Do Democrats Need Their Own Gingrich?

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By Terry M. Neal
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 11, 2005; 6:00 AM

Democrats have discovered a new rallying cry: The GOP is the party of "incompetence, cronyism and corruption."

Recent headlines suggest that the mantra may prove to be an easy sell:

* A top White House procurement official is under indictment.

* Rep. Tom DeLay, the second-ranking person in the House, is under indictment.

* The highest-ranking Senate leader is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department.

* One or more White House officials could be facing indictment in the next couple weeks.

* A top GOP lobbyist is under indictment.

* Controversies are rampant about mismanagement of the Iraq war and the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. And the White House is fending off accusations of cronyism at the highest levels.

Those stories are beginning to have an impact, with approval ratings for President Bush and the GOP-led Congress in the tank.

Suddenly, Democrats are optimistic about their political future. But should they be? Back in 1994, when the Republicans took over Congress, not every Republican agreed with every piece of the revolutionary agenda laid out by Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The party was riven then with ideological divides just as it is now. But the GOP was able to unite for the sake of political victory around a handful of leaders with a clear, concise vision for the future.

With the midterms a little more than a year away, the questions for Democrats are many. The most pressing question facing Democrats -- and the most tortured internal policy debate -- will be how to deal with Iraq, as well as the broader issue of defense, terrorism and foreign policy.

Yet, is there enough common ground within the party to establish a common, concise vision on Iraq, national security and other issues? Does the party need its version of Gingrich?


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