Most of the candidates will listen to a question and then answer some question they wish they'd been asked. This is a standard approach to answering questions on television. It's a way to avoid letting the questioner control you, and you create an opportunity to say what you want to say.
That's not what Newt does. He listens to the precise question asked and examines it, then works out, before our eyes, what is wrong with that question and what the real issue is. He has a depth of understanding and flexibility of mind that allows him to do that, he cares about doing that accurately and well, and he has the style to want to perform reasoning for us. I like that. I try to do that all the time in class, and I know how hard it is, what presence of mind and grasp of the material it takes.
For example, in that little clip, the moderator Scott Pelley asks:
As president of the United States, would you sign that death warrant for an American citizen overseas who you believe is a terrorist suspect?Pelley has framed a yes-or-know question, and instead of saying "yes" (or "absolutely" as Mitt Romney just did), Newt says:
Well, he's not a terrorist suspect. He's a person who was found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of Americans.Newt says that in a puzzled and slightly peeved way that creates drama about whether he might be confused or combative. It puts us on edge. And Pelley is now required to speak again. Newt didn't launch into a lecture. He even ceded some time to Pelley, who says:
Not found guilty by a court, sir.Gingrich doles out a dollop of information:
He was found guilty by a panel that looked at it and reported to the president.Pelley is now put in the role of the student in a dialogue:
Well, that's extrajudicial. (CROSSTALK) It's not the rule of law. (APPLAUSE)Look at Pelley at this point — 0:32 — he's smiling and glowing, thinking (perhaps) that he's doing well in class, and the audience applauds for him. Gingrich swoops in:
It is the rule of law. That is explicitly false. It is the rule of law. If you engage in war against the United States, you are an enemy combatant. You have none of the civil liberties of the United States. You cannot go to court.Now, the applause is for Newt. The dramatic moment has happened, and now the professor makes it all very clear with an instant, crisp mini-lecture on the dimensions of the rule of law:
No, let me be -- let me be very clear about this on two levels. There is a huge gap here that, frankly, far too many people get confused over. Civil defense, criminal defense is a function of being within the American law. Waging war on the United States is outside criminal law. It is an act of war and should be dealt with as an act of war, and the correct thing in an act of war is to kill people who are trying to kill you.There's more applause. We hear one of the other candidates say "Well said. Well said." I think it was Mitt — Mitt, who had just been asked the same question. Mitt answered the question clearly and cleanly. ("If there's someone
that's going to join with a group like Al Qaida that declares war on America,
and we're in a war with that entity, then, of course, anyone who is
bearing arms with that entity is fair game for the United States of America.") Credit to Mitt for openly admiring the style and substance of Professor Gingrich.
IN THE COMMENTS: John Althouse Cohen said:
It sounds to me like Perry is the one who said, "Well said, well said."On another relistening, I agree.