WASHINGTON -- Newt Gingrich likes to portray himself as an outsider, shunned from the exclusive inner circles of Washington, D.C. -- despite having once been the capitol's most powerful Republican lawmaker. Continuing this split persona on Tuesday, Gingrich gave a speech hammering the new "super Congress" and "Washington elites," but he chose to do so at one of the nation's most established conservative think tanks.
"I'm going to say some things that are very bold. I'd like to somehow get across, particularly to the Washington elites, that boldness is sometimes exactly what we need," the former House speaker said just one minute into his speech.
"I want to start with what I think the biggest mistake that both the president and the Congress are making; it's something that Reagan really understood and taught me," Gingrich added a few minutes later. "You lead Washington by leading America. You don't lead America by leading Washington."
Yet despite his desire to "lead America" and not Washington, he still chose to speak to a think tank audience in Washington, rather than travel to a venue in one of the early primary states that will determine his future as a presidential nominee.
The event was not pulled together until Monday, and Heritage Foundation Director of Editorial Services Jim Weidman confirmed that Gingrich's staff had reached out to the organization with a request to hold the event.
Gingrich has spoken at the Heritage Foundation on numerous occasions, and Tuesday's speech, entitled 'A Better Approach to Deficit Reduction,' allowed him to share his big-picture ideas with a wonky audience -- the type of venue in which he is most comfortable.
Since leaving Congress, Gingrich has made a name for himself as one of the idea generators of the Republican Party. In 2009, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he had studied Gingrich's years in power and talked to the former speaker "on a regular basis."
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has called him a "total idea factory," and The New York Times Magazine described the conservative up-and-comer as a Gingrich "protege" in 2009.
But almost as soon as he launched his campaign for president, Gingrich began losing this sheen. One of the first signs of trouble came when he criticized Ryan's budget plan, drawing the ire of many of his fellow Republicans.
Gingrich now appears to be trying to regain his former perch as the party's intellectual leader.
"The fact is, the major problem in American government today is intellectual. It's not money, it's not willpower -- it's knowledge," he said in his speech Tuesday.
Some of Gingrich's biggest applause lines in the Fox News GOP presidential debate on Thursday came when he tore into the "super Congress," the 12-member committee created in the debt ceiling deal that has nearly unprecedented power to cut projected deficits by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
On Tuesday, he continued these criticisms.
"This super committee will become an excuse to do nothing," he said. "The Washington press corps will focus all of its attention on the super committee, and the lobbyists will focus of all their attention on the super committee. It's truly a bad idea."
Gingrich's solution to Washington's gridlock, he said, is to implement Lean Six Sigma business-streamlining techniques. Texas businessman Mike George came up with the controversial waste-cutting strategies 20 years ago. Many corporations have since adopted them, and they are now gaining steam with the 2012 presidential field.
Gingrich was the first to sign George's pledge to adopt Lean Six Sigma if elected president, promising "to eliminate spending deficits and start paying down the national debt by 2017 by deploying Lean Six Sigma waste reduction methods to detect and eliminate 25 percent of spending per year across the federal government."
In addition to Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty (who ended his campaign Sunday), Herman Cain, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and former senator Rick Santorum have also signed George's pledge. George has commitments from nearly 15,000 Iowans to support only candidates who back Lean Six Sigma.
On Wednesday, Gingrich will host a conference call to discuss his ideas for implementing Lean Six Sigma methods.
Gingrich has been pushed out of the campaign news in recent weeks, overshadowed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)'s entrance into the field and the surging candidacies of Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas). He did not actively campaign in Iowa for the Ames Straw Poll on Saturday, although his name appeared on the ballot. He came in third-to-last in the contest, earning just 2 percent of the vote.
This story was updated with the additional Lean Sigma Six pledge signers.
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