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Gingrich raises alarm at event honoring those who stand up for freedom of speech

New Hampshire Union Leader Staff

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich yesterday in Manchester said the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.

Newt Gingrich


Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994.

Gingrich spoke to about 400 state and local power brokers last night at the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner, which fetes people and organizations that stand up for freedom of speech.

Gingrich sharply criticized campaign finance laws he charged were reducing free speech and doing little to fight attack advertising. He also said court rulings over separation of church and state have hurt citizens' ability to express themselves and their faith.

Last night's event, held at the Radisson Hotel-Center of New Hampshire, honored a Lakes Region newspaper and a former speaker of the House for work in favor of free expression.

The Citizen of Laconia was given the Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment Award, which is named after the longtime President and Publisher of the Union Leader Corporation, owner of New Hampshire's statewide newspaper.

The Citizen scrutinized the Newfound Area School Board beginning last year over a series of e-mail discussions held before public meetings. It also used the right-to-know law to uncover costly decisions by the town of Tilton this year.

Executive Editor John Howe said the decision to pursue the stories led to at least one advertiser canceling its business with the paper.

"We try to practice what we preach, even if it costs us business," Howe said. "And it has and it will in the future.

Also honored was Marshall Cobleigh, former House speaker and a longtime aide to former Gov. Meldrim Thomson.

Cobleigh introduced an amendment to the state Constitution defending free speech. He also helped shepherd the state's 1967 right-to-know law through the Legislature.

Gingrich's speech focused on the First Amendment, but in an interview beforehand, he also hit upon wide-ranging topics.

  • Gingrich said America has "failed" in Iraq over the past three years and urged a new approach to winning the conflict. The U.S. needs to engage Syria and Iran and increase investment to train the Iraqi army and a national police force, he said. "How does a defeat for America make us safer?" Gingrich said. "I would look at an entirely new strategy." He added: "We have clearly failed in the last three years to achieve the kind of outcome we want."
  • Political parties in Presidential primary states should host events that invite candidates from both parties to discuss issues, said Gingrich, who criticized the sharpness of today's politics.
  • Gingrich said voters unhappy with the war, the response to Hurricane Katrina and pork barrel spending were the main drive behind the GOP's rejection at the polls. But he argued Republicans would have retained the Senate and just narrowly lost the House if President Bush had announced the departure of embattled Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld before, instead of after, the election.
  • Gingrich said he will not decide whether he is running for President until September 2007.

The event last night was sponsored by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. The school was founded in 1999 to promote journalism and other forms of communication.

Dec. 5: Gingrich's 'Human Events' column on this controversy
Gingrich adds to NH comments on free speech, terror fight
Robert Novak: Newt Gingrich knows the truth but avoids it
Newt Gingrich and Ed Feulner: Washington is now a burden shouldered by the people

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