KENNEWICK — Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, delivered a strong anti-Obama message during a campaign stop Thursday in Kennewick, calling the nation's leader "weak" and "dangerous."
"Every American should be genuinely worried," he told the estimated 500 people who came to see him at the Red Lion Columbia Center in Kennewick.
"This is the most dangerous administration in national security history," he said. "These folks are delusional about the nature of the world."
In particular, Gingrich criticized Obama on energy and foreign policy, saying Obama and his administration are afraid to face the problems posed by radical Muslim groups.
"If they took it seriously, they would have to do something," he said. "They want to manage the decay and hope nothing happens while they're in office."
He told the crowd if elected president, he would sign executive orders on the first day to repeal many of Obama's policies, including elimination of the "White House czars."
He said he would open up the controversial Keystone pipeline. Gingrich also declared that no U.S. tax money would pay for abortions overseas and would move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem "to show support for Israel's right to exist."
"My goal is by the time Barack Obama lands in Chicago, I would like to have repealed about 40 percent of his government (on) the opening day," Gingrich said.
On energy policy, Gingrich said he would focus on developing domestic energy sources to break America's dependence on foreign sources, including opening up oil drilling offshore and on federal lands to drive gas prices down to a benchmark of $2.50 per gallon.
He said that's closer to historical averages than the current national average of $3.58, which is climbing.
"When I was speaker for four years, the average price was $1.13," he said. "When Obama was sworn in, it was $1.89. Think of it as a pre-Obama norm."
But Gingrich didn't mention that gas prices steadily had risen during the mid-2000s and peaked at $4.12 per gallon in July 2008 -- before Obama was elected -- and dropped sharply with the onset of the economic downturn later that year, according to gasbuddy.com.
He said bringing gas prices down to $2.50 per gallon would result in an explosion of economic growth in the country.
"When you do that, two really good things happen," Gingrich said. "The first is you keep $500 billion here at home. That creates millions of new jobs here in the U.S. ... Frankly, if you keep down the price of energy, it improves the standard of living across the country. It lowers the cost of delivering food to the local grocery stores."
He claimed drilling on federal lands and offshore would bring in an estimated $16 trillion to $18 trillion in royalties to the U.S. government.
"That's enough money that if you put it to one side and didn't spend it, it would pay off the national debt," he said. "That package can be done."
Gingrich touted his experience as a national leader, and in particular the policies in the Contract with America -- a document that led to the "Republican wave" of 1994 in which the party took control of Congress for the first time in decades.
The victory catapulted Gingrich to four years as speaker of the House and landed him on the cover of Time as its "Man of the Year" in 1995.
He resigned from his position as speaker and his congressional seat after Republicans lost five seats in the 1998 election.
He now is one of four leading Republicans left standing in a rollercoaster primary and caucus season that has seen candidates up one minute and down the next.
Gingrich has one win under his belt in South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary. However, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum looks to have the edge right now, having bested early front-runner Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, in recent contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.
Fellow Republican Ron Paul, who spoke to a crowd of 1,500 in Richland a week ago, has yet to win a primary or caucus.
But no candidate yet has clear momentum to take the Republican nomination at the GOP's national convention in August, and Washington's March 3 caucuses and non-binding straw poll are emerging as an important benchmark leading into the "Super Tuesday" contest March 6.
Gingrich said he has not given up hope of overtaking Romney and Santorum.
"I am confident we can do this," he said. "What I think makes me different from the three other candidates for the nomination is I've actually done things at a national level."
While he did not comment on Santorum's campaign, Gingrich attacked Romney as being "Obama-lite" and in cahoots with Wall Street.
"We are pitting people power against money power," he said. "I make no bones about it -- Romney has the money power. We are basically pitting lots of people against Wall Street and Gov. Romney."
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