- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For the more than 30 years I have known Newt Gingrich, he always has been an agent of change.

In his earliest days as a congressman, he began to challenge the “Old Bulls” who were the Republican establishment on Capitol Hill.

When he saw corruption in the House of Representatives, he took it on.

He established the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group of young activists who pushed for a legislative agenda emphasizing conservative values and individual opportunity solutions.

He challenged the foundations of the liberal welfare state by calling for and achieving significant government reforms.

Newt understood the value of supporting science and technology as an underpinning of the rising new economic reality so that even when budget cuts were necessary, he favored the research and development needed to keep American technological leadership.

When others called for weakening our national defense posture, Newt stood strong for American military strength.

It was Newt Gingrich’s leadership that ended 40 years of liberal Democratic rule in the U.S. House of Representatives and brought in a Republican majority, which not only changed the legislative agenda, but the entire political landscape in America.

Needless to say, his success earned him accolades. But it also created bitter adversaries, particularly among the Washington elite. It was them and their friends whom Newt had challenged and beaten. So, from his earliest days in Washington, bipartisan establishment figures attempted to thwart him through everything from ridicule to phony ethics charges.

Small wonder then that the opening of Newt’s presidential campaign was met with harsh judgments by the same crowd that always has opposed him. In the same manner that the liberal establishment questioned Ronald Reagan’s intellect at the outset of his 1980 campaign, Newt’s opponents are attempting to characterize him as bumbling and undisciplined. They are attempting to end his campaign before it can get a solid start because they know his record of persistence and persuasion. If the American people begin to understand the Gingrich agenda, there is little doubt it will have appeal.

There also has been focus on Newt’s flaws, both personal and political. He doesn’t just bring baggage to the campaign, one commentator said; he brings “steamer trunks.” Newt, himself, acknowledges that he has made mistakes but has said people need to judge him based upon who he has become. His adversaries are not likely to be that kind, but the fact is that many of our most revered leaders, including Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, were men of great capacity and great frailty.

Perhaps the focus should be on Newt’s willingness to step forward knowing that his opponents of the past will engage in vicious attack, that his opponents of the present will attempt to exploit whatever flaws they can muster and the Washington establishment will do everything it can to keep him from succeeding. But Newt believes strongly that our nation faces a severe crisis. It is probable that only someone who has withstood the kind of pressure the establishment is capable of applying will be able to lead the nation out of the fiscal and inspirational deficits that have been created. So he has stepped forward.

Such leadership is a Gingrich legacy. In 1995, the idea of balancing the federal budget was not only a pipe dream but was the subject of ridicule in sophisticated Washington circles. President Clinton’s budgets showed deficits of hundreds of billions of dollars as far out as the eye could see. It was Newt’s strategy and leadership as speaker of the House that not only changed the terms of the debate that year, but within three years produced real balanced budgets.

When Newt tried to reform the welfare system, Mr. Clinton vetoed those efforts on two occasions. But the persistence of a real leader kept the pressure on, and Newt produced one of the most significant changes in government policy in the latter part of the 20th century - welfare reform.

The American military often holds exercises in which the troops simulate real national emergency situations. On many occasions, they have asked Newt to take the role of president in those exercises. One of the most respected institutions in America, our armed forces, has recognized the capability of this leader for good judgment.

The exceptional character of the American nation has long been one of Newt’s principal themes. Today, when many Americans are looking for reasons to believe in our future, Newt offers a prescription of hope based on values set by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is not a new theme for him, but one that he has studied and written about for more than two decades.

A Gingrich presidency holds the promise of real change. For some, that phrase has been a political tool for maintaining the status quo or moving us further down the road toward European-style socialism. Change under a Gingrich White House would be based on values first articulated by our forefathers - individual liberty, entrepreneurial enterprise, devolved government power and spiritual fulfillment.

Fiscal discipline, good jobs, a government that works, responsible global leadership, world-renowned science and technology, and winning the future would all be featured in a Gingrich administration.

With Newt, the concept of change in the face of adversity is not just a political promise; it is the reality of his entire career. When choosing a president, the American people may want to look at the mess inexperience has produced and decide that a new generation of leadership requires someone who bears the scars of winning in an arena that is tough and unforgiving. Winning the future will require the kind of courage in the public arena that Newt Gingrich has demonstrated before and once again has stepped forward to provide.

Robert Walker, a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, is executive chairman of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates.

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