Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, seen by many in the Republican Party as an "ideas man," slammed as a "false attack" the argument that conservatives "don't need new ideas" during a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, repeatedly scalding the Republican establishment for being "mired in stupidity."
"The Republican establishment is just plain wrong about how it approaches politics," Gingrich said. "We have to disenthrall ourselves of the establishment's anti-idea approach."
"You're going to hear a false attack that we don't need new ideas," he continued. "Let me draw a distinction: we don't need new principles, but we need lots of new ideas about how to implement those principles in the 21st century."
Again and again, Gingrich lit into both Republicans and Democrats for what he characterized as their myopic policy mindset. "We stand today on the edge of a great future, but Washington is blind to it in both parties," he said. "I've been trying for two-and-a-half years to get the House Republicans to understand. They control every committee and every subcommittee in the House; they could be having a hearing every week on" the promise of the future.
Unfortunately, Gingrich said, the GOP is "determined to avoid" thinking about it.
"It is virtually impossible to get people in Washington, D.C., to actually learn how to think about a new world," he said. "It is sobering to me to be standing here, as a senior member of this party, telling you from 1976 to 2013 we have the dominant wing of this party, which has learned nothing and is as mired in the past and mired in stupidity as it was in 1976."
"There are dozens of new areas where we're about to breakout, and we're about to have a dramatically better opportunity," he said, "and this city, in both parties, is literally blind to the great potential of this country."
He urged conservatives to abandon a purely reactive posture and move forward with solutions of their own. "We are not the anti-Obama movement; we are for a better American future," he said. "We're for empowering individuals, not empowering bureaucrats."
"I do believe that we ought to focus on the right to rise," Gingrich said. "We should unflinchingly stand for the right to life, because that's the predicate to the right to rise."
He closed by saying he was "very excited" about the recent elevation of Pope Francis, "who I believe is going to challenge all of us."
"He's going to challenge the left on social policy, and he's going to challenge the right on thinking about the poor," Gingrich said, "and I think that's good for all of us."