MACON, Georgia (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Friday called for more oil drilling in the United States and questioned American aid to Pakistan as he took his young campaign to his home state of Georgia.
Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives during the 1990s, declared himself a candidate in the 2012 presidential election on Wednesday in what many analysts say will be an uphill battle to win the presidency.
In a speech to members of the Georgia Republican Party, Gingrich said the United States needs to reassess the billions of dollars in aid it gives to Pakistan following the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in a daring May 2 raid.
Authorities are now trying to piece together how the al Qaeda leader came to live in the northern Pakistan garrison town of Abbottabad for apparently years before his death.
“When I learned that after paying $20 billion since 9/11, they had been housing him in Pakistan, I kind of forgot what the world ‘ally’ meant,” he said.
“There is a point when you have to say to people around the world, ‘How stupid do you think we are?”
Gingrich also derided President Barack over his energy policy, arguing opening up more U.S. drilling areas could help bring gas prices down.
Gingrich, 67, is a conservative famed for budget battles with President Bill Clinton after he led the “Republican revolution” in 1994 elections that brought his party to power.
Gingrich has laid out a pro-business economic agenda as the centerpiece of his campaign, pledging to shrink the size of government and cut taxes to help the ailing U.S. economy.
On Friday, he repeated his proposal to reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 12.5 percent and eliminate the capital gains tax on stock profits.
Gingrich said the current corporate tax rate is so high that companies hire lawyers and accountants to find every possible loophole.
“We currently have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, which means, guess what? Corporations don’t pay it,” he said. “We have a tax code that is so destructive, that it rewards the behavior of not paying the tax. I want to find a corporate tax rate in which they will lay off the lawyers and pay the government.”
Gingrich also praised the presidency of Ronald Reagan as a model for cutting government regulations, lowering taxes and creating incentives for companies to create jobs.
He has repeatedly criticized Obama’s policies as too liberal. On Friday, Gingrich said Obama’s economic plan was not putting Americans back to work fast enough and called him “the most successful food stamp president in history.”
“We stand at a crossroads,” he said. “If we lose this fight and have four more years of radical left wing values imposed from Washington, this country will be dramatically weakened, the fabric of our society will be weakened, our economy will be weakened.”
Editing by Kevin Gray and Peter Bohan