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Sunday, July 16, 2006 - Page updated at 05:18 PM

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David Postman

Let's face it, it's WWIII, Gingrich says

Seattle Times chief political reporter

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich says America is in World War III and President Bush should say so.

Gingrich said in an interview Saturday that Bush should call a joint session of Congress the first week of September and talk about global military conflicts in much starker terms than have been heard from the president.

"We need to have the militancy that says 'We're not going to lose a city, " Gingrich said.

Gingrich said in the coming days he plans to speak out publicly and to the administration from his seat on the Defense Policy Board about the need to recognize that America is in World War III.

He lists wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, last week's bomb attacks in India, North Korean nuclear threats, terrorist arrests and investigations in Florida, Canada and Britain, and violence in Israel and Lebanon as evidence of World War III.

He said Bush needs to deliver a speech to Congress and "connect all the dots" for Americans.

He said European leaders and some in the Bush administration who are urging a restrained response from Israel are falling short of what needs to be done "because they haven't crossed the bridge of realizing this is a war."

Once that's accepted, he said, "Israel wouldn't leave southern Lebanon as long as there was a single missile there. I would go in and clean them all out, and I would announce that any Iranian airplane trying to bring missiles to resupply them would be shot down. This idea that we have this one-sided war where the other team gets to plan how to kill us and we get to talk, is nuts."

Gingrich was in the area for fundraisers for Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, 2nd District GOP challenger Doug Roulstone, and the state Republican party.

There is a political element to his talk of World War III. Gingrich said that public opinion can change "the minute you use the language" of World War III. The message then, he said, is, "OK, if we're in the third world war, which side do you think should win?"

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Gingrich said he is "very worried" about Republicans facing fall elections and says the party must have the "nerve" to nationalize the elections and make the 2006 campaigns about a liberal Democratic agenda rather than about President Bush's record.

Republicans are now "sailing into the wind" in congressional campaigns. He said, in part, that's because of the Iraq war, adding, "Iraq is hard and painful, and we do not explain it very well." But some of it is due to Republicans' congressional agenda. He said House and Senate Republicans "forgot the core principle" of the party and embraced congressional pork. "Some of the guys," he said, have come down with a case of "incumbentitis."

Democrats have been trying to nationalize the midterm elections and make each race about Bush's record and the Iraq war.

Republicans instead have been trying to localize each race, as in Reichert's challenge from political newcomer Darcy Burner, and make the race about the qualifications and personalities of the candidates, not about a national agenda.

Gingrich says that's a mistake. Republicans, he says, should nationalize the contest, too.

He said that as Democrats make the elections about George Bush, Republicans should make it about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. He said voters need to be told "how weirdly San Francisco these guys are voting," and Democrats will "collapse in defeat."

"There's going to be a national conversation in October," Gingrich said of the final sprint to the November election. "The only question is whether it's the Republicans defining it or whether we have some nutty idea that we can run local races, and so the entire definition is on the left."

"This is classic — that Gingrich's solution to Bush's failed leadership is a different 'marketing strategy,' " state Democratic Party spokesman Kelly Steele said by e-mail.

"Democrats believe we need a 'tough and smart' strategy that makes 2006 a year of transition in Iraq and aggressively takes the fight to the terrorists, while Gingrich and Bush seek to elect a new crop of loyal rubberstamps — McGavick, Reichert, and Roulstone included — to blindly support and extend their monopoly on their 'tough and dumb' conduct of the war in Iraq and the larger battle against global terrorism."

This material has been edited for print publication.

David Postman is The Seattle Times' chief political reporter. Reach him at 360-236-8627 or at dpostman@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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