Former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich Visits Japan
October 28, 2009
Over a three-day period beginning August 17, 2009, the Tokyo Foundation was pleased to welcome Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives and a leading figure in the Republican Party, together with members of the American Foreign Policy Council, an organization for which Mr. Gingrich serves as an advisor.
Mr. Gingrich is well known for his key role in the 1994 midterm Congressional election. Under the campaign banner of the Contract with America, his party succeeded in gaining control of the House for the first time in 40 years. In 1995 he became speaker and helped promote a series of reforms that included tax cuts and a balanced budget amendment.
Since vacating his Congressional seat in 1999 Mr. Gingrich has continued to play a role in American politics. He was considered a possible candidate for president in 2008, but declined to seek his party’s nomination. He continues to wield considerable influence on Republican Party policy and strategy, and there has been renewed talk of a possible presidential run in 2012.
With China emerging as a major Asian power, Mr. Gingrich paid a visit to Japan, South Korea, and China to assess America’s role in the region. Japan was his first stop on his three-country tour, where Mr. Gingirch met with lawmakers and policymakers to discuss Japan’s role in the international community, and how to promote a strong Japan-US alliance.
Given the timing of Mr. Gingrich’s visit with the announcement of Japan’s House of Representatives race, Mr. Gingrich was able to gain an in-depth look at the political situation in Japan on the eve of a historic political transition.
Mr. Gingrich was also able to share straightforward views on foreign and security policy with both policymakers from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense and experts from the private sector, in addition to appearing at a press conference and giving interviews to media outlets. His visit was capstoned with a public lecture titled “America and Asia in the Era of Globalization” at the Tokyo Foundation, the text of which is provided below.
America and Asia in the Era of Globalization
Lecture by Gingrich, former speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Date: August 18, 2009
I actually want to start by pointing out that globalization is not inevitable. The last high water mark of globalization was 1913. In the period 1850–1913, a great deal of the world evolved toward international trade and international communications. There is a nice book called The Victorian Internet, which is a study of the telegraph by Tom Standage, a reporter for The Economist. Standage makes the argument that the completion of the telegraph from London to India was one of the greatest revolutions in information in human history. It has a great story about the first criminal ever arrested by telegraph. The thieves would steal women’s purses, and then jump on a train and then get off at the next exit. The London Times carried a story about the local telegraph operator wiring the next station so the police were waiting for the crook when the train pulled up.
I just cite that because we have a tendency to think that if it is modern, it is somehow new, but, in fact, we have been, as a species, building through modernity for several hundred years. It is important to remember that the First World War shattered globalization and led to the breakdown of international commerce. The Great Depression followed, and the policies that grew out of the pain of the Great Depression led to World War II. You could make a pretty good argument that we did not get back to a 1913 level of international trade and international travel for about 80 years. It was only really after the fall of the Soviet empire that you see the continued sweep of globalization on a grand scale.
So, I would not automatically assume (not that we are going to fall back into being isolated nations) but I would not assume automatically that we will continue to expand, partially because we are starting to run into the natural problems of trade. A good example is the talk about a possible US-Japan Free Trade agreement, which becomes dramatically harder if I say one word, which all of you are aware of, which is the word “rice.” Suddenly most people think, “Well, maybe we have too much globalization.” I think we have to be aware that these kinds of problems exist everywhere on the planet and working through them requires a great deal of leadership.
The World We Face Today
I think what I am going to try and talk about—I will take questions later about anything you want to ask—but what I want to try to talk about at a very large level, thinking about where the United States and Japan are today. I want to base it on three large facts. If I do not convince you, I hope you will ask me about it and challenge me, because these three facts are either facts or they are ideas. I think talking through whether these are Gingrich ideas or facts is very important.
The first fact I want to assert is that we are going to have four to seven times as much new science in the next 25 years as we had in the last 25. There are more scientists alive today than in all of previous human history. Every year they get better computers and better lab equipment. They are connected by email and by cell phone, so ideas spread very fast. They are then connected by venture capital and licensing so that ideas move from the laboratory to the market faster than ever. If you take that list, inevitably there is going to be an extraordinary increase in knowledge in the next 25 years.
To give you a sense of scale, if you were trying to design Japan in 2035, which is not that far down the road: Callista and I have two grandchildren; Robert is 8 and Maggie will be 10 in October. So, 25 years from now, Maggie will be 35 and Robert will be 33, ages that are impossible for them to imagine, but which all of you can imagine. It is not that far if you are thinking about planning for a country. If we have four times as much new science, your planning committee today is the equivalent of a planning committee in 1880 reporting to the general on the future of Japan and trying to explain tonight’s meeting. The year 1880 is pre-automobile, pre-airplane, pre–electric light, pre–long distance telephone, pre–motion picture, pre-television, pre-radio, pre-computer. How would you explain anything about your day? That is four times. If there is seven times as much new science, you are the equivalent of a group working with Sir Isaac on to discover calculus in 1660. That is how big the scale of change is. I have given this talk to a wide range of scientific groups. I used to say four times as much new science and I gave a talk to the National Academy of Sciences working group on computation and information, and the chairman came up to me afterwards and said, “Four is not big enough. It is going to be at least seven.”
Why does that matter? It matters because if we are going to have that much new science, and in some areas, Japan is the leading country in the world at developing science and technology. Robotics would be an area, for example. Nano-scale science and technology would be another. If you’re talking about that much new science, it means that national security, the environment, health, jobs—all are going to be effected dramatically by new capabilities, new opportunities, new possibilities.
It actually increases the potential for what I will describe as the second fact, which is China and India emerging, because it almost guarantees the obsolescence of the capital investment that the United States has already made in national security. If you go back to 1880, the capital ships of the Royal Navy are 26 years away from being made obsolete by the invention of the dreadnought. If the dreadnought had not been invented, the German Navy could never have competed with the capital investment of the Royal Navy. Once the dreadnought was invented, it made every battleship in the world obsolete, that morning. Suddenly, the Germans could compete almost one for one. In 1903, the Wright Brothers invented powered flight, which ended the English Channel as a giant moat which had protected Great Britain since 1066 and suddenly made Great Britain vulnerable so that even as early as 1915, there were German aircraft over Great Britain, a fundamental change in the balance of power. So, you have to assume that if there is going to be four to seven times as much new science, there will be new industries, new productivity, new breakthroughs in health, new breakthroughs in the environment, new breakthroughs in energy, and new breakthroughs in national security. That is my first fact.
My second fact is that China and India are real. They are not a problem. What we do about them is a problem. But they are real. There are about 1.3 billion Chinese and about 1 billion Indians. Because of the difference in their birthrates, there will actually be more Indians than Chinese 30 years from now. We say in our American Declaration of Independence that we are “endowed by [our] Creator with certain inalienable rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Well, if we believe that, then we have to believe that every Chinese and every Indian should also be able to pursue their happiness. The Chinese do not quite buy the liberty part, although the Indians do, but they certainly buy the pursuit of happiness part. Japan and the United States have to confront the reality that we are going to have 2.3 billion people working very hard to develop modern industry, modern productivity, modern national security, and that gives both of us a scale of competitor we have not ever seen before. That becomes the second large fact: what do we do strategically over time to remain the most productive, the most creative, and therefore the most prosperous countries in the world, because if we do not do that, we cannot maintain safety and we cannot maintain freedom. We cannot decay economically and think we are going to sustain our national security; it is not possible.
The third large fact is that catastrophic threats are increasing. By that, I mean there are more nuclear weapons on the planet every year. There is a greater capacity for biological warfare every year; there is a grave danger of sophisticated non-nuclear capabilities. If you look at the most advanced explosive devices, they are amazingly more sophisticated than they were 10 years ago, and finally, electromagnetic pulse is a very real threat that almost no one in the civilized world pays attention to.
Actually, I will say two last things. Electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, is a very specialized nuclear weapon that sends out the equivalent of a gigantic lightning bolt and knocks out all electricity including generating capacity. It is particularly dangerous because it is impossible to rebuild the generators and so you literally can drive a civilization out of the modern world in one attack with one weapon. One electromagnetic weapon, I think, at about 100,000 feet would in fact knock out virtually all of the electricity in all of Japan. It takes three to knock out the entire United States. So, this is a very serious technical thing. My co-author Bill Fortune has written a novel called One Second After, which I recommend to you as a very sober introduction to how dangerous this is. We are only beginning to come to grips with it. It will require a substantial investment in hardening of our electric capabilities over the next generation, and it is literally a civilization-ending threat if it happens before we harden our facilities.
The last example I want to mention is cyber. The Russians are very good at cyber. The Chinese are very good at cyber. The challenge for us is that they are getting better very fast and the technology is getting cheaper very fast. I do not know about the Ministry of Defense in Japan, but the total number of attacks against the Pentagon everyday is breathtaking and is accelerating. The Chinese James Bond is sitting in an office in Beijing on a computer trying to hack into an American defense-industrial company. They are not out doing anything James Bond did. Yet we have really not worked our way through if somebody launched a really large cyber-attack, could they take down your communications, your air traffic control system, your electricity generating, could they open, for example, dams? What are all the things that can be done? Because as we become more and more reliant on the Internet and we become more and more driven by expert systems, we become potentially more and more vulnerable to a cyber-attack that would be a “weapon of mass disruption” that might well have an impact comparable to a weapon of mass destruction.
My only point is that at the very point we are creating this worldwide high civilization, we also have increasing catastrophic threats that could end this civilization as we know it. Therefore, we have to think very seriously in the investments in intelligence, in national security, and in homeland security.
Tall Challenges to Overcome
Those are the three facts that drive where we are going. What we are trying to do in the United States is create a simple model of safety, prosperity and freedom, and argue that the number one agreement you have with your people is you want to keep them safe, you want to give them a chance to become prosperous and you want to protect their freedom. If you take that seriously, you then have a lot of work to get the job done.
I believe in the United States, this requires us to have seven fundamental reforms. We have to reform litigation, regulation, taxation, education, health, energy, and infrastructure. As you can imagine, that is an enormous set of challenges. Yet I would argue that if we are serious about being more productive and more creative than China in 2040 or 2050, we have to fix all seven systems. I will let you decide how many of those apply to Japan. I would argue that in both of our countries our industries are too expensive, they are too slow, our bureaucracies are too expensive, they are too ineffective, and we are going to price ourselves out of the world market and not be competitive. This is a very profound challenge to our survival as free societies.
I would also recommend to all of you a movie called Two Million Minutes. You can find it at a website called 2MMinutes.com. Two million minutes is four years of high school, and Bob Compton—who is someone I would strongly urge the Tokyo Foundation to host someday and have an event like this—is a health entrepreneur who made a great deal of money inventing a medical device. He then employed people in both China and India and was startled at how productive they were and how well-educated they were. So, he made a movie about four years of high school in India, four years of high school in China and four years of high school in the United States. At 2mminutes.com, he has posted the Indian tenth grade exit exam for the academic track, which you have to pass to go to the eleventh grade. Four thousand Americans have taken the test and failed. No American has passed the test. All Indian education is in English, so the exam is in English. It turns out that in India, at the end of the tenth grade on the academic track, you have had four years of physics taught by a physics major. There is no high school in America that matches that. The result is that we are faced with a dramatic educational gap that will require us to go through very painful and difficult changes, deeply opposed by much of the bureaucracy. This is not new for us and this is a warning for what you are going to go through in Japan.
America’s first big report on the failure of the American education was called A Nation at Risk and was issued in 1983. It said our schools are so bad that if a foreign government was doing to our children what we are doing to them, we would consider it an act of war. It said our schools are so bad they literally are putting the nation at risk. In 2001, I helped lead the Hart-Rudman Commission, which was the largest three-year look at American national security since 1947, and we reported that the second greatest threat to the United States is the failure of math and science education, that it was a bigger threat than anything else except a nuclear weapon going off in an American city, and that it was a bigger threat than any conceivable conventional war. That was in 2001. I agreed this spring, in a meeting with President Obama, that I would join his secretary of education, Arnie Duncan, and the Reverend Al Sharpton, who is a liberal activist, in going around the country arguing for very dramatic education reform because I think it is literally a matter of life and death for the country. I cite that because I think that you would be very shocked at the relative gap between your school system and what you are going to see in the next decade from China and India. While you are better than we are, you are still going to find that if you are serious about competing, it will require you to rethink a great deal of your pre-university education.
However, what makes this particularly difficult is that there is a three-step process to get change on the scale I am describing. The first step is to articulate for the general public so that they give you permission to do it. This is what elections at their best are all about. It is very challenging and it is a huge difficulty. But we have discovered in America that even if you can win the election, that is only the first step. The second step is to actually get the government to implement the reforms. That is enormously hard because virtually everyone in the government has a capital investment in the wrong ideas and the wrong habits, and so they do not want to give them up. Even when you have won the election and the people have said, “yes, go do it,” you then discover the bureaucracy says, “we do not want to.” Finally, you discover that there are some people whose vested interest is so great that they will oppose it even if it is clear that it is in the national interest—and those people you will not convince, you simply have to defeat them. It is a very challenging, difficult process. It would be interesting to see this upcoming election in Japan and what it leads to.
Ways to Approach the Need for Change
I believe that if you stay at the level I have described, and if you accept the three facts I described, that the level of change you will face will be the third great cycle of change, of which is the first is the Meiji Restoration in the period 1868 to about 1914, and the second was the extraordinary postwar economic growth from around 1950 to around 1988 or 1989, and I think this would be the third wave of change. If you go back and think about how big the change was from 1868 to 1914, and then you go back and think about postwar Japan beginning to rebuild around 1950, and how huge the economic growth was by 1988, what I am suggesting is that you now need a third process of that scale of reform and that scale of development if, in fact, you are going to compete head to head with China and India in a time of enormous scientific and technological change. The United States faces the same pattern.
There are three books I recommend to you. One is Sarkozy’s Testimony. Sarkozy, when he was running for president of France, wrote a superb book on the requirement for very large-scale change and said, “If France does not change, we will go broke, and when we go broke, we will not be able to pay for either our pensions or our health care.” So, even senior citizens have a deep interest in our going through this level of change because without it they are not going to have money. I want to suggest to you that every government that is running up huge deficits is going to face the same crisis and in most cases they are going to have the wrong answer, which will be to raise taxes. Raising taxes will actually make their economy less competitive, less capable of dealing with China and India, and less able to invest in the future. But to not raise taxes means that they will have to control spending, and every political interest group will ultimately be against controlling spending. So, there is an enormous challenge for political leaders in the near future.
The second book I recommend to you is by Claire Berlinski, entitled There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters, which interestingly is also a theme of the Sarkozy book. Sarkozy points out that prior to Thatcher, the French economy was 25% bigger than the British economy. Today, the British economy is 10% bigger than French economy and 400,000 French men and women work in London. That is a very interesting and compelling story.
The third book I recommend to you is by Tom Evans. It is called The Education of Ronald Reagan and it outlines what President Ronald Reagan learned working at General Electric. For eight years, Ronald Reagan was the host for a Sunday night television show called “GE Theater” and in those eight years he went around America and gave 375 speeches to General Electric factory workers. In that process, he learned a great deal about how to educate so that people could understand the scale of change he represented. It is a very useful book to think about how a country talks to itself and how we get people to understand reality, and how we get them to understand solutions and support them.
The American style of change is fairly unusual in that we muddle through for a while, get increasingly frustrated, and then explosively change. We have done it eight times. The Revolutionary generation, which literally fought an eight year war against Great Britain; the Federalists, who came back and wrote the Constitution and ran the government for the first 12 years; the Jeffersonians, who defeated the Federalists so decisively that they literally disappeared and created a new governing majority; the Jacksonians, who rebelled against the national establishment and broke it, creating a new style of politics, which in many ways is still with us 180 years later; the Lincoln Republicans, who proposed a level of change so decisive that it led to a civil war in which 620,000 Americans were killed; the Progressives, which were a deliberate effort at modernity from 1896 to 1916 in which people realized that the agrarian government literally could not keep up with the requirements of urban industrial society, and they methodically and dramatically changed government, creating much of the modern structure of government we have in the United States; Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal Liberals who responded to the Depression and then led America during World War II; and finally, Ronald Reagan and the conservative movement, which culminated with the Contract with America in 1994. Those eight cycles of change each were dramatic, each was very controversial, and each, in significant ways, fundamentally changed American government. I think we are at the edge of a similar wave of change and I think President Obama probably cannot bring about that change because, I think, it is impossible to govern America from the left, and there I would cite a book—which you might later mention the names of the two authors, but it is by two writers for The Economist— Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait—and it is called The Right Nation. It was written in 2004 and I think it is a very accurate portrait of why America is impossible to govern from the left. President Obama cannot possibly succeed if he stays as a left-wing president. The most he can do is become a moderate president, which will cause his left to rebel. So, it is very hard for him to become the kind of change agent that his campaign implied, because the kind of changes we need are all challenges to his majority coalition.
A Continued Strong Alliance
Let me just close by saying that while we are developing this ninth wave of change in the US and the third wave of change in Japan, I think it is very important for us to keep the US-Japan Alliance very much at the center of our thinking in the Pacific. We have had remarkable success working together. We have had great success economically, we have had great success in security, and we have had great success in helping shape a world which today is much freer, has much more self-government, and is much more open than it was 50 years ago.
We are faced with some very immediate things. I will talk about three of them just for a second. I believe that with North Korea, we have to be very, very firm. We have to be very firm whether we are talking about them telling the truth about the abductions of Japanese citizens, we have to be very firm about their nuclear and missile programs, I think we have to be firm about developing a missile defense system in-depth which would make them basically irrelevant in terms of however much they want to invest. Finally, I believe we have to be firm in inspecting North Korean ships and making sure that none of them carry contraband to sell to terrorists or rogue nations around the world. I think it is very important that we develop that firmness in collaboration and that we not allow North Korea to divide us out of the group of six, and I think American bilaterals with North Korea would be a very, very bad idea, so that is the framework.
Second, I think that it is important that we continuously consult in developing relations with China. A unified American-Japanese understanding of where we are going is dramatically more likely to be effective in ultimately convincing the Chinese that they have to democratize, they have to open up their country, and it is extraordinarily important to the future of the human race that we not end up with an extraordinarily powerful Chinese dictatorship. China has done a good job of opening up its economy; it has done a mediocre to bad job of opening up its political structure. I think that is not compatible with China having a role as a citizen in the future, and I think that we are much more likely to be effective in talking to the Chinese if we do it together rather than allow them to separate us.
Finally, I just want to say that as an American, I am very grateful for the support Japan has given in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know it is very difficult at times. I thought it was remarkably symbolic at one point that a Japanese tanker was simultaneously refueling an American ship as part of a task force that was led by a German ship and it was a sign of how far we have come from World War II and how much we were building a genuine world citizenship capable of working together. The work you are doing in Afghanistan today in helping pay for the police, in helping pave the ring road, in helping with economic development, in helping with education, this is all very important. I think if civilization is going to win in Afghanistan, if women are going to have a reasonable future, I think that it is very, very important that Japan be a key part of that. I have favored for a long time expanding the UN Security Council to include a permanent seat for both Japan and India, and I think that part of that is because I am so grateful for the role of citizen that Japan has taken beyond its immediate neighborhood and the degree to which Japan has been a positive force in the world. I think that that is a very important part of what you have done to extend your reach, and it is very important. This is a model country in developing liberty, self-government, prosperity, and an opportunity for the average person to have a dramatically better future than anyone could have imagined. If you go back to 1860 and imagine trying to explain to someone in 1860 the wealth, the opportunity, the travel, the knowledge, the quality of life that you now have, it would be inconceivable. I think we need to build on that together and I think we have built a better world for the last 50 years, and I think if we work together, we will build an even better world for the next 50. I look forward to your questions.
Questions and Answers
Questions and Answers Following Lecture by Gingrich, Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Fumiaki Kubo (Moderator): Now, Speaker Gingrich mentioned several books. The book The Right Nation has been written by two British journalists. It is a long name, I do not think that I remember the name here, but in my university seminar when I teach US conservatism, I use the same book, The Right Nation. If you can check on the Internet, you can check for The Right Nation. What is interesting for the Japanese is that this book is looking at the United States in the eyes of a non-American, that is, a Briton, so the author’s surprise is something that the Japanese can share. In this book, The Right Nation, certain points are emphasized, which are shared by Speaker Gingrich. The US is a conservative nation and President Obama is coming from the left, and he may not succeed in changing the United States. I have a couple of related questions on this point.
The first question: On one hand, in the United States, the political axis is leaning toward a smaller nation, compared with Japan, yet under President Reagan, in certain areas, the expenses were not cut enough—or under George W. Bush, the Republicans had a majority in the Congress yet some of the expenditures were not sufficiently reduced. How can you explain this? Is it a limit to conservatism, or is it a limit to the political system—the interest groups are too strong so even the Republican Congress had to live with these interest groups? Is it a kind of limit to the US conservative politics? That is my first question. The second question is on education.
Gingrich: Let me answer the first question. First, you skipped over the four year when I was speaker in which we kept all spending to 2.9% a year for four consecutive years, the lowest rate since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. We reformed welfare; 65% of the people on welfare went to work or went to school. We reformed the Medicare program and saved $200 billion. We had priorities, so we doubled the National Institutes of Health research budget while controlling spending. We cut taxes to increase economic growth, and for the first time in over 70 years, we balanced the federal budget for four consecutive years and paid off $405 billion in debt, and we did all that with Bill Clinton as president. So, the fact is that Bush failed and Reagan’s case was a different case. In the case of the Republicans from 2000 to 2006, they failed. They spent like they were Democrats. They were defeated because Republican voters decided they would rather have happy Democrats spending than unhappy Republicans, and the Republicans were unhappy to spend so much, but they could not figure out how not to spend it. I tell my friends, if you want big spending, vote for a Democrat and relax.
Second, in Reagan’s case, he had a very big Democratic majority in the House and he knew that he could not control the spending side, so his choice was either to raise taxes or to run a deficit, and he deliberately followed the advice of Friedman, who was a very famous economist—Milton Friedman, who said that he would rather have a bigger deficit than higher taxes, because it was less destructive to the economy. That was very deliberate on Reagan’s part, but he was building up our defenses dramatically to win the Cold War and eliminate the Soviet Union. Reagan would have argued that that was the right trade. I think the Republicans from 2000 to 2008 did not have that excuse; I think they just failed to exercise discipline.
Fumiaki Kubo (Moderator): I should be rather brief with my second question. You emphasized the question of education. In the United States, what is difficult with education reform is that many Americans are aware of the problems, but if the reform is led by the federal government, many people seem to be opposing it, and George W. Bush proposed the No Child Left Behind Act, and many Republicans opposed that proposal, I remember. What would be the best educational reform, in your idea? A small role to be played by the federal government and greater roles to be played by local governments and state governments, or instead of that, the federal government should be exercising greater leadership this time around? What is your idea?
Gingrich: I think the scale of change you need is very, very great and there are three different forces opposing you. The first is the culture. Americans are not a culture that has historically valued studying. We are a culture that has valued athletics, we value social status, we value economic achievement, but we have not been a particularly studious culture. We have won a lot of Nobel Prizes in part because a lot of foreign scientists have fled Communism and Nazism and showed up in the US. Second is an ideological fight. The liberal education establishment does not believe in math and science and does not believe in history, and views education as a revolutionary endeavor. As a result, they are opposed to people actually learning a lot of material, and in favor of people somehow being socialized into appropriate personalities. Third, there is a unionized bureaucracy, which is bitterly opposed to any effort to surface reports on competence, to eliminate teachers who are incompetent, to establish standards, and so there has been tremendous opposition by the bureaucracy. The challenge in America is, I think, much greater than in Japan and we have to actually not only look at the kindergarten through twelfth grade, but I think we have to go back and find a way of educating a generation and a half of adults who are in the workforce who are not well-enough educated and who are not going to be able to compete with China and India unless we have adult education on a scale almost resembling Ataturk in the 1920s, teaching a modern, westernized Turkish alphabet. This is a very profound problem, and I think the short term answer is return power to the parents, give parents knowledge about whether or not the school is working and allow parents to move their children to schools that work and take them out of schools that fail. That is the simple answer.
Audience member: Thank you very much. I was impressed by your wonderful speech. Japan is going to have the election soon, and the DPJ may not necessarily follow the US policies, and the DPJ may win power. For instance, the DPJ is questioning whether Japan should send the Maritime Self-Defense Force to Somalia, and also it may not accept some US policies. About the structural reform agenda, the Japanese people are losing interest in LDP-led structural reform, and this is also an advantage for the DPJ. That is happening in Japan and the Japanese people may have a different view on the United States. What is your idea on these changes happening in Japan today?
Gingrich: I think it is the job of the American government to work with whichever party the people of Japan pick. It is not our place to tell you who to elect. First of all, I am very proud that we have been part of a process which has, over a very long period of time, led to dramatic democratization of Japanese society, and led to dramatically greater openness, and you are now going to have a very intense two-week election as compared to our three-year process which is an orgy of endurance that is really pretty dumb. I would like to see us try to get to, if not two weeks, maybe two months for an election campaign. Two weeks from now, the people of Japan will pick, and our job is to work with whomever the people of Japan pick. We have done that in Europe: we had a German chancellor of the SPD who won reelection by deliberately being anti-American even though he did not mean it because he thought it was the only thing that would work, and we worked with him. That is the nature of freedom. When I was speaker, I had 434 other House members, a number of whom I thought, frankly, were hard to work with. But it was not my choice; it was the choice of the 600,000 people in their district. If they won the election, I tried to work with them, except for one or two where I just decided I could not do it. I certainly cannot advise you on how the people of Japan should vote or what they should do. I can tell you that I am watching with great fascination to see how this election works out and I am watching with great interest to see how either new government, and in either case there will be a new structure of the government, I believe, how it tackles the fundamental, underlying bureaucratic problems and the problem of spending and what it does about it. I hope that we will learn from what happens in Japan over the next few months.
Audience member: Thank you for a good speech. I was a Japanese newspaper correspondent in 1994 and 1996, and I covered your big battle with Clinton at that time, and they were very good years. I would like to ask about the direction in which the Republican Party is heading now after the defeat of the 2008 election, how the soul searching of the Republican Party is still going. Some people say that the Republicans were defeated because the Republicans are not conservative enough. Other people say the Republicans were defeated because Republicans are too conservative. What are your opinions on these issues and in what direction is the Republican Party going now?
Gingrich: I think they are both wrong. I think the Republican Party was defeated first in 2006 and then even more decisively in 2008 because of performance failure. The Republican Party was spending too much, they had corruption problems in the House and Senate, they had failed in Baghdad to deliver victory in the time frame allotted, they had failed to govern effectively in New Orleans after Katrina when the hurricane devastated an American city, they had failed to reform the federal government, and people were fed up and people were trying to get their attention and they were not paying attention. The Republican Party only makes sense if it is a party of reform. Some of those reforms can be moderate, some of those reforms can be conservative. When I was speaker, the base of our majority was conservative, but the margin of our majority was moderate. You cannot write off New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington State, Oregon, and California, and think you are going to govern the country.
I will give you an example. Last November, 61% of Californians voted for Senator Obama to be president. In May, 64% of Californians voted against a referendum to raise taxes and spend more money. If the Republican candidate for governor could figure out how to become the candidate of the 64%, actually it was almost 65%, by definition, they would have a majority. If they insist on being narrowly Republican, they are going to get about 39%. It is not right or left. Being against raising taxes and raising spending strikes me as pretty conservative, but on other issues—a majority of San Francisco voted against the referendum. A majority of Speaker Pelosi’s congressional district voted against the referendum. Every congressional district in California voted against the referendum. So, you have the potential to create a smaller government, lower taxes, a reform movement much bigger than the Republican Party. Whether or not Republicans in California can be clever enough to do that and to reach out to Independents and Democrats and create a citizens’ movement, we will find out in the next six months, but that is a different answer than either more conservative or less conservative: it is an answer that says, identify the needs of the people, find solutions for those needs, and if you are going to compete with China and India, those solutions are going to be less expensive, smaller government, less bureaucracy, greater effectiveness, and if you want people to be happy it is going to involve greater convenience because people are very busy and they hate being inconvenienced by the government they pay for.
Audience member: I am writing a book on US politics. Who will be the next Republican leader who can bring the party back on its feet? Who is going to be that leader?
Gingrich: Well, we do not know yet. There are a number of possibilities. Governor Romney is one of them, certainly you would have to say Governor Jindal in Louisiana, Governor Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Governor Haley Barber in Mississippi, Paul Ryan, who is a brilliant congressman from Wisconsin, Kevin McCarthy, who is the deputy whip from California, Eric Cantor, who is the number two Republican in the House; there are a number of smart people, and you will not know . . . Reagan did not emerge decisively until late February, early March of 1980, so even though he had been around a long time, he was not decisively the leader until some time in March of the presidential year. This is two and a half years away from there, so I do not think you can know between now and then. It will shake itself out. What you do know is that there are lots of intelligent, aggressive, energetic Republicans and President Obama is giving them a bigger and bigger opportunity to emerge because he is failing to listen to the American people.
Audience member: I think you forgot to mention one important person. Now I have a question to you, Mr. Gingrich. In November President Obama will come over to Japan. At that time, whether he will go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki is one question or possibility. Within the Republicans in the United States, how do you look at this? Are you for it or are you against it?
And also, Mr. Gingrich, if you were president would you be willing to go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Gingrich: Let me just say that President Obama does not call me for travel advice, so I won’t comment on what he should do.
This may get me in some trouble, but let me just be candid. I think if an American president were invited to go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki it would be perfectly appropriate to go there, just as it would be appropriate to go to Hamburg or Dresden, or to come to Tokyo. The fire-bombings killed far more people. We should be honest about the pain of World War II. But that would also be like a Japanese prime minister visiting Nanjing. I mean, let’s be clear, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were at the end of a long road. That road was a road that we were invited to. It was not a road we picked. And it is a road that we warned about. If you go back and read George Marshall in 1941, before Pearl Harbor, he is very clear on what we are going to do, and says it publicly. Now, it was a horrible thing to do, but total war is horrible. And let me say, if you go out to see the wounded warriors who come back from Iraq, and who come back from Afghanistan, and you see the families who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, even limited war can be horrible. We live on a planet where tragically terrible things happen. But I see no problem with an American president going to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I would see every problem with making them isolated examples of horror, because I believe the firestorm in Hamburg in 1943 and the total destruction of Dresden and the continuing fire-bombing of Tokyo were also horrible, and I think we should be clear about this. Conventional war can be horrible and nuclear war can be horrible, and our goal should be to find a way to live on a planet where we minimize the violence against fellow humans, whatever you want to call the violence.
Audience member: One question to Speaker Gingrich. Former President Clinton visited North Korea recently, and on one hand, he was there to rescue two journalists—that is to be celebrated—but at the same time, for North Korea, in June, they conducted nuclear tests and the United Nations criticized the act. There were increasing sanctions over this incident. At this time, the Clinton visit took place. What should we understand? South Korea sent the chairman of Hyundai Group in order to rescue the employee; this was a humanitarian act, but as a result, now it seems our containment of North Korea is collapsing and in the past there were similar incidents. This is repeated over and over again. How do you understand this? Any point please.
Gingrich: I think it is very dangerous to negotiate using a former head of state to give a dictatorship a propaganda victory. I think there is no doubt that inside North Korea Kim Jong-il used that visit to strengthen and legitimize his regime. I am very sympathetic to the two journalists and their families and I am glad they got out, but as you know, you have not been able to get satisfaction about abducted Japanese, and as you know, the North Korean dictatorship will find new excuses to do new outrageous things to try to find a way to leverage and basically blackmail the civilized world. I think we need a much more aggressive strategy of isolating them. I think we need to raise the ante with China, which has been consistently subsidizing them, and I think that we need to have a policy of doing everything we can to limit and weaken the regime until it gives up its nuclear weapons and its missiles, because I think they are very dangerous and I think with every passing year they get more dangerous, not less dangerous. I am very glad for the young women who got released; I feel very sad for civilization, because I think having an American former president sit next to Kim Jong-il was an enormous propaganda victory inside North Korea and teaches him to try to figure out the next extortion, the next blackmail, the next outrage, and I just think it is very dangerous for great powers to allow tiny dictatorships to jerk them around like this, and I think it leads to very bad long-term outcomes.