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Newt Gingrich charms Dallas Tea Party crowd with scholarly air, promises to undo Obama

Newt Gingrich ventured deep into Rick Perry territory Wednesday, for a Dallas Tea Party town hall meeting that attracted around 200 folks for a chance to see the GOP presidential hopeful’s famed professorial air in action.

In a 90-minute appearance, Gingrich recalled the Republicans’ 1994 wins in Congress, in which he played a big part, and the bread-and-butter conservative plans laid out in his Contract With America.

Gingrich was joined by Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Lewisville), and spoke at the front of an unadorned North Dallas Embassy Suites conference room that was full before he started, leaving crowds spilling out into the hallway.

Gingrich, lumping along through the GOP primary race in a fight for survival, delivered broad swipes at President Obama, promising to abolish White House czars and dismantle the policy changes of the last three years, “before he lands in Chicago” after Gingrich’s presidential inauguration in 2013.

“The hallmark of this campaign is going to be to go to every single neighborhood,” Gingrich said, “to look people in the eye and ask, ‘Would you rather have a paycheck or a food stamp?’”

Turning the economy around will be easy, he said — on election night, as the returns trickle in heralding a Gingrich presidency, the business world will see America is getting back on track, and cheer with their pocketbooks. “People will start making investment decisions that night,” Gingrich said.

To help get there, Gingrich said that after he wins the Republican nomination he’ll challenge Obama to “seven Lincoln-Douglas style three-hour debates” — with a timekeeper, but, he added to great cheers from the crowd, no moderator — repeating a promise he made at last week’s debate in Las Vegas.

Should Obama decline his challenge, Gingrich vowed to tail the president on the campaign trail, speaking after him in every town he visits — just like Lincoln did to Douglas.

“I will methodically take apart every Obama speech from October until the election,” he said.

Gingrich didn’t take any jabs at his GOP rivals for the presidency, but some in attendance said it’s that methodical approach, his scholarly air, his intelligence — that make him such an appealing candidate, especially up against Perry.

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/NewtGingrich_dallascrowd_480.jpgAn audience member tosses Gingrich a question Thursday. (Patrick Michels/Texas Independent)

In a lengthy question-and-answer session, Gingrich fielded questions from foreign policy to space exploration, lacing his answers with references to academic papers or books from the last few decades — often ones he’d written himself.

Questioners, often addressing him as “Mister Speaker,” solicited his thoughts on education reform (we should “radically shrink” the U.S. Department of Education, he replied) and whether global warming is a manmade phenomenon (“To be honest, I don’t know.”)

As an amateur paleontologist, though, Gingrich said he knew the planet was even warmer when dinosaurs roamed, and he said he doubted there was much industry emitting greenhouse gases back then.

Gingrich was treated to rowdy applause from the crowd — most in their fifties and older, and white — when he said he’d urge the repeal of the federal income tax, and find another way to pay down the national debt. “We’re gonna have to go through a cycle of profound, fundamental change,” he said.

Along with his own books on World War II, and a paper recommending military strategy for Iraq in 2003, Gingrich plugged his wife Calista’s new book, “Sweet Land of Liberty,” a children’s tale in which Ellis the Elephant introduces three and four year olds to key areas of American democracy.”

When Wayne Anderson from the Carrollton Tea Party used his time at the mic to say, “The fighting men and women of the United States Armed Forces need a decent commander in chief,” Gingrich seized the opportunity to tell the room about how George Washington got that title in the first place.

His one slight knock at Perry came after a question about securing our border with Mexico. Gingrich said he’d heard Perry say it’ll take 15 years to secure the border, but that just seemed way too long to him. In just 44 months from Pearl Harbor — about which he has written two novels, he said — to V-J day, we toppled fascism, waged war across two oceans and developed the atomic bomb.

“We did that because we were a common-sense country that cut the red tape,” he said, and the same would go for his border strategy. “You’re not gonna do environmental impact studies, you’re not gonna go to court.”

“Why’s nobody talking about China, and what can we do about it?” another man asked.

“I’ve been studying China since the 1960s,” Gingrich soothed. “I don’t worry about China. I worry about us… I worry about the decay of American systems, the decay of American culture, the decay of American entrepreneurship.”

Gingrich refused to give in to the demands of a hulking middle-aged man in a shiny purple shirt, who asked if, as president, he would dismantle the Federal Reserve, “recall these worthless notes,” and give the country a real currency backed by silver and gold.

He did, however, pledge to discourage local governments from adopting the United Nations’ Agenda 21 initiative — another favorite tea party cause, for fears that the program will impose socialist principles at the most basic levels of our government.

Another man asked Gingrich if the recent run of security threats to the country — from the Iranian conspiracy to assassinate a Saudi ambassador to the U.S., to the “infiltration of a courthouse in San Antonio by some French Moroccans,” should be cause for concern.

Gingrich wasn’t aware of the French-Moroccan situation (a Tuesday night event in which two drunk tourists stumbled out of their RV and ran through the courthouse in sombreros), but did find room to revisit some of his own work on the more general issue.

“I first wrote about the threat of terrorism in America in 1984,” he said, pledging to get us focused on the gravest terrorist threats we face, once he replaces Obama in office.

“This is an administration whose only terrorists are tea party members,” Gingrich said.

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/NewtGingrich_dallas_480.jpg

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