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Question: What can history teach us about the current state of America?

Newt Gingrich: Well, let’s say first of all, Toynbee in his study of history has one of his concepts the idea of challenge and response.  He said that all successful civilizations are challenged.  The ones that have long periods manage to respond in ways that overwhelm the challenge.  I remember in the 1980’s, people were writing books about the decline of America.  Japan was the number one superpower, there was a book about Japan as number one, there was a book about the emerging Japanese super state.  And then one morning the Japanese bubble collapsed.  They’ve never recovered from it. 

We are the third largest country in the world in population.  We are the largest country in the world in economic power.  We are the largest country in the world in military power.  We are the most successful integrator of cultures in human history.  More people come from more places bringing more ideas and energy than any other country in the history of the world.  With the recent Haitian earthquake, we’re reminded that there are a 1,200,000 Haitians who live in the United States. 

In the Somalian problems in 1990 to 1994, the fact is ….who we were chasing in Somalia had a son who was a Marine Lance Corporal in Los Angeles.  Every way you go across the planet, there are Afghans who are living in America, there are Romanians who live in America, there are Ethiopians who live in America.  No other society has the capacity we have.  If I was betting on the next 100 years, I think it will be a century of freedom, it will be a century in which America gets it’s act together, replaces the failed systems, gets back to work, rolls up it’s sleeves, and I fully expect that the world will decide that freedom, and the ability to work together productively is a lot more exciting than Chinese authoritarianism.  And I would guess that we will in fact remain the leading symbol of how humans can work together for the next century. 

Question: What will happen to Obama if Republicans take over the House or Senate?

Newt Gingrich: We have no way of knowing what President Obama will do.  I would say, from what I’ve seen so far, he’s more likely to become a cross between Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, further to the left than Carter, but probably with the tone deafness that Carter has.  We have no evidence that he has Bill Clinton’s discipline and Clinton’s ability to shift.  I mean, Clinton was a very practical Arkansas moderate who understood and had said for years that the Democratic Party was too far to the left.  Obama was the left.  He was the candidate of the left.  He beat Hillary from the left. And we’ve seen governed for a year from the left.  So, you’re asking him to change in very fundamental ways, and we have no evidence at the present time that he has either the inclination or the ability to have that scale of growth in office.

More from the Big Idea for Friday, January 21 2011


What American Decline?

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