Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich says it’s time to junk the format of modern-day presidential debates. “I think that the presidential debate in their current form trivialize the whole process, reduce it to 40 pages of negotiations so two people stand there being timed to the second while they try to remember what their consultants said worked in focus groups, and I think you end up with a very canned, very mechanical kind of process,” Gingrich says. “I think what we need is a dialogue where people talk, in depth, about really serious challenges to America.”
Gingrich, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2008 who is visiting Iowa this weekend, wants something akin to the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates. The debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were held in 1858, and the 150th anniversary of those seven debates will be in 2008.
“You look at the difference in depth and in texture and in seriousness of that discussion between Lincoln and Douglas and the modern system, it’s no wonder we have a hard time getting the big solutions,” Gingrich says. “We don’t allow enough space for a big idea to be explained.”
Gingrich is sending a letter to President Bush, asking him to abolish the Presidential Debate Commission. “I’m simply going to propose that the Debate Commission become a National Dialogue Commission and that the two candidates, whoever gets nominated, agree in advance they’ll meet without a moderator as two adults, sitting on a stage and chat, and chat for 90 minutes,” Gingrich says. Gingrich says voters are much more tired of “negative, narrow politics” than American politicians understand.
Gingrich is also suggesting that Iowans who will host many of the first events in the 2008 presidential campaign stage bipartisan events. “We have been more and more divided and more and more sophisticated at negative attack commercials and I’ve thought a lot about what fuels this and part of what fuels it is you have a partisan meeting where in a sense the noisiest and most extreme members get the most applause,” Gingrich says. “That would never happen if you had a meeting of Iowans and you had people from both parties in the same room, so you’d really change the underlying dynamic of the debate.” Gingrich himself recently has come under fire from some Republicans because he appeared at a news conference with Democrat New York Senator Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady.
Gingrich spoke this (Friday) morning at a Des Moines Rotary Club meeting, and when asked by a Rotarian if he was running for president, Gingrich didn’t offer a “yes” or “no” answer. Instead, Gingrich said he would be back to Iowa often. Gingrich was a Congressman representing a district in Georgia for 20 years and he helped craft the “Contract with America” that helped Republicans win a majority of seats in Congress in 1992.
(photo above shows Gingrich talking with Rotarians in Des Moines)