CLEVELAND – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich relentlessly jockeyed for months to be Donald Trump’s running mate. His speech Wednesday at the Republican National Convention may have made some conservatives wish he was.
In a lengthy address, the ex-Georgia lawmaker declared Trump was the candidate with the courage to recognize the U.S. was at war with “radical Islamists” bent on terrorizing Americans and who are stronger and greater in number than authorities would like to admit.
“There is no substitute for victory,” Gingrich roared.
Gingrich, who ran for president in 2012, was on Trump’s short list for vice president. He pitched himself as a “pirate” with a national profile, someone who could attack Democrat Hillary Clinton in one moment and debate domestic policy the other. He was lobbying to be Trump’s No. 2 almost up until Trump picked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence instead.
Now he might be trying out for another job: Secretary of State. Or Secretary of Defense.
In his speech, he laid out the case for a sweeping new offensive against the Islamic State and other terror groups. Democrats, he said, “lie about the threat – and we need to tell the truth about the danger.”
“If our enemies had their way, not a single Jew or Christian in this room would be alive unless they agreed to submit. If our enemies had their way, gays, lesbians and transgender citizens would be put to death as they are today in the Islamic State and Iran.
“If our enemies had their way, every person on earth would be subject to conversion by the sword and to a cruel and violent system of laws. There would be no individual liberty. There would be no equality.
“There would be no freedom.”
He also strayed from his prepared remarks to play peacemaker. After Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was roundly booed for refusing to endorse Trump and mentioning a "vote for your conscience," Gingrich built off those remarks.
"Ted Cruz said you can vote your conscience for the candidate who protects the Constitution," he said. "The only possible candidate this fall is the Trump/Pence Republican ticket."
Gingrich drew swift condemnation last week for advocating for a test on all Muslim Americans on whether they believe in Shariah law – and deporting them if they do. In a nod to those comments, Gingrich said the recent mass shootings in Orlando and San Bernardino should be a wakeup call.
“We have nothing to fear from the vast majority of Muslims in the United States, or around the world. The vast majority are peaceful,” he said, adding: “The challenge is, when even a small percentage of a billion, six hundred million people support violence against those who disagree with them, that is still a giant recruiting base.”
He closed by praising Pence as a “great running mate” and Trump as someone “willing to tell the truth about the things that matter most.”
“They will put our safety first, and they will defend America first,” he said. “We can be proud to stand with them.”