The Corner

Newt’s Just Being Newt at CPAC

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich did an excellent impromptu impression of himself today at the Conservative Political Action Conference, urging conservatives in a fact-filled speech to focus on transformational innovation and technology that can produce “breakouts.”

“Breakout” happens to be the name of Newt’s most recent book, the full title of which is “Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate.” If you’re wondering what a breakout is, you can sign up for his newsletters.

But he offered a brief history to the audience that gave him a standing ovation to start. “The first great breakout,” Gingrich said, “was in North Dakota,” referring to the hydrofracturing technology that’s allowed the U.S. to expand its natural-gas production severalfold. Newt’s other examples ranged from the Khan Academy (a nonprofit online learning platform founded by Salman Khan, an MIT and Harvard Business School graduate) to an app invented for iPhones to allow them to function as electrocardiogram machines. Pulling his cell phone out of his pocket, he proclaimed, “The smart phone will be the leading public health device of the 21st century, it’ll be the leading learning tool​,” and much more.

He marveled at the fact that maps are now essentially obsolete because, thanks to the advent of smart phones and navigation apps, “you have some women telling you where to go.” He joked, “I know a number of you guys have already had that experience” long before the advent of GPS devices.

The opposite of breakouts, apparently, is “prison guards” — not literal prison guards, but actors that inhibit innovation and progress (though Newt probably doesn’t like actual unionized prison guards either, given their massive exploitation of the public fisc). He encouraged conservatives to explain the damage prison guards can do to America, and identify and publicize the ways in which liberals are prison guards. Doing that will ensure that “by 2016,” he said, “Hillary Clinton is a leading prison guard of the past.” He also referred to another prominent enemy of the right, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, assailing him for hindering the work of charter schools at the behest, Gingrich said, of the prison guards of public education, teachers’ unions.

“We can break out if we combine American exceptionalism, science and technology, and entrepreneurship,” the former congressman said. He began with praise for Texas governor Rick Perry’s proclamation yesterday that it is “time for a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas,” and then punched it up a bit, calling for a “big rebellion.”

Gingrich faced off against Perry in the 2012 presidential primaries, and both of them led at various points. Gingrich won the South Carolina primary and later carried his home state of Georgia, landing him in third place at the end of the primaries. He hasn’t held political office since 1998, when he was forced to resign his speakership after a poor Republican performance in the midterm elections.

The congressman, who was widely praised for his performances in the 2012 primary debates, clearly delivered the speech off-the-cuff, and stuck mostly to his talking points that he’s delivered elsewhere. He even ended with a line that he explained he’d told on his CNN show, Crossfire, the night before: He defended President Obama’s taking a week to vacation in Key Largo, Fla., while Eastern Europe is in crisis. The president tried to be “effective” last week from Washington, he said, and failed spectacularly. “I believe he can be as ineffective in Key Largo as he was in the White House,” Gingrich joked.

Patrick Brennan was a senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration and is former opinion editor of National Review Online.


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