The event, which was sponsored by the Kennesaw State University's College Republicans and the Conservative Leadership Coalition, a group of active conservatives from across the state, had a turnout of between 130 to 150, said Tom Maloy of the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party.
Gingrich signed books and fielded questions from the audience in a town hall style format. One questioner asked about U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont calling for an audit of the federal reserve, which has about $16 trillion dollars. Gingrich said he supported such an audit a few months ago.
"Ironically Sanders, who is a socialist, and Ron Paul, who is not a socialist, both agree on this," Gingrich said. "And I think they've been marginalized in Washington by the establishment, and I think that's wrong. (Federal Reserve Chairman Ben) Bernanke has spent so much of your money, and made so many decisions that affect the country that in fact I think we deserve an audit."
Public money cannot be spent in secret, Gingrich said, asking what were the decisions made in 2008 and who did the government take care of.
"I'm told for example that the Bank of Libya got $5 billion dollars of your money at one point," Gingrich said. "I know that at one point the largest recipient of funds was a bank in Paris that got $19 billion. I read that Goldman Sachs got $13 billion through a backdoor through AIG in a way they didn't have to report it. Now having a Secretary of the Treasury from Goldman Sachs who had a special assistant from Goldman Sachs, having the current treasury secretary who was then the New York Fed, all of these people are all in the same small circle, and I think we the American people deserve to know exactly what happened, and we deserve an audit, and we deserve disclosure."
Another questioner asked about the debt ceiling debate.
"I've been very struck over the last four or five weeks with how rigid Obama is, how fundamentally dishonest he is," Gingrich said.
Gingrich said he's been asked about his relationship with Bill Clinton when he was Speaker versus House Speaker John Boehner's relationship with Obama. Gingrich said his response is that because Clinton had been governor of a southern state and had dealt with a state legislature that was conservative, he understood the importance of compromise, "because under our constitutional system the president is not a dictator, and this isn't the Chicago machine, you know?"
So while Gingrich and Clinton engaged in tough negotiations, they both knew they were trying to figure out how to get something accomplished rather than just simply beat each other up, he said.
"The second thing was Clinton had been a moderate who founded the Democratic Leadership Council in order to try to move the Democratic Party away from being too far to the Left," Gingrich said. "Well, Obama is the guy he was trying to move them away from."
Combine Obama's extreme Left wing ideology with his ignorance on how to negotiate and it means the country's in for an expensive educational experience, Gingrich said.
"I think Obama and the Democrats really underestimated how serious the House Republicans are about not raising taxes and cutting spending," he said.
Gingrich has proposed going to short term small bills where a $200 billion to $300 billion spending cut is approved and Obama is given a $200 billion to $300 billion increase in the debt ceiling.
"You would avoid default for another 30 or 40 days and then come back and pass another small bill because you may not be able to pass a big bill," he said.
Under that scenario, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner would pay interest on the debt and pay for Social Security.
"Now one of the things we want to make sure is if we get to the point where they're not paying people the first people they should not pay are the White House staff, the Cabinet, the people who have not been doing their job," Gingrich said. "The president ought to cut off any foreign travel. During this period he ought to stay at home. They ought to ground Marine One. Save all the money. Stay in the White House, and see how many days in the White House he can take."
But would such small spending cuts ward off a reduction in the country's credit rating, one questioner asked?
"I am totally uninterested in satisfying Moody's and Standard & Poor's," Gingrich replied. "They were totally wrong in 2008. They failed to do their job. They're now overreaching in the opposite direction. There is zero reason to believe if you look at the Treasury Market that people around the world think we're not a good risk," Gingrich said.
The U.S. has the largest supply of hydro-carbon on the planet, has more energy in coal than Saudi Arabia has in oil, and is the third largest country in the world population wise, he said.
"I mean, the idea that we have a lower rating than France? This requires a level of fantasy that only some Wall Street guy who wants our money, I mean, what they're telling us is 'send us the money,'" Gingrich said. "They're so used to us bailing them out that they think that having stolen - I won't say stolen, that's too strong a word - having 'absorbed' hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout, they would now like us to have a credit risk. Well, where were they when they were causing the credit risk? So my attitude to Standard & Poor's is go peddle your paper somewhere else. The people of the United States can't be blackmailed by some company that failed to do its job. And by the way, if we do temporarily get a bad credit rating, the morning Obama leaves the office we will have a dramatically higher credit rating. So maybe it's OK for S&P to say this president is so bad that for the first time in American history we have a bad credit rating. That doesn't reflect on America. That reflects on Obama. You already have the Obama Depression. Let's see if he wants to add the Obama Default and then run for reelection."
Gingrich was also asked what to do about the country's illegal immigration problem.
A series of steps are needed, he said.
"I don't believe you can pass any comprehensive immigration bill," Gingrich said. "George W. Bush couldn't do it. Obama couldn't do it when Pelosi and Reid were in charge. So I think you have to take one step at a time."
To begin with, the country must take control of the border.
"I've told people that if necessary I would be prepared to take about half the bureaucrats in the Department of Homeland Security in Washington and move them to Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, so that you have more than enough people available to control the border," he said.
Moreover, the legal visa program must be made easier and less costly.
"Today if you're trying to be here legally and some of you have friends who have been through this, it takes longer and is more expensive and you have to have a lawyer to deal with the state department, so it's actually cheaper to hire a 'coyote' to sneak into the country than it is to pay your legal fees to get into the country legally. That's really dumb," he said.
Regarding a guest worker program, Gingrich said he would contract it out to American Express, VISA or MasterCard "because they actually know how to run a fraud program and the federal government is so incompetent that any kind of government-run guest worker program would be filled with fraud."
Once an effective guest worker program was in place, it ought to be in real time like paying for gasoline with a credit card or using your ATM to get money.
"Then every employer should have a very stiff penalty if they hire anybody that's not here legally," he said.
A creative solution perhaps comparable to World War II's selective service boards to deal with the people who are here illegally is also needed.
"Because there's a huge difference between a day laborer who came here this year and someone who has been here for 20, 25 years and is married and has three kids and belongs in the local church and had always obeyed the law. I would not allow anybody a path to citizenship to put them ahead of people who have been waiting legally back home, but there ought to be a path to legality that gets them out from a grey zone if we're going to allow them to stay here."
And English must be the official language of government.
"I am for immigration for people who want to become American. But I'm also for America being seen as an exceptional country," he said.
Among those in attendance was Cobb Republican Party Chairman Joe Dendy.
"Newt's a very brilliant man and he knows history like very few people know it," Dendy said. "I'm not endorsing Newt because I cannot endorse anyone in my position as chairman of the Republican Party. But I do know that someone who knows history would not repeat history, and so I hope someone either like Newt becomes our president or someone who is willing to listen to what history has done in the past and how we've gotten to where we are, and so that's very big, but we are very pleased to have Newt with us today. We had a good crowd and we're just happy to have him."
Robert Potts of Marietta, a recent graduate of KSU with a degree in communications and political science, now working for a Christian PR firm in Buckhead, said he was in attendance representing the KSU College Republicans.
"He's if not the best, one of the best policy guys in the GOP," Potts said of Gingrich. "There's no doubt about that. Obviously we'll have to see how the campaign goes. If he can build up traction or not. But as far as policy, he can debate anybody. He can beat anybody including Barack Obama."