Newt Gingrich said yesterday any Republican will have a tough time winning the White House next year because even Republicans are down on their party.
“To win in 2008, Republicans will have to make a clean break” from failures in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and border security, the former House speaker said.
The Republican Party’s presidential candidate has to be willing to stand up and say, “Katrina didn’t work,” Mr. Gingrich told reporters over breakfast at the Hay-Adams Hotel, a block from the White House.
“If we nominate anyone who hasn’t done that, [we] have very little likelihood to win,” he said.
He spoke of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the likely Democratic standard-bearer.
“It is wrong to make this a personality problem [because President] Bush can’t change the federal bureaucracy — the Congress has to do that,” he said at one point, then added:
“Senator Clinton’s goal this year should be to pass fundamental personnel reform with Bush because when she becomes president — if she becomes president — she is going to find she has all the same crippling systems that Bush has had.”
But Mr. Gingrich also said Mr. Bush’s “stay the course” approach to the Iraq war won’t work, and that the United States should be smarter and more unpredictable in managing the conflict, which he said is merely a “battle in the larger war against the irreconcilable wing of Islam.”
He said Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker were the appropriate officials to address the Iraq war this week, not Mr. Bush. Asked several times why Mr. Bush made the nationally televised speech this week on the war, Mr. Gingrich said, “Ask [Ed] Gillespie.”
Mr. Gillespie, the chief counselor to Mr. Bush in the White House and former Republican national chairman, angered many conservative critics over Mr. Bush’s nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court in 2005. Mr. Gillespie accused them of sexism and elitism. Mr. Bush soon withdrew her nomination.
Saying Mr. Bush “is part of” the current failed system of government but “not the embodiment of it,” Mr. Gingrich also suggested the administration remains clueless on how to win in the Iraq war, where neighboring Iran is meddling. He said that the United States should bring “nonviolent, military pressure.”
“I’m opposed to bombing — it won’t work,” he said, recommending instead diplomacy involving harsh economic threats and, if necessary, “covert” action.
The way to get Iran to come around is to use nonviolent force to strike at the lifeline of Iran’s economy, thus threatening the political stability of the government there, he said.
The United States “should not let a single gasoline tanker” reach a port in Iran, he said. Such a blockade would also persuade Tehran to abandon what the United States insists is a nuclear weapons program, though Iran both denies it is doing anything of the kind and at the same time says it has every right to do.