A blunt Newt Gingrich on Blago, Palin, and Limbaugh

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday offered blunt commentary about former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and past and present US Treasury secretaries.

Mr. Gingrich, a one-man idea factory for the Republican Party, was the guest at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters. He arrived in multitasking mode, emerging from a shiny black Cadillac SUV, holding a cellphone to one ear and thumbing the controls of a BlackBerry held in his other hand.

Blago: the tip of a corruption iceberg

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Rod Blagojevich was one stop on Gingrich’s tour of the political horizon. Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor impeached last week in part for apparent efforts to sell Barack Obama’s US Senate seat, “is simply the tip of an iceberg of systemic corruption across this country that is breathtaking,” Gingrich said. “You look at Springfield, you look at Albany, N.Y., you look at Trenton, [N.J.]. You look at Sacramento, [Calif.]. These places are increasingly corrupt,” he said.

Gingrich also argued that President Obama was ill-advised to take on conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. The president told congressional leaders of both parties that “you can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.” In the former speaker’s view, “presidents are well served to deal with historic patterns because it makes them feel presidential. I can’t imagine the net advantage of the newly elected president of the United States – with 70 percent approval – picking a fight with a guy who will absolutely profit from the fight.”

Palin: Formidable if prepared

Alaska's Governor Palin, John McCain’s running mate in 2008, could be “very formidable” as a presidential candidate in 2012, Gingrich said. But he stipulated that would be the case only if she “seeks out a group of sophisticated policy advisers” and “spends time developing a series of fairly sophisticated positions.” He noted that “Palin starts in Iowa with a substantial advantage. I think she has a very big base among the fundamentalist wing of the party.”

He also mentioned two other potential Republican presidential candidates. “If the economy is still a mess a year from now, then [former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt] Romney’s economic credentials start to come back in an important way,” Gingrich said. He cautioned that “Romney has got to figure out how to close the sale.”

And if Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison becomes governor of Texas, the second largest state, “she is an instantly formidable candidate,” Gingrich said.

Federal stimulus: sending dollars to China through Wal-Mart

It will take the United States three to five years to work its way out of the current economic crisis, in Gingrich’s view. Government economic stimulus is “a quaint term for sending money to China through Wal-Mart,” he quipped.

Government bailouts of banks and auto companies came in for stinging criticism.

“What I deeply resent is the idea that you have the same people in charge that failed. You can’t have capitalism on the way up and socialism on the way down. The same thing is true of General Motors and Chrysler and Ford,” Gingrich said. “We would be much better off to say to people, 'we will give you bridge loans coming out of bankruptcy. But we are not going to deal with current management, and we are not going to deal with the current labor contracts, and we are not going to allow you to continue lying about the future.' ”

Unhappy with Treasury secretaries from both parties

Bush administration Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the current secretary, Timothy Geithner, both received caustic treatment. “I think Geithner is fronting for the banks. Frankly, that is where I thought Paulson ended up. Paulson ended up being a Wall Street dealmaker who was happy to take your money to bail out Wall Street dealmakers,” Gingrich said.

The former speaker juggles a raft of positions including chairman of the Gingrich Group, a communications and consulting firm; general chairman of a nonpartisan advocacy group called American Solutions for Winning the Future; senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University; and political analyst for Fox News.

Just reading the list makes me tired.

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