Joe Scarborough & Newt Gingrich

Perspectives on the Party in Power

Program Date: April 21, 2018

Two bastions of American conservative politics came to Richmond on Saturday night to talk about the past and future of the Grand Old Party before an audience of 4,500, representing political affiliations of all stripes. Moderator Mara Liasson was joined on The Richmond Forum stage by former U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for a rare live conversation entitled “Perspectives on the Party in Power.”

Since their time as colleagues during the “Contract with America”-era of 1990s House Republican politics, Scarborough and Gingrich have each remained leading voices in U.S. politics, though their paths have diverged. Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s popular Morning Joe, left the Republican Party last summer to become an Independent. Speaker Gingrich is a founder of policy think tanks, frequent political commentator on FOX News, and an early and staunch supporter of President Trump.

Program BookScarborough/Gingrich Program Book

The GOP has long been the party of ideology, Mara Liasson explained in her introduction of the evening, which is what has made covering the Republican Party so compelling throughout her career as a political analyst for NPR and FOX. But these days she has trouble finding in the Party the same values of smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and the prominence of law and order that were the hallmarks of 1990s Republicanism.

Scarborough agreed with Liasson’s assessment of the GOP’s shifting values. “Right now, unfortunately, at least in the House and much of the Senate, they stand for what Donald Trump tells them to stand for, which is really, really depressing, because Republicans have been ideological and have been the party of ideas.”

Gingrich added that the circumstances surrounding those core issues have changed over the past 25 years, and many Republicans’ stances—including his—have adjusted accordingly. For one example, he has a different position on trade relations with China, since that country is now an economic rival of the United States and presents challenges in tariffs and intellectual property disputes that in the early ’90s were unimaginable.

The times have indeed brought many changes for conservatives, including the rise of a populist president, Donald Trump. Liasson asked the former Speaker if President Trump is laying the groundwork for a successful GOP. Gingrich cited low unemployment rates for African Americans and Latinos, improvements in outlook for small businesses, and an overall growth in the economy. “People look around and go, ‘This works!'”

Then why, Liasson countered, isn’t the president’s approval rating tracking with the economy, and instead staying stable at around 40%? Gingrich blamed the media, who he said does not give enough positive attention to conservative accomplishments.

Then why, Liasson countered, isn’t the president’s approval rating tracking with the economy, and instead staying stable at around 40%? Gingrich blamed the media, who he said does not give enough positive attention to conservative accomplishments.

“I think to be a genuine conservative is to guarantee such hostility in the media that you have to assume most of the time you’re going to get battered and beaten up and attacked. And, given a choice between ‘we’re now talking with North Korea and we might have a historic breakthrough’ or ‘let’s talk about Stormy Daniels,’ which one would you guess CNN will spend all evening on?”

Looking forward to the 2018 mid-term elections and beyond, Scarborough and Gingrich didn’t see eye to eye.

Scarborough foresees the Democrats having a strong chance at flipping the House of Representatives blue, but having a tougher time in the Senate. In ten years, he envisions a third party causing disruption of the “160-year duopoly” of the Republican-Democrat U.S. political system.

Gingrich, on the other hand, was more optimistic about the strength of the Republican Party. He believes that if the Republicans stick with a campaign of promoting the “good economic growth” that has accompanied the first year and half of the Trump Administration, then voters will respond to that and keep the party in power.

“My hope is that ten years out we’ll be much more the party of people like Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott. If you look at state legislatures, it’s already happening,” Gingrich said.

After a sometimes heated back-and-forth during the first part of the program, the trio returned to the stage to answer audience questions ranging from the dysfunctional nature of today’s Congress to political discourse to the apparent disappearance of fiscal conservatism in the GOP.

Here, the former Congressmen largely agreed. They praised the checks and balances of the Constitution—inefficient though the document may be—that prevent would-be dictators from usurping power, and reflected on the days in the House when members of the opposing parties would “attack each other in the morning, negotiate in the afternoon, and have a drink in the evening.” That sort of rapport is largely absent on Capitol Hill today.

“Newt and I agree 80-90% of the time, but when we disagree we have very heated disagreements,” Scarborough explained. “But we never take it personally.”

The pair stressed the importance of bringing ideologies and ideas to the table, since those ingredients are the basis of compromise in legislation. “If you don’t have an ideology,” Speaker Gingrich asked incredulously to a submitted question, “What are you compromising? You ought to know who you are, what you believe, and what you’re trying to accomplish. And then you’ve got to find a way to get it done.”

Joe Scarborough and Newt Gingrich have differing visions for the party they have each called their own, but they have the same hope for success for the country. The ability to put aside differences and come together to address difficult topics is critical for this endeavor, and The Richmond Forum once again provided a venue and opportunity for meaningful discourse.

Joe Scarborough, Newt Gingrich, and Mara Liasson take their seats for a discussion of the "Party in Power." April 21, 2018.
Moments of contention on the issues were balanced with humor to the enjoyment of the audience.
Joe Scarborough and Mara Liasson listen to former Speaker Newt Gingrich make a point.
Moderator Mara Liasson and volunteers sort questions backstage during intermission.
Joe Scarborough & Newt Gingrich visit with students before the program. April 21, 2018.
The Bob Blagg Trio performed selections from the Great American Songbook as the theater filled and during intermission.
Newt Gingrich arrives at Altria Theater, escorted by Richmond Forum Scholar Yashodhra Varma, a junior at Maggie L. Walker Governor's School.
Joe Scarborough cracks a joke to the audience during the Q&A.
Joe Scarborough, Newt Gingrich, and Mara Liasson at The Richmond Forum. April 21, 2018.
LISTEN

Joe Scarborough and Newt Gingrich on President Trump’s leadership of the GOP

Joe Scarborough and Newt Gingrich answering an audience question on the art of political compromise
QUOTED

Right now, unfortunately, at least in the House and much of the Senate, they stand for what Donald Trump tells them to stand for, which is really, really depressing, because Republicans have been ideological and have been the party of ideas.–Joe Scarborough
I think to be a genuine conservative is to guarantee such hostility in the media that you have to assume most of the time you’re going to get battered and beaten up and attacked. And, given a choice between ‘we’re now talking with North Korea and we might have a historic breakthrough’ or ‘let’s talk about Stormy Daniels,’ which one would you guess CNN will spend all evening on?–Newt Gingrich

COMMENTS

With all the back and forth between Joe and Newt in recent weeks, I wasn’t sure how this event would compare to when Tim Russert moderated Newt and James Carville. It was nice to again see a very reasoned discussion, which is one of the reasons I enjoy the Forum so much. As has been the case before, seeing and hearing high-profile individuals in this setting provides a lot of perspective and a fuller understanding of the person, whether you agree with their opinions or not.–Subscriber Comment
Mara Liasson is a standout. I appreciated the respectful nature of the discussions in spite of philosophical differences. I was surprised, in a good way, at the values-based discussion that showed more general alignment than vast differences. I really appreciated the insight into the challenges facing the GOP as an institution and those who hold a conservative worldview. I see the same chasms in the Democratic Party as well. I was impressed with the deep and forward thinking that Gingrich displays but thought some of his flippant responses could have had more meat on the bones.–Subscriber Comment

BIO

Joe Scarborough Speaker Bio

Joe Scarborough headshot

As the face of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough ignites early morning audiences with his no-holdsbarred political commentary. Pulling from his experience as an influential player in Republican politics, Scarborough leads candid discussions about the important issues facing America. He offers a dynamic and fast-paced perspective on the current political and media landscape and the headlines of the day.

Scarborough made a name for himself in politics long before he became a nationally recognizable media force. He was elected to Congress in 1994, the first Republican to do so in Florida since 1872. He was part of a group of freshman Republicans in the House called “The New Federalists,” which wielded a large amount of influence for its size and worked to promote a conservative agenda and “reduce the size, scope, and intrusiveness of the Federal government.” Scarborough served on numerous committees through his tenure and in 1998 he was named chairman of the Civil Service Committee. There, he drafted a bill on long-term healthcare that President Bill Clinton called “landmark legislation.” Scarborough retired from Congress in 2001.

In 2003, Scarborough joined MSNBC as the host of opinion and analysis show Scarborough Country, until he left to host Morning Joe in 2007. Balanced by Democratic co-host Mika Brzezinski and flanked by diverse guests, Scarborough’s Joe navigates the political environment with an insider’s perspective and a no-nonsense attitude. Scarborough and Brzezinski have been widely applauded for bringing something different to morning television. GOP consultant Mark McKinnon said, “Morning Joe has become the most influential show in politics. Anyone who is anyone in politics, or cares about politics these days, is plugged into the program. They created a format that is substantive, informative and entertaining.” Newsweek notes, “One reason for the success of Morning Joe is that Scarborough and his team generate an ideologically unpredictable vibe.” In 2016, its hosts were inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.

Scarborough is the New York Times bestselling author of The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics—And Can Again; Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day; and The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America’s Promise. He also writes an opinion column on politics for The Washington Post and founded the Florida Sun, an award-winning weekly newspaper for which he served as editor and publisher.

In 2017, he left the Republican Party to become an Independent.

Scarborough holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and a J.D. degree from the University of Florida College of Law. He is engaged to Mika Brzezinski.

Newt Gingrich Speaker Bio

Newt Gingrich headshot

Newt Gingrich was the 50th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and served the 6th Congressional District of Georgia from 1978–1999.

Gingrich was the architect of the “Contract with America,” which led the Republican Party to victory during the 1994 midterm elections, capturing the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. The plan outlined ten bills to fulfill the party’s campaign promises of reducing the size of government, reforming the U.S. welfare and tax systems, and balancing the federal budget.

Following historic gains in the House, the new Republican majority elected Gingrich to serve as its Speaker. Under his leadership, Congress passed welfare reform, the first balanced budget in a generation, and the first tax cut in sixteen years. In addition, Congress restored funding to strengthen defense and intelligence capabilities, an action later lauded by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. TIME magazine named him “Man of the Year” in 1995, saying, “Leaders make things possible. Exceptional leaders make them inevitable. Newt Gingrich belongs in the category of the exceptional.” He resigned from the speakership and Congress in 1999.

In 2003, Gingrich launched the Center for Health Transformation to foster a modern health system that provides better outcomes at lower costs. The American Diabetes Association awarded him the Charles H. Best Medal for Distinguished Service in the Cause of Diabetes and the March of Dimes named him “Citizen of the Year” in 1995 for his work in healthcare. He led the Center until he stepped down in 2011 to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

An internationally-recognized expert on world history, military issues, and international affairs, Gingrich has served as a member of the Defense Policy Board. He was a member of the Independent Task Force on America’s Response to Terrorism for the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2005, he co-chaired the Congressional Task Force on U.N. Reform.

Today, Gingrich is a leading voice in conservative policy and politics. He is a political contributor to the FOX News Channel and other news networks, a Senior Advisor at Dentons in Public Policy and Regulation practice, a Senior Scientist at Gallup, and founder and chair of several policy think tanks. Gingrich has published 27 historical novels and public policy books, including his most recent, Understanding Trump. With his wife, Ambassador Callista Gingrich, he hosts and produces historical and public policy documentaries.

Gingrich holds a Bachelor’s degree from Emory University and Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Modern European History from Tulane University.

He resides in McLean, VA, with his wife.

Mara Liasson Moderator Bio

Mara Liasson headshot

Mara Liasson is a political analyst for FOX News Channel and the national political correspondent for National Public Radio. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy, focusing on the White House and Congress. Her expertise on elections, national policy, and government is heard on FOX’s top-rated programs Special Report with Brett Baier and FOX News Sunday and NPR’s award-winning news magazines All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

Liasson joined NPR in 1985 as a general assignment reporter and newscaster. She received a Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism and took a leave of absence to attend Columbia University. She returned to NPR in 1989 to serve as a Congressional correspondent and as White House Correspondent during the Clinton administration. In 1997, she joined FOX as a regular panelist and contributor. Liasson has covered all presidential elections since 1992 and regularly reports on Senate and House elections.

Liasson has received numerous awards and honors for her reporting, including the White House Correspondents’ Association’s Merriman Smith Award in 1994, 1995, and 1997 for excellence in daily news reporting.

A native of New York City, Liasson earned her bachelor’s degree from Brown University.

EVENTS

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2017-2018 Season

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President
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