It has been an eventful couple weeks for the drawing of battle lines between the establishment and anti-establishment movements, and I must confess surprise at the reactions of two political figures, Governor Sarah Palin and Speaker Newt Gingrich. Commendably, Palin kicked off the discussion by becoming one of the first truly national figures to embrace the Occupy movement and ask the important questions. Her bravery was truly inspiring.
In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Palin asks, "How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires? How do they miraculously accumulate wealth at a rate faster than the rest of us? How do politicians' stock portfolios outperform even the best hedge-fund managers'?" These are not only good questions, they are the defining questions of the 2012 Presidential campaign, although you may not know it given the sparse media coverage of the "top-tier" candidates' sources of funding.
In contrast, Speaker Gingrich called the movement "ignorant," suggested that the protestors are unwilling to work, despite chronic unemployment and permanent underemployment, including millions of Americans who have stopped looking for work. He then said to the protestors (as businessman Herman Cain looked on smiling) that they should "go get a job right after you take a bath." This is perhaps the most honest Gingrich has ever been with the American people, in his willingness to expose himself as an elitist, a big-government lobbyist who can't remember what it is like to fill out a job application, much less start a business.
There is a clear dichotomy between these well known political figures, Palin and Gingrich, a dichotomy based on integrity and truthfulness with the American people. While Speaker Gingrich would say and do anything to distance himself from his past and get elected President, Governor Palin, who decided not to run in this election cycle, is speaking her mind and standing up to her party by taking an unpopular position. One position takes courage, the other does not. I stand with Governor Palin.
As a professor of history, Speaker Gingrich should know that the passion of the anti-establishment movement, of the Occupy movement, is something that only comes about once or twice in a generation. Politics at its finest is disruptive; it is divergent; it rejects the status quo. Would the Speaker condemn the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era, or the dirty, smelly hippies who saved the world from the brink of disaster and prevented further bloodshed? How different are the two movements really? Someone ought to remind the history professor that those who forget the past are often doomed to repeat it.
But this suggests the most important point about Speaker Gingrich, that he is neither consistent on his views concerning the establishment, nor a friend to the anti-establishment movement. Speaker Gingrich has expressed his support for and against ethanol subsidies, for and against lobbying for big government entities like Freddie Mac, for and against cap and trade legislation, and for and against corporate power in politics. During his 2002 debate with Ralph Nader, Gingrich said, "I think it'd be better for America if you had no union and corporate donations, but individuals could donate of their own after-tax income."
As many Americans know, the cornerstone of my Presidential campaign has been removing corporate and special interests from the electoral process. I second speaker Gingrich's views then, but wonder why he now takes $27,500 from Rock-Tenn Co., $10,000 from State Mutual Insurance Co., $5,900 from Wells Fargo, and millions from Super PAC's and bundlers such as Club for Growth and Emily's List. Is this a change of heart or hypocrisy? I suppose it depends on whether you're speaking the language of Wall Street or Main Street.
As president, I would support the Occupy Wall Street movement, if for no other reason than I love it when Americans actually exercise their Constitutionally protected, God given rights to free speech. The less we exercise our rights, the more in danger we are of losing them. The Occupy movement protesters are doing a valuable service for the nation. They are reminding us that when something is wrong with politics in America, when Washington D.C. is the Capital of Corruption, and special interests own the politicians, someone must have the courage to first admit, and then to say that something is wrong. In a Roemer administration, the Occupy movement would be welcome at the White House.
As president, I will invite the protesters to "occupy" an area outside the White House, and we will give them every basic humanitarian provision, such as bathrooms and running water, for as long as politics is corrupt in America. We will respect national security interests, but we will still be accommodating to free speech. Most importantly, we will not allow police to mistreat those who have the courage to speak their minds. That will not happen in a Roemer administration.
Returning, then, to Governor Palin's original question -- how does political corruption happen in a supposedly free society? It starts with the campaign. I have seen it time and time again, in Louisiana, in Washington, D.C. -- once a politician believes they have to first get elected to change the system, the seed of corruption has been planted. As candidates for the highest office in the land, this cannot be our approach, to first engage the corrupt system, and then change it. It never works. Reforms are never achieved.
No, in order to affect real change we need to run clean, we need to shun the special interests, we need to have integrity. As I recently said at a Tea Party forum in New Hampshire, there are some ways not worth winning an election. I would rather lose than compromise my principles. But I run because I see no other candidate capable or willing to say the same.