|Newt in Bluffton, SC November 29, 2011|
photo by Mike's America
A large crowd of several hundred gathered on a cool, blustery day here in Bluffton; the heart of what we call the South Carolina Lowcountry. It's prime conservative territory and a very welcoming crowd of mainly retired Americans who stood for hours for a chance to hear and question the former Speaker.
There was no band, just an older Tea Party guy with a guitar to warm up the crowd. No balloons, no introductory speaker to get the crowd revved up. People didn't come to see Newt Gingrich because they wanted to cheer and engage in hero worship. They came to hear Newt because of the calm and persuasive power of his ideas and experience.
The Speaker's remarks were brief; about 20 minutes. During that time he tossed out plenty of red meat to the crowd which had no love lost for Obama. The best line, among many good ones, was when the Speaker said that Obama is the worst combination of a leader. "He is both radical AND incompetent." Either one is bad but in combination terrible.
Another great line was when the Speaker questioned Obama's reliance on foreign courts in his bid to overturn South Carolina's immigration law. "Obama doesn't behave as if he is President of the United States of America." Newt would get the government off the back of states like South Carolina in immigration, labor relations and health care.
Newt repeated that this campaign must be more than just an effort to elect him President. He knows better than anyone that to change the way Washington works for the better (as opposed to Obama's idea of change) voting for one winning candidate isn't enough. He expounded on the need to elect conservatives to every office across the land and build a movement that will sustain newly elected officials as they work for real and fundamental reform.
Contrary to news reports from nearby Charleston, there was no mention of Mitt Romney. Only a vague reference to his "friends" in the GOP debates and Newt's desire that they stop misrepresenting his views on immigration. Newt reviewed again his position which is that those who have been here for many years might be allowed to stay but not granted citizenship or voting rights. He pointed listeners to his web site for more information on that issue as well as others. Above all else, on immigration Newt reminded listeners he would do what it takes to control the border even if that meant a law to waive all federal regulations currently standing in the way of a fence. Newt promised that within a year of his being sworn in as President there would be "complete control of the border."
A listener as well as a Speaker!
The remainder of Newt's time was spent listening then responding to the questions of those in attendance. It's important to note that he was clearly LISTENING, to those who stepped forward to be heard. One gentleman disagreed with Newt's stand on ethanol subsidies. Newt reminded the crowd that he has a comprehensive and strategic view toward energy (web site) and that subsidies for biofuels may one day go away but they are part of an overall energy independence scheme. Better to support ethanol than to send more money to the Middle East. The man who asked the question said he disagreed but Newt was proud to say "I don't expect you to agree with me on everything," then went on to cite how his wife and even his grandchildren sometimes disagreed with him.
Another gentleman raised the issue of patriotism and had some rather unusual suggestions. Newt supported the general premise of the man's question but said that he would prefer other solutions.
No pandering here. No attempt to be all things to all people. Just Newt being Newt!
I left wondering can Newt win? Will another old, white man stand up to the media obsession with Obama's style over substance? I don't know. But I do know that despite all the criticism of Newt for his past he remains one of the most capable and honest candidates running today. Perfect? No. Better than Obama? Absolutely!