Robert S. Walker, a former congressman and now a lobbyist and flack for Newt Gingrich, writes: “After Newt Gingrich rose in the polls, criticism of the former House speaker began grabbing headlines. But Republican establishment attacks on Newt are not new. Newt’s political career has been devoted to mounting a conservative challenge to the establishment’s desire to play the Washington power game of go along to get along.” Holiday or not, I have to say this is complete bunk.
If there is a single candidate in the Republican presidential contest who more epitomizes “the Washington power game of go along to get along” than Gingrich? Aside from teaching, his entire adult life has been spent in government, trying to influence government and enabling others to influence government.
He has consistently been an establishment shill when it comes to policy. He weighed in with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) on global warming and told Republicans they had lost the issue. He vouched for Medicare Part D, telling Republicans they would be toast if they didn’t support it. And when an actual challenger to the status quo, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), came along with a daring plan to reform Medicare Gingrich tried to undermine him, insisting it was too radical.
Interesting, there is not a single word in Walker’s piece about the Republicans’ decision to dump Gingrich and his years lobbying for Freddie Mac, Big Pharm and others. The most he concedes is that “Newt has been a part of the Washington scene for some time.” No kidding.
Also absent from Walker’s telling is Gingrich’s political shellacking (good word, isn’t it?) at the hands of President Bill Clinton. Gingrich never managed to stand up to Clinton. In his own telling he “melted” in Clinton’s presence.
But the purpose of the Walker piece appears to be to try once again (following the unsuccessful effort by a Gingrich “senior aide”to sway voters through the good offices of the Union Leader) to justify Gingrich’s betrayal of President George H.W. Bush on the tax deal. We can argue the merits another time, but Gingrich played a deceitful game that tells us much more about his character than his views on tax policy.
In Walker’s telling, Gingrich was upfront and honorable: “Newt really upset the establishment when he refused to go along with the tax increases that had been engineered in negotiations between Congress and the George H.W. Bush administration. Party leaders put him on the negotiating team in an effort to neutralize him. Instead, Newt made it clear that he would not accept tax increases and his message to President Bush was that tax increases would destroy his ‘read my lips, no new taxes’ pledge. . . .To this day, establishment figures harbor a grudge against Newt for not joining their ‘revenue enhancement’ conspiracy.”
President George H.W. Bush recalls it this way: “He was there, right outside the Oval Office. I met with all the Republican leaders, all the Democratic leaders. The plan was, we were all going to walk out into the Rose Garden and announce this deal. Newt was right there. Got ready to go out in the Rose Garden, and I said, ‘Where’s Gingrich?’ Went up to Capitol Hill. He was here a minute ago. Went up there and started lobbying against the thing.”
Now whom are you going to believe, the elder Bush or the “historian” from Freddie Mac? Next time Gingrich should find someone who’s not a creature of Washington to make the case Gingrich isn’t a creature of Washington. But other than the Union Leader, who would buy that?