If asked, Gingrich would probably say that he was dispensing some tough love. Perhaps Reagan had a different view of the matter.
4.Gingrich single-handedly brought hyper-partisanship to Capitol Hill.
During the 1980s and ’90s, Gingrich often employed tough tactics and harsh words that heightened partisan tensions — but he was not the only culprit.
He criticized Reagan for his mild 1984 reelection campaign, saying that he should have run “by forcing a polarization of the country. He should have been running against liberals and radicals.”
But there was plenty of roughness on the other side, too. “The evil is in the White House at the present time,” House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) said of Reagan. “He’s cold. He’s mean. He’s got ice water for blood.” And when House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.) went to the House floor to dispute Reagan’s account of private deficit meetings, he used the word “lie” eight times.
Gingrich’s tenure as speaker was bipolar. Even as he led the House during government shutdowns and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, he worked with Democrats to secure welfare reform and balanced budgets. And before the impeachment controversy, he was quietly working with Clinton on a “grand compromise” for Social Security and Medicare.
Gingrich lacks the drive to win the presidency.
Earlier this year, several of his campaign aides quit, saying he was shunning the mundane tasks that a presidential candidate must take on. At the time, some speculated that Gingrich was less interested in running for president than in preaching grand ideas. But for Gingrich, preaching is not a distraction — it is the essence of campaigning. He often speaks of Winston Churchill, who spent his own wilderness years speaking and writing before his nation called him back to power.
Gingrich’s drive transcends normal politics. “I have an enormous personal ambition,” he told The Post in 1985. “I want to shift the entire planet. And I’m doing it. . . . The ambitions that this city focuses on are trivial if you’re a historian. Who cares?”
Now Gingrich has a chance to realize some of those ambitions. Will his complex record weigh him down? It’s a dilemma any historian should understand.
John J. Pitney Jr. is the Roy P. Crocker professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College and a co-author of “American Government and Politics: Deliberation, Democracy, and Citizenship.”
From the Outlook archives:
Newt Gingrich’s defense of the 1995 government shutdown
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