Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich candidate profile


Reason has profiled the major Republican presidential hopefuls and devised a scientific* survey to help readers find true love among the 10 top contenders (Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Gary Johnson, Sarah Palin, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul). 

Click here to take an eight-question quiz and find the candidate of your dreams.

* We're using "scientific" in the Republican sense of the word. So we really mean "made up."

Name: Newt Gingrich (b. Newton Leroy Gingrich)

DOB: June 17, 1943 (shares a birthday with King Edward I, M.C. Escher, Barry Manilow)

Aliases: the Professor, the Architect, Mr. Speaker

Experience: Represented Georgia's 6th Congressional District from 1979 to 1999. Served as minority whip in 1989, Time's "Man of the Year" in 1995, and speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. Engineered the Contract With America and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. After Republicans lost five seats in the 1998 midterm elections, Gingrich resigned his speakership and his seat, telling several colleagues during a conference call, "I'm willing to lead, but I'm not willing to preside over people who are cannibals."  

Hangups: fidelity, the 24-hour media cycle, fund raising, shiny things

Spending/size of government/entitlement reform: Wants the government to spend less and do less but doesn't want to alienate the people it spends money on and does stuff for. (See: corn farmers, above; Paul Ryan's Medicare plan). Criticizing the Ryan plan, Gingrich said, "I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options," but that the Ryan plan was "too big a jump." Opposes Obamacare but in 2005 joined Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in "appearing to endorse proposals to require all individuals to have some form of health coverage." In a 2010 interview with The Financial Times, stressed the importance of maintaining defense spending.

Economic Policy: Said in August 2011 that "bureaucratic socialism" is hamstringing American companies. Suggested as a remedy that "Congress should come back in and start by passing the repeal of the Dodd-Frank bill on day one, move to repeal Sarbanes-Oxley on day two. Go through as many federal regulations as they can and repeal them in order to let state governments, local governments, businesses focus on doing their jobs." Speaking in Ames, Iowa, he "urged the use of business management strategies that could improve government efficiency," such as "corporate fraud [detection] programs."

Foreign policy: Believes "we are at war with radical Islamists—and it is a war we are losing," a view he elaborated on in the movie America at Risk. Said of the Iraq War in 2005, "Do you really think America would be better off if we cut and run, if we showed to the world that we were afraid and we had no courage?" Said of the Iraq War in 2006, "It was an enormous mistake for us to try to occupy that country after June of 2003." He revised his position days later during a Fox News appearance, claiming, "I am not for any precipitous withdrawal from Iraq." Gingrich is equally ambivalent about Afghanistan. In 2009, when President Obama sent an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to the country, Gingrich said, "I think he knew when he did it he was going to split his own party, and I think that took considerable courage on his part." In 2010 he said the war in Afghanistan "is not going to end well." During the first New Hampshire GOP debate this year, Gingrich said, "I think that we should say to the generals we would like to figure out how to get out as rapid as possible with the safety of the troops involved." Two weeks later, he  said, "None of the generals recommended the speed of the drawdown the president wants. We are beginning to lose in the region." Supported trying terrorists in civilian courts before he opposed it; supported the Libyan adventure before he opposed it.

Drug war: Argued in 1995 that the U.S. should institute the death penalty for drug traffickers, saying, "You import commercial quantities of drugs in the United States for the purpose of destroying our children, we will kill you." (Congress passed similar laws in 1988 and 1994; Gingrich had already voted in favor it.) That same year, he advocated a national referendum on drug legalization, harsher penalties for possession, and more mandatory minimum sentences. During a 2009 appearance on The O'Reilly Factor he said the U.S. should adopt a Singapore-style approach to drugs, with harsh penalties for sellers and mandatory rehab for anyone arrested for possession: "I would try to use rehabilitation, I'd make it mandatory. And I think we have every right as a country to demand of our citizens that they quit doing illegal things which are funding, both in Afghanistan and in Mexico and in Colombia, people who are destroying civilization." Smoked pot a few times in the '60s.

Personal freedom: Opposes gay marriage; said in 2011 that recent political victories for LGBT community show America is "drifting toward a terrible muddle which I think is going to be very, very difficult and painful to work our way out of." In a single 2006 speech, he scolded John McCain for abridging the First Amendment with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and said the War on Terror requires the U.S. to "adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the Internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people." In 2010 Gingrich "accidentally" named a porn producer "Entrepreneur of the Year" through his PAC, American Solutions for Winning the Future.

Immigration: In 2006 Gingrich authored a white paper for the American Enterprise Institute that suggested "an intelligent center-Right coalition would be for both security and immigration, for accuracy in identity (including a voter card with id and a biometric worker visa card) and patriotic integration of those who want to become American." In 2010 he suggested an "overhaul of the country's immigration system so that every worker in the United States is legal"; this suggestion was "not a call for amnesty." During the first 2011 Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, he said, "No serious citizen who's concerned about solving this problem should get trapped into a yes/no answer in which you're either for totally selling out protecting America or you're for totally kicking out 20 million people in a heartless way."

Education: Gingrich joined Obama's "Race to the Top" in 2009, calling Education Secretary Arne Duncan "a serious innovator." He said "where Obama doesn't get it" is that more needs to be done. "It can't even just be the Congress," he said. "It's got to be school boards, city council, state legislature, county commission, governorships." Said that Duncan and Obama were "respectful" of teachers unions and "more willing to work inside the system than I would be." Said in June 2011 that one of his first acts as president would be to introduce a the "10th Amendment Enforcement Act," which would "return most of the power of the Department of Education back to the states, the local communities, and citizens."

Energy: Gingrich likes ethanol subsidies and has accused "big cities" and "big urban newspapers" of trying to hurt the farmers who benefit from them. Also likes fossil fuel subsidies and said in 2010 that "a low-cost energy regime is essential to our country." Supported cap and trade in 2007, bashed it in 2009.

Religious? Yes! Raised a Lutheran and elected as a Baptist, Gingrich converted to Catholicism for his third wife, a former Capitol Hill staffer named Callista Bisek. Produced a film called Rediscovering God in America. He said Ronald Reagan had "the key underlying insight that you defeat Communism at a cultural level, that you pit the cross against the Soviet emblem, and that the cross ultimately will defeat atheism." Has called President Obama and the current crop of congressional Democrats "secular socialists." Worries that by the time his grandchildren are "my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

Horoscope for 2011: "Busy as usual, Gemini?" asks "You'll make many commitments this year—but you might have troubles keeping them all….If you're trying to catch up financially, you could bite off more than you can chew. There may be times when it's wiser to turn down extra work."

Campaign site:

Reason on Gingrich

*In this context, we're using scientific in the Republican sense of the word. So we really mean "made up."