- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 8, 2006

One afternoon in the mid-19th century, Ralph Waldo Emerson visited David Thoreau who had been jailed for an act of civil disobedience. Emerson asked the imprisoned Thoreau: “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?”

Whenever I read a commentary by Newt Gingrich on the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C., I recall the Emerson-Thoreau exchange and ask, “Newt, what are you doing out there?”

Never in recent times has Congress needed so badly a conscience like Newt Gingrich. And never in recent times has the Republican leadership itself needed a spokesman with the moral power of our onetime House speaker.

And if Mr. Gingrich, 62, will not seek a return to the House, it is time for him to consider a run for the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

Republican need for such a spokesman was recognized in a New York Times article Jan. 5, about Jack Abramoff, the Washington lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to public corruption:

“Leading Republicans warned in interviews that the scandal could threaten party dominance of the capital that extends from the White House to Congress to K Street unless Republicans move quickly to embrace ethics reform and show they will not tolerate criminal abuse of the substantial power they have been handed by American voters.”

The present Republican leadership in Congress is too enfeebled to embrace reform when its own leaders like Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas face legal troubles. Mr. DeLay is trapped by a money-laundering indictment. What the congressional Republican Party needs desperately is a squeaky clean spokesman. Who better than Mr. Gingrich can speak for that timorous leadership?

Presidential leadership can do little even if George Bush dared to raise the subject in his State of the Union message.

It is time Mr. Gingrich spoke up more forcefully than ever on global issues — in particular, Iran.

A few days ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: “We are moving into a period of time with Iran where… the world is going to have to make some decisions about whether or not it is possible to get a commitment from Iran to a civil nuclear structure that does not give them the technology for nuclear weapons. There, so far, has been no demonstration that the Iranians are willing to recognize the world’s just concerns about the fuel cycle and its location in Iran.”

She added we must “not lose sight also with Iran of other activities that are troubling, not only Iran’s internal development, which continues to go in a retrograde direction, but also Iran’s continuing support for terrorism, which is of very great concern.”

So said Condi. What says Newt?

Arnold Beichman is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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