By Michael Newberger | firstname.lastname@example.org
Hours before the Republican debate in Jacksonville on Jan. 26, Florida Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told the grassroots organization Veterans For A Stronger America that he feels the most pressing threats against the United States are recent advancements in Chinese military strength and radical Islam.
Video by Joshua Santos
“Islamism” in particular was a heavily hit upon topic, especially with the continuing upheaval in the Middle East kick-started by the Arab Spring and his belief that extremist Muslim political groups have taken advantage of that situation. He also noted the difference between Islamic extremists and Christians.
“It’s fascinating that in their world, that in their world, a martyr is somebody that kills you. In Christianity a martyr is some one who is killed for God,” he said.
There was heavy criticism on President Obama’s drawing down of military and defense spending, particularly in the face of a surging China. Gingrich called for increased efforts to stay ahead of the Chinese, not just in terms of defense, but in science and technology as well.
“China is going to become the second largest power in the world, I have a very clear bias based on the fact that I believe in freedom, and the Chinese government is a dictatorship.”
Gingrich also stuck to his campaign rhetoric of criticizing the media and the attack ads against him. Questioning the legitimacy of being quoted in “10 second sound bites, 30 second ads, and minute long debate responses,” the speaker called for seven three-hour-long debates with President Obama in the “Lincoln-Douglas style” sans teleprompters and moderators.
Former Florida Attorney General and Florida Gingrich campaign chairman Bill McCollum was present at the rally and was quick to show his support for Gingrich. McCollum’s support for the former speaker is a somewhat interesting development, as Mitt Romney endorsed and supported McCollum in his failed bid for the Florida Governorship in 2010. Another aspect to this is that McCollum’s opponent in the 2004 race for the Senate, former Senator Mel Martinez is a key supporter of Governor Romney and a key part of his campaign.
Gingrich has been taking hits on his record as Speaker of the House, especially by his chief rival Mitt Romney as well as ads run by the pro-Romney Super Pac Restore Our Future. McCollum was quick to defend Gingrich’s record as speaker, attributing the gains in both policy and elections of the Republican Party in the ’90s to him.
“If it weren’t for him we wouldn’t have had the conservative opportunities in society. We wouldn’t have had the Contract With America. We wouldn’t have taken control of the house in the first time in forty years in 1994 when I was in leadership with him and we wouldn’t have had welfare reform.”
While praising Gingrich’s “vision” the former Attorney General was critical of Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts, doubting his experience in terms of working within the government to accomplish conservative goals.
“Just look at their records, Governor Romney’s record as governor is not that strong. If you look at the things he did like pass Romneycare, Romney care is the model for Obama care for God’s sake,” McCollum said.