Dean/Gingrich Debate
Feb. 1, 2011--Former Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich engaged in a debate at The George Washington University.  This lively and thought-provoking event stands as an example of how political debates could be conducted, as opposed to the carefully staged and time-managed formats now so prevalent in many campaign debates.  The debate consisted of opening statements, discussion of five areas (health care, economy, national security/foreign policy, immigration, 2012 elections), closing statements, and questions from the audience.  Watch it on C-SPAN.

Gingrich is expected to announce his decision on a presidential campaign within a month or so.  Here is a transcript of his opening remarks.

...Obviously we disagree about the president, but I think that's so obvious and so narrowly partisan it's not worth worrying about right now.  The important difference—I want to make two big differences I think that will emerge as we chat.

The first is we are not a multi-cultural country.  We are a multi-ethnic country.  There's a huge difference.  Eighty percent of the American people believe in American exceptionalism.  They believe that we're endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights.  They believe in the work ethic.  They believe in private property rights.  They believe in people working with each other to produce a better future.  There's an enormous common American civilization which is very different from Europe and its very different from Asia or Africa or Latin America.  And people come here to become American.

This is a very important debate we need to have, because our elites would like to have us all to get amnesia and end up not understanding the depth of American history and the depth of the American experience.  And why does it work here?  Why can you be poor in Somalia and do pretty darn well in America?  Why can you be poor in Haiti and do pretty darn well in America?  Why can you live in conflict in the Balkans, come here and actually work with the very people you would have killed in a civil war?  And yet somehow we do something magic here and for the last two generations our elites have been afraid to talk about it, afraid to teach it, and afraid to get people to focus on it.  That's very dangerous because civilization is always only one generation deep.

Second.  The great flaw—and it was a brilliant campaign, and President Obama was an extraordinarily effective candidate, and I recommend routinely to everybody David Plouffe's book, The Audacity of , because I think he did a remarkable job and there's a lot you can learn from it—but the core flaw in the 2008 campaign was that I believe that candidate Obama actually believed the president of the United States could save this country.  That is impossible.  There are 513,000 elected officials in the United States.  There are 305 million people.

I think the TV series from my childhood that most reflects where we are is an old program called "Wagon Train," in which Ward Bond played the wagon-master.  You know when Americans had wagon trains that moved West, you didn't hire the wagon-master and say to him, wake me when we get to Los Angeles.  You had to have your own team, you had to feed your own horses, you had to fix your own dinner; if you got attacked you had to be part of the defense force.  Everybody had to pool along for the wagon train to survive. 

We've got to have a fundamental change.  And I'm not defending Republicans or Democrats tonight.  We need a fundamental change in this country where we return power to localism, volunteerism, we genuinely implement the 10th Amendment, and we understand that it is impossible for a bureaucratic, centralized, Washington-based system to effectively govern a country this size, and that we are in real trouble. 

And that's the last point I want to make.  Your generation has a rendezvous with destiny, as Reagan said quoting FDR.  There's a reason both those great leaders used that term.  There are moments in history that transcend normalty, and in those moments you either stand up and make it work or your country collapses.  We are in a phase when the problems are so much bigger than George W. Bush, so much bigger than Barack Obama, so much bigger frankly than Newt Gingrich or Howard Dean, that if we don't figure out a way to have an adult conversation among all of us and find a way to fundamentally re-center our system in a localized, volunteeristic, genuine self-government model, we are in deep, deep trouble as a country.