- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Newt Gingrich on Wednesday dismissed President Obama’s State of the Union speech the previous night as little more than election-year fodder.

“The president last night gave a standard campaign left-wing speech,” the former House speaker said in an interview with The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News” radio program. “He’s drawn a line in a sand. He is not going to try to govern this year, he’s just going to be a candidate.”

The Republican presidential candidate, who is leading in many recent polls, rejected Mr. Obama’s upbeat assessment of the nation’s economy.

“I think if you’re the president and you travel around on Air Force One and you’re surrounded by staff who like you, and you’re surrounded by people who want something from government, you probably think things are fine,” Mr. Gingrich said. “But … if you’ve been in Florida, as I am now, and there’s massive unemployment, there are many many people whose houses are worth less than their mortgage. There’s a huge crisis in foreclosures. I don’t think people think it’s fine.”

Mr. Gingrich, who has risen to the top of the GOP field on the strength of his strong performances in the candidate debates, outlined his proposal for a series of “Lincoln-Douglas”-style debates this fall with the president.

“I think we give far too much power to the news media. Why should they be the ones to decide the questions?” he told hosts John McCaslin and Dana Mills.

“I would propose that the two candidates for president form a two-person debate commission themselves, that we meet for a series of serious dialogues — if the president wants to use a teleprompter, that’s fine. That we pick big topics, one of which obviously has to be health care and Obamacare has to be a part of that. One or two have to be on economic growth and jobs. A couple have to be on national security. I would propose that one ought to be on the nature of America — whether American exceptionalism matters and the Declaration of Independence matters,” he said.

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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