that I know of that says power comes from God," Gingrich said.

He also slammed the Supreme Court for decisions such as its recent ruling that local governments may take over private properties for commercial purposes.

"Congress should pass a series of laws limiting the court," he said.

The government also should curb illegal immigration, Gingrich said.

"I'm very pro-legal immigration; I'm very opposed to the current system of stunning tolerance of illegal immigration," he said.

Gingrich said the country needs to take steps to better compete with China and India.

"We have too many lawyers and too few scientists and engineers," he said, drawing applause from a number of doctors in the audience who blame trial lawyers for the failure of the General Assembly to pass sweeping reforms of the state's medical malpractice laws.

Almost as an aside, Gingrich told them that "trial lawyers have become predatory," and that not only should caps be placed on malpractice awards, but special health courts should be created to handle malpractice cases, and caps should be put on the amount attorneys could collect in malpractice suits. Several of those ideas were proposed and defeated in the last General Assembly session, though moderate reductions were placed on malpractice awards.

Gingrich also said the state should pay students in the poorest communities to study science and math.

Gingrich noted that Maryland faces "a very important Senate race and a very important governor's race" next year.

"Your lieutenant governor has a very real chance" to win the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., Gingrich said, alluding to speculation that Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will seek that seat. Steele has formed a committee to look at the race, but hasn't formally announced his intention to run.

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