Tonight's debate on foreign policy works to Newt Gingrich's advantage. He has a deep background in international affairs, staring with his doctoral dissertation on Belgian education policy in the Congo. And over a quarter century ago, he did well in a foreign policy session before one of the world's toughest debate audiences. On February 8, 1985, Associated Press reported:
U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich won praise today for an impressive defense of U.S. Central American policy but lost an Oxford "debate" to a team led by Nicaragua's vice president, who made his case and then left before the Gingrich spoke because the conservative U.S. lawmaker was of lower rank than he.
At the end of the evening Thursday, the vote was 285 to 158 in favor of the question, "American involvement in Central America is an affront to Western values."
The Oxford Union president, Roland Rudd, said the Georgia Republican also was a good sport for agreeing, with only three hours' notice, to the unusual format that permitted Sergio Ramirez to make a diplomatic point by walking out.
Rudd said Gingrich spoke brilliantly and deserved the standing ovation he received from the crowd of more than 1,000 people.
"Ramirez got his (ovation) because of what he represented," Rudd said. "Gingrich earned his by sheer brilliance."
And t is not surprising that he is calling for extended debates on health care. He has a great deal of experience with the subject and the format. In 1994, he helped organize an Oxford-style health care debate on the House floor: