At Fordham, Gingrich compares Limbaugh to Chris Matthews
At around 2 PM on April 20th former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich “Tweeted” this: “On the way to new yotk to talk tonight at the fordham university bronx campis tonight for a speech on 2 plus 2 equals 4.”
And roughly six and a half hours later Gingrich took the stage at Fordham Preparatory High School, in front of roughly 1,000 people, to cheers, boos (which someone awkwardly drew attention to by apologizing for the booers during the Q&A segment), and many people yelling “Neewwwwt!” Sitting in the 6th row (a row dominated by the College Democrats at Fordham University) I had a great view of the audience, and was pleased to see a slew of Obama and/or Democratic T-shirts and pins.
The presence of Democrats in the audience became even more apparent when Speaker Gingrich would say something “clap-worthy” or when he discussed the foreclosure crisis saying, "If you can't afford to buy a house don't buy one," to which people yelled “don’t let banks lend money.” But with a few exceptions (as the Secretary of the College Democrats at Fordham I would like to say we were not part of any of these exceptions), those who opposed Gingrich were respectful and merely abstained from clapping to show their disagreement.
Gingrich might have gotten off his biggest insult talking about California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is now hated by the right for raising taxes. He started by talking about how people come to America to live the dream and how Governor Schwarzenegger moved here because body building is not something that takes you places is Austria. “We allow virtually anyone to rise, no matter how weird," he said. "We allow people to dream big. That’s why Obama can be President." Now, I don’t want to assert that Gingrich was implying that Obama is “weird,” but those two statements in such close proximity did allow the mind to make some connections. You be the judge.
He went on to say that the "pursuit of happiness" described in the Declaration of Independence is wrongly used as justification for welfare programs; the Declaration, he said, "doesn't call for redistribution of happiness." I am glad to know Gingrich thinks that happiness equates to wealth. He criticized Obama for being against using coal (actually, Obama is pro-"clean coal," to the chagrin of environmentalists) – and off-shore drilling, and then attacked him for allegedly bowing to the leaders of Saudi Arabia and embracing the leader of Venezuela. But he appeared to forget the name of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, during the speech. And he also seemed to forget all those photos of President Bush kissing and holding hands with the leader of Saudi Arabia.
When asked if a more hospitable America is safer, he replied yes but quickly added that "you don’t gain respect by letting people walk all over you." The Obama administration, Gingrich said, reminds him of Jimmy Carter's administration (which Republicans would love given that Carter lost to Reagan in 1980). Gingrich, who's been divorced twice but just converted to Catholicism, told us that "to drive God out of public life is fundamentally destructive to America." One of my favorite moments of Gingrich’s speech had to be when he compared Rush Limbaugh to MSNBC's Chris Matthews, after being asked how he felt about conservative media stars such as Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. He proceeded to say that they are not politicians and are not running for office and given this we should not consider them to be representative or leaders of the Republican Party, just as no one considers Chris Matthews to be representative or a leader of the Democratic Party (he also referenced Al Franken here).
One thing about the audience that I have to say struck me as odd was the number of non-Fordham students in attendance. Many of them seemed to be parents. However, I know some were students of other schools and some were referred to simply as “special guests.” There were two notable special guests in attendance. One, a 26 year old “small business man” who was a major part of facilitating the “Tea Party” held in New York to which Gingrich proceeded to say, "wasn't about taxes." He insisted it was about (and I paraphrase here as I don't have his exact quote) being able to make more than $200,000 dollars, and still be considered a good person.
The other notable guest may only have been notable to me, given that we had a small run in at the end of the Speech. As I was leaving the auditorium with friends, we were discussing the beginning of Gingrich's speech in which he talked about traveling to Poland with his wife. We then proceeded to innocently (and privately) joke about how we should have asked him to clarify which wife he was referring to: the one he divorced while she had cancer, or the one he cheated on with his current wife, or his current wife. As we were joking about this, a man grabbed me by the arm and said “I know what you’re talking about.” Not really knowing where he was going with this and being a little angry that he thought it would be ok for him to grab a 19 year old girl by the arm, I gave him a confused and slightly dirty look. He then proceeded to ask me if I had heard of Monica Lewinsky, and if I would have still voted for Bill Clinton. I politely said yes and walked away.
Now although I may seem critical of Gingrich, and in most contexts I am, I want to make clear that I am grateful for him coming to Fordham to speak. I welcome ideas that are not necessarily aligned with my own. It's part of becoming an informed individual, which is the goal at any university. Also, it is part of combating political apathy on college campuses, something that both College Democrats and College Republicans are in agreement about. The College Republicans at Fordham University who, sponsored this event, deserve a lot of credit for pulling off such a major event, giving all members of the audience equal opportunity to have their questions heard, and bringing some publicity to our university.