Newt Gingrich’s shutdown amnesia

October 7, 2013
Then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, all smiles during the 1995 shutdown. (James A. Parcell/The Washington Post)
Then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, all smiles during the 1995 shutdown. (James A. Parcell/The Washington Post)

Sunday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich fired off a tweet cheering on the veterans who crashed the WWII memorial despite the shutdown that’s shuttered Washington’s memorials and monuments.

First, we’re pretty sure he meant U.S. Park police, not Capitol police. (And Park officers eventually did let the vets visit to “exercise their first-amendment rights,” but let’s let that one go.)

Sounds like his memory might be failing him: The shuttering of National Park lands is happening pretty much the way it did during the 1995 shutdown — the very one in which Gingrich played a rather central role. The one that even in retrospect, he thought was a pretty dandy idea.

We referred back to an op-ed that Gingrich wrote in The Washington Post in 2011, when the government was on the brink of another shutdown (it was ultimately averted). In that piece, he fondly remembers the good old 1995 shutdown, trying to counter the generally-accepted idea that the incident was bad for Republicans.

“We decided to stick to our principles through a very contentious and difficult period,” he wrote in 2011. “Our attempt to balance the federal budget was distorted in the news media as an effort to ruin family vacations, frustrate visitors to the nation’s capital and prevent government employees from going to work.”

So, let’s get this straight. In 1995, “ruin[ing] family vacations and frustrat[ing] visitors” was an A-OK byproduct of principle-sticking, but now it’s “petty tyranny”?

Perhaps tyranny, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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Al Kamen · October 7, 2013