'In America you go through change' A DAY WITH THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE BTC

January 14, 1995

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich discussed a wide range of subjects during a 75-minute interview with editors and reporters of The Sun. Here are excerpts from the session, conducted yesterday at a Washington hotel.

Q: Mr. Speaker, . . . have you been surprised or bothered by the depiction of you and the new leadership as uncaring and harsh and draconian?

A: No. It's what Reagan got. I think it's almost [as if] the word processor just went back, pulled up the same phrases, wrote new columns. I mean, it's amazing. It's the standard left assault that says, 'Protect my stupid bureaucracy,' by arguing that anybody who wants to change the way in which we're currently destroying the poor is clearly heartless.

Q: Are you trying to fight that image?

A: I'm trying to act in a way that communicates an intense need to thoroughly replace the current system so we quit destroying the poor. . . . [Rep.] Kweisi Mfume called me a couple days ago, and we're going to swap districts. He's going to come to my district for a couple days and I'm going to come to Baltimore for a couple days. . . .

Q: When you go to Baltimore for these two or three days in May or June, what are you going to be doing? How do you connect with his district in that short a period?

A: Anything Kweisi wants me to. That's part of what we have to think through -- both ways -- to make it a real dialogue, a real educational experience. But I would go for two or three days anywhere he wants me to.

Q: What do you expect to come out of this?

A: . . . First of all, you expect each member to have an experience that the rest of their life they'll remember. . . . Whether you stay in a housing project or wherever, it's just different. Second, you expect the members to make friends. We're very busy. The Black Caucus is over here; the Republicans are over here. We don't know each other very well. You spend six days with each other and your families get to meet and you have some commonality and you have a common experience. . . . you will have more cross-ideological, cross-racial friendships in a way that will be healthy for America. . . .

Q: Will the killing Thursday in Haiti, the first shedding of blood by an American soldier, lead to some sort of action by Congress to set a date certain for withdrawal?

A: I would not be inclined to do that. Let me just make a point, and I would say this to any member who asked me. To send the signal around the world, 'Kill an American and they'll leave,' is a very dangerous pattern. And you're better off to send a signal, 'Kill an American and we will come and get you.'

Q: Is the intent of the Republican National Security Restoration -- Act to eliminate U.N. peacekeeping?

A: The idea that the U.N. is anything more than a debating society is nonsense. There's only one center of power on the planet capable of leading, called the United States. This administration has now tried to hide behind some kind of goofy multinationalism, I mean multilateralism, where you can't do "x" because the U.N. would be unhappy. And this is nonsense. . . .

Q: Does it follow from what you're saying that you don't see a purpose in U.N. peacekeeping?

A: I would use U.N. peacekeeping anywhere that we don't have an interest and we don't mind how badly it's done. But I wouldn't take them seriously.

Would you like to be told the U.N. is going to protect Baltimore and do the same job it's done for Sarajevo?

Q: Maryland just elected a new Democratic governor. We have a Democratic mayor and we have two Democratic senators, so one of the things I hear around Baltimore is, 'Gee, we're kind of the odd guy out and that's bad for us.'

A: I don't think it will be. You've got a number of members of the delegation who are Republican. In fact, on the House side, we've done very well on the House delegation, and I think you'll do fine.

Q: The Treasury issued a report yesterday that showed that Maryland, on a per capita basis, would be hit the hardest of any state in the country, according to their figures, by the spending cuts that would be required for a balanced budget. . . . Is there anything Congress would likely do to soften the blow of these cuts?

A: A, I don't think we've thought that far ahead. B, I think the Treasury report is nonsense. They optimize the pain level in order to maximize the fear, because they're opposed to it. But clearly if you had a dramatic shrinking of government in Washington, then the Washington suburbs are probably going to have a period of dislocation. But that's also reality. Now, we've had a shrinking at IBM or General Motors. I mean, Houston went through it. Michigan went through it. We've had over the last 15 years a lot of adjustments in America, except in the D.C. area.

Q: And so, tough luck?

A: Part of it is that in America you go through change. America is a country of tremendous changes and to say that the only region in America that should never experience a recession is the federal government and its lobbyists . . .

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