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Gingrich: Time to 'Cut and Run'
Argus Leader
MONICA LABELLE mlabelle@argusleader.com
April 11, 2006

VERMILLION - Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, told students and faculty at the University of South Dakota Monday that the United States should pull out of Iraq and leave a small force there, just as it did post-war in Korea and Germany.

"It was an enormous mistake for us to try to occupy that country after June of 2003," Gingrich said during a question-and-answer session at the school. "We have to pull back, and we have to recognize it."

Gingrich was at USD for the inaugural Edmund Burke Lecture, named after a man who is known as the father of modern conservatism.

Gingrich spoke with students and faculty late in the afternoon at Farber Hall, then lectured in the evening at Slagle Auditorium.

Before his lecture, Gingrich was greeted with a standing ovation. He then launched into a detailed narrative of early American history and discussed the challenges young Americans soon will face, including terrorism, rogue dictators, nuclear weapons and Social Security reform.

"We are at one of those great intersections in history when we as a people are going to have to have a great conversation with each other," Gingrich said. Once Americans have that talk, he added, they will ensure a safe, free and prosperous country.

Gingrich spoke about the traits of great leaders such as George Washington, who listened to people to determine what course to take, whether in battle or in legislation.

"In the American model, power comes from God to you. We then loan it to the government," he said. "The key to a leader is you listen first."

Members of the audience said afterward that they found his speech informative and inspiring.

"He did a really good job of telling us about how one person can make a difference," said Renee LaMie of Vermillion.

Dan Sullivan, a USD student, said he enjoyed Gingrich's presentation of American history and current events.

"He gave a really articulate and raw interpretation of events today," Sullivan said. "I thought he responded (to audience questions) with a lot of cogency."

At the afternoon question-and-answer session, the topics ranged from the war in Iraq to nuclear weapons to immigration. Such questions are typical of college students he visits across the United States, Gingrich said.

"I find when you go on a campus, there's a broader interest than politicians would expect," he said.

Mostly, students asked him how he got into politics, he said. He told the USD crowd at Farber Hall that he wanted to be a zoologist as a boy, but a boyhood visit to the battlefield at Verdun in France drew him to politics. Standing on that battlefield made him realize wars and tragedies, such as the thousands who have died in the mass genocides at Darfur in the Sudan, are real and not just stories in history books.

Iran as a nuclear threat was on the forefront of some students' minds as they asked if the United States would be capable of subduing Iran as a nuclear threat.

Gingrich told the students their generation was entering a dangerous period - just as dangerous or more than that of the Cold War. He said the best move would be to replace Iran's government by organizing opposition within Iran.

A student asked if that would be possible now, considering the United States' involvement in Iraq.

"Could we do it technically? Yes," Gingrich said. "We're not using much of our Navy or Air Force.

"If Iranians don't think you're prepared to replace their government, they'll never consider (a) deal."

Gingrich also addressed concerns over immigration law. He'd like to stem the influx of illegal immigrants by providing "smart cards" that use biometric identification with fingerprints or retinas for temporary workers. United States businesses have set a tricky precedent, he said, because they hire illegal immigrants.

"Why not show up" as illegal immigrants, Gingrich said. After all, he said, "Americans like to break the law" by hiring them.

Reach Monica LaBelle at 977-3909.

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