He was a finalist to be Donald Trump’s vice president and one of the few prominent Republicans to defend the New York businessman during the roughest stretches of his campaign. And now former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich seems ready to reap the rewards.
As reports swirl that he could be in line to be Trump’s secretary of state, the ex-Georgia lawmaker has his own vision for his role. And one that seems firmly outside the Cabinet orbit.
“My goal is to be the senior planner looking at the totality of the federal government and thinking through how to design that,” he said Thursday on a conference call with reporters.
“And to do that you have to be an outsider because I think it’s virtually impossible to be in the government and maintain the strategic focus you need if you want very, very large-scale change,” he added. “So that’s what I hope I’ll be able to work out.”
Gingrich is among about a half-dozen high-profile Republicans with Georgia ties who is said to be in the running for a top post in the Trump White House. He’s also the best known nationally, with decades in the spotlight as leader of the U.S. House in the 1990s before stepping down after falling out of favor with fellow GOP lawmakers. He returned to the campaign trail again four years ago with a presidential bid that scored a few primary victories before fading.
He’s also a singularly polarizing figure who pioneered a new vocabulary for the GOP as he masterminded the Republican takeover of the U.S. House in 1994 and emerged as President Bill Clinton’s greatest foil. Tactics he used in the 1990s, such as encouraging GOP candidates to label political opponents as “corrupt” and “radicals,” are echoed in Trump’s rhetoric.
Gingrich was also one of the few GOP elders to heartily embrace Trump early in his anti-establishment campaign. He was a constant presence on Fox News for Trump, even if he occasionally offered tough-love advice for the candidate on national TV.
And he pitched himself as a pugnacious “pirate” when auditioning to be Trump’s No. 2, lobbying for the job almost up until Trump picked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence instead. On Wednesday, he reprised his role as a bruising Trump defender, casting Republicans who refused to back the nominee as “whiny, sniveling, negative cowards.”
Several other Georgians could also be contenders for top White House posts. U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Tom Price are on lists circulating in Washington, Perdue as a potential commerce secretary and Price as a candidate to lead the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Both have dismissed the talk.
“I’m willing to serve wherever I can best serve my constituents in Georgia and the citizens of the country,” Price said, laughing at the possibility when asked the question.
And former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, who like Gingrich was a constant presence on the airwaves for Trump, could have his pick of administration jobs — or the president-elect’s backing if Kingston tries to make a political comeback.
“I want to do my part to be helpful with the new administration should they need me,” Kingston said. “And I’m trying to get a lot of ideas and be as helpful as I can be.”
Each one has plenty of competition, including several leading contenders for secretary of state. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said in August that he would “strongly consider” the position, and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton also could be in the running.
Yet for Gingrich, who is now a senior adviser with the Dentons mega-law firm, the allure of being an outsider in a Trump administration could be too strong. He’s had this position in mind for months, telling The Hill in July that his dream would be to be given the authority to probe “any program in any department” and then report the findings directly to Trump.
And on Thursday, Gingrich suggested that Trump could surprise even his critics with his Cabinet picks.
“He’ll be a very, very good manager,” Gingrich said. “And that’s one of the things we haven’t seen since General Eisenhower was president.”
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