By Douglas Waller
Newt Gingrich, who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, was once the right's rebel leader. But his slash-and-burn politics backfired, and Republican members of Congress, who took a beating in the 1998 elections, ousted him as Speaker. Defeat hasn't silenced Gingrich, however. TIME's Douglas Waller finds out what's on his mind today.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING THESE DAYS? I spend about 40% of my time as a citizen working on national-security and health issues, and about 60% earning a living as a consultant, making speeches, writing books and being a TV commentator.
WHAT POLITICAL IDEAS ARE YOU PUSHING NOW? If you look at science, technology and entrepreneurship, the 21st century ought to be a century of more choices, greater quality and lower cost. I'm trying to take this very simple model and teach companies how to apply it and governments how to change to encourage it.
SPEAKING OF SCIENCE, WHAT'S CAUGHT YOUR EYE IN THE FIELD? I'm doing a fair amount of work on nanoscale. It's the science of [the] very small: one atom up to about 400 atoms. Imagine if you can take 3 million little nanopills in the morning with orange juice, and they run through your body eating each cancer cell. Or imagine a detector that senses a potential nuclear weapon by just picking out three or four atoms in the air. You'd have much greater safety against terrorists.
DO YOU MISS BEING SPEAKER? No.
ANY INTEREST IN RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT? No. I'm very happy developing ideas right now.
IS GEORGE W. BUSH A GINGRICH CONSERVATIVE? In style he's clearly not. But he is in philosophy. In 1998 I talked about personal Social Security accounts, additional tax cuts and stronger defense. He is a more effective bipartisan leader, and I was probably a more aggressive partisan leader.
HAVE YOU TALKED TO BUSH SINCE HE BECAME PRESIDENT? No. But I talk regularly to [Vice President Dick] Cheney, [National Security Adviser Condi] Rice and [White House Counsellor Karl] Rove. I also work with [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld a great deal.
WHICH REPUBLICAN HAS THE BEST CHANCE OF SUCCEEDING BUSH IF HE SERVES EIGHT YEARS? Jeb Bush. Why not keep it in the family? The buttons are already made up.
YOUR HALF SISTER, CANDACE, IS GAY. ROSIE O'DONNELL, WHO HAS COME OUT OF THE CLOSET, SAYS GAYS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO ADOPT CHILDREN.
SHOULD THEY? There are a lot of practical relationships that we ought to find a way to accommodate. If your partner ends up in the hospital, there ought to be some ability to visit that partner. But I'm not in favor of creating the notion of gay marriage or gay adoption.
DID THE REPUBLICAN PARTY BECOME TOO STRIDENT UNDER YOUR SPEAKERSHIP? Go back to that period and look at the 125,000 negative ads run by the other side. The cover your magazine did of me after I was elected Speaker showed me as Scrooge holding Tiny Tim's broken crutch. That was over the top. On the other hand, if Bush had been President, I would have been a pussycat.